Archive for March, 2011
Bo Irvine is tri-lingual. He speaks three languages.
No, it’s not as impressive as it sounds on the surface. It’s not He Speaks English, Tongan, Arabic. Rather, all three of his languages are English-based. Okay, let’s call them dialects. And yet what he does with these dialects is quite impressive. Being tri-lingual enables him to add a rather unique element to his stand-up comedy shows in Hawaii regardless of whether he is performing for visitors, locals, military or trickier yet, a combination of the above. This is what you call a hidden treasure in the Hawaiian entertainment scene.
Bo Speaks Mainland. This is especially helpful when it comes to performing for visitors to Hawaii. He’s lived on the mainland. He works during the day with mainlanders. He speaks their language. To personally witness the mainland dialect, catch him on the Comedy Polynesia show at the Sheraton Princess Ka’iulani Hotel in Waikiki sometime. Anytime.
And Bo Speaks Military. For years Bo’s day job was on military bases on Oahu – Barbers Point, Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe. He knows the culture. He’s lived it. He speaks their language.
I’ve watched it and I shake my head. Sometimes I don’t understand half the things he says. He throws acronyms at them and everyone starts laughing. He talks about pilots doing touch and go’s. Barracks rats. Beer-thirty. I’m lost. But the audience is laughing their butts off… which is why Bo Irvine headlines our High & Right Comedy Night show every Tuesday at the Hale Koa, a hotel at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki for active or retired U.S. military. He speaks their language. He is one of them. And yet Hawaiian. Top that. I can’t.
And finally, as a Native Hawaiian Bo Namolokama Irvine Speaks Moke. For our many readers from Arkansas who need a wiki-translation of moke, let’s go to the Urban Dictionary’s definition:
Anyone (usually of Hawaiian ancestry) who actively participates in one or more of the following moke activities-
- Bodysurfing with McDonalds Tray
- Hawaiian Canoe Paddling
- Driving a Lifted Pickup
- Listening to Reggae/Jawaiian Music
- Playing an ukulele
- Stealing shoes/slippahs
- Smoking Weed
There is one mandatory qualification though… For one to be a full fledged “moke”, one must be well versed if not fluent in pidgin english.
Ho, Brah… U such a moke, cuz…
Bo spent his teenage years on Ewa Beach (surfing more than studying). When my wife Charlotte and I took our first stroll on Ewa Beach I finally got it. It was a light bulb moment. Deep down this is who Bo Irvine is. The root. His essence. “Bo,” I said, “I finally understand. You’re a moke!”
“Very good,” he said. “It took you how long to figure that out?”
Which is why he performs for locals in a language I don’t always fully understand. It’s his native tongue. But I love it the same. There’s something about being in a room where you can cut the laughter in the air with a knife.
Mainland, Military and Moke. The 3 M’s of Bo Irvine.
Phone rings. It’s 6:45am. My girls are visiting family on the mainland. I am holding down the fort running our comedy clubs in Hawaii. No one calls me at 6:45am. They know better. It’s not my time.
I muster up the wherewithal to find the phone and enough voice to utter, “Hello?”
“Hey, watcha doing?” chirps a cheerful Bo Irvine on the other end of this curiously early phone call. Bo notoriously burns the candle at both ends working as the Director of Safety and Occupational Health at the Kaneohe Marine Corp Base Hawaii by day and hanging with me performing at the Honolulu Comedy Club in Waikiki by night.
“Um, sleeping?” I reply. “Was at the club last night (as you well know – you were with me). What’s up?”
Still cheerful, Bo answers my question with a question. “Are you deaf?”
I am confused and still shaking the cobwebs out of my head. “No, not deaf. Why might you be asking?”
“You must be deaf. You’re telling me you don’t hear the tsunami warning sirens going off in your neighborhood?”
Okay, now I’m awake. “Tsunami? What sirens?”
This incident took place sometime in the mid-90’s. Apparently there had been a fairly massive earthquake a few hours earlier off the coast of Hokkaido in northern Japan which spawned a potentially massive tsunami in our direction. I lived near the beach in Kailua, not a good place to be if a 30 foot wall of water traveling at 600 mph decides to come passing through the neighborhood.
Bo told me to hang out at his house (and sleep on the couch) until it passed – which it did without incident – not unlike what happened with the earthquake and tsunami a few days ago.
…Not that hanging out at Bo’s house is the best place to be if you’re trying to avoid water. For those of us who remember the 1988 New Year’s Eve rainstorm which put the entire Coconut Grove section of Kailua, including Bo’s house, under four feet of water. As Bo recalls, “When animals starting pairing up in my front yard I got scared..”
Bottom line: It can be dangerous working late hours.
Concert promoter Ken Rosene asked me to open for Kenny G at the Waikiki Shell. I said, “Sure.”
I didn’t know who Kenny G was. Someone new, I presumed. Whatever. I’m a busy guy. The year was 1988.
Charlotte and I were up to our eyeballs running our less-than-a-year-old comedy club on the other side of Waikiki and frankly, for me to sneak out for a few minutes to run across Waikiki to the Shell for a few minutes was a challenge unto itself. Doing the show was not an issue. As a comedy juggler I am visual and don’t challenge anyone’s intellectual capacity. I do this in my sleep. There’s no time to be nervous. I’ve got to be back at the Ilikai to help seat customers for the 9pm show.
Houston, there’s a problem. Oh crap. A big problem.
I’m at the Waikiki Shell. It’s 7:45pm, 15 minutes before I go on. I’m looking at the crowd. It’s full. 8,000 people. Now I’m curious. I finally ask someone, “Who is Kenny G?” And, “Why are there so many darned people here to see him?”
The answer: He’s a saxophone player.
Oh crap, crap, crap.
The problem: Five weeks earlier I opened for a different concert at the Waikiki Shell. Sold out. David Sanborn. A saxophone player. I look at the sea of bodies filling the slope and came to a horrible realization.
They are the same people. The SAME PEOPLE who saw me do my best 20 minutes just a few weeks earlier. Here we are again.
Panic. 15 minutes till blast off and I now realize I’m the wrong guy for this gig.
I open my sacred juggling suitcase and stare at my 40 minutes worth of props. Ten years of performing professionally and it’s come down to these 40. And I blew 20 of them opening for Sanborn. Which 20? Think, think, think.
Okay, got it. I did this, this and this. That leaves that, that and that. Okay, music. Juggling to music. What songs did I do? What’s left?
On the spot I totally revamped my show. Five minutes till showtime. I find the guy who’s running my cassettes from the sound booth and tell him to do songs 2 & 3 instead of 1 & 4.
It was one of the best shows of my life. Or more accurately stated, it felt like one of the best shows of my life. Our comedy club on the other side of Waikiki was effectively promoted to almost 1% of the island’s population, and it was a 1% that pays to go out and be entertained. That’s our kind of crowd.
It was another “whew” on our continuing 22 year path of promoting stand-up comedy in Hawaii.
When I was done with my set some guy walks up to me backstage, shook my hand and thanked me for doing such a great job. “You’re welcome,” I responded. “Are you with the band?”
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