Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category
So there Charlie and I were, sitting in the TV studio waiting for the cameras to start rolling, when in walks Jay Leno. Please understand, this was both good news and bad news. Good news for me, bad news for Charlie.
We had just opened our Waikiki comedy club in February. It was now June. We were still trying to get the word out, which was kind of OCD of us considering that every show in March, April and most of May were sellouts. But still, it’s never enough when you’re not sleeping well at night.
One of our comics in town that week was Charlie Laborte. Not only was Charlie of Asian descent, a definite plus for our local market, but he also used to live in Hawaii. Double bonus. KGMB TV thought so, too. They wanted to interview Charlie on their 5pm news program with Leslie Wilcox that Friday afternoon. I played the role of chauffeur. First show that night was at 8pm. Plenty of time.
In walks Jay Leno.
Jay was in concert that night at the Waikiki Shell. He had just flown in. I wanted to open for his concert to do a plug for our club figuring the people who would attend his concert were our crowd, but the promoter said no; that Jay didn’t need an opening act. That’s cool, no big deal.
Charlie and I chatted with Jay for a while. Going through Charlie’s mind of course was, “How in the heck am I going to be funny on a TV interview when coming up after me will be JAY LENO!” And going through my mind was, “Man, I’d love to open for his concert at the Shell tonight.”
For me it all turned out to be quite simple. I told him what I wanted to do and why. He picked up the phone, called the promoter and said, “Eddie Sax is opening for me tonight.” Done.
No, not done. Panic.
The concert starts in 2 hours, I’m in town, my juggling equipment is in Hawaii Kai and it’s rush hour. I called Charlotte who was fortunately still at home but with one foot out the door. “Emergency!” I yelled into the phone.
“Grab my juggling suitcase and meet me at the Waikiki Shell as fast as you can possibly get there.”
“I’m opening for Jay Leno.”
It took her forever to get there. Well, not really, but that’s how it seemed on the clock churning in my stomach. I grabbed the suitcase out of the car, she sped off to the Ilikai to manage the club – now with one less worker, me – and I had about 15 minutes to warm up and get my head together before my introduction.
The show went well. I only did 10 minutes figuring that was enough to get my point across. I plugged the club. Jay took the stage and before diving into his show, also plugged the club. Truly, one of the nicest guys in showbiz.
As much as I would have loved to bask in the glory of the moment for the next 90 minutes watching Jay’s show, then work the crowd on their way out… no. There were more important tasks at hand. Mr. Ten Minutes Of Fame jumped into a taxi, sped across Waikiki to the Ilikai to help show our comedy club customers to their seats. People who didn’t know and worse, didn’t care that only 20 minutes earlier their seater was on stage at the Waikiki Shell…
And I didn’t care either. It’s all in a day’s work.
Back to Jay… Nice guys don’t often finish on the top of the heap. Jay Leno is one notable exception. Nice and hard working. Perhaps a little too hard working, as evidenced in his TV interview with Leslie. She began a question with, “When you performed here last year…” and Jay interrupted saying, “I wasn’t here last year.”
Leslie: “Yes you were.
Jay: No, I wasn’t.
Leslie, looking at her notes: “You were at the Sheraton Waikiki last August.”
Jay: “No, I wasn’t.”
Leslie: “Well, let’s move on…”
I understand the concept of confusing Omaha with Kansas City, but not remembering you were in Honolulu 10 months earlier? Time to slow down, Jay.
As for Charlie, he did just fine. We sold out the weekend.
Charlotte and I picked up the paper the next day to read Wayne Harada’s concert review which included a line at the bottom, “Juggler Eddie Sax from the Honolulu Comedy Club was an unannounced opening act and did a fine job.”
I impressed Wayne Harada. Maybe now I can sleep better at night.
I was handed a message one day as I walked into the comedy club in Waikiki. Some guy named Bill Dana called. It was a Hawaii number, 808-248-Something.
248? Never heard of 248. I looked it up. Maui. Hana, Maui. Someone’s calling me from Hana? Hana, the hotbed of Hawaii evening entertainment. How mysterious. Enthusiastically, I dial soon enough am speaking with “some guy named Bill Dana.”
Only I quickly discovered that Bill Dana is anything but “some guy.” When he reminded me that he was better known for one of his comedic characters, “Jose Jiménez,” a chill went up my spine.
For those of you under the age of 50, let me put this into context. Bill Dana and his alter ego Jose Jiménez are legend. The Ed Sullivan Show. The Bill Dana Show on NBC, 1963-1965 (these were the days before 970 channels from which to choose).
Bill was even better known for his writing. He wrote stand-up for comedian Don Adams, including his famous “Would you believe” routine which went on to icon status in the TV program Get Smart, and wrote the 1980 Get Smart movie, The Nude Bomb. He played Sophia’s brother Angelo on The Golden Girls. His most famous work, however, was the script he penned for the best known episode of the hit sitcom All in the Family, entitled “Sammy’s Visit,” which arranged an encounter between Sammy Davis Jr. and Archie Bunker. (See above clip, 17:30 mark: “Sammy, your being colored, I know you had no choice in that. But whatever made you turn Jew?”)
I’m on the phone with Jose Jiménez. I can’t believe I’m on the phone with Jose Jiménez!
Bill was interested in doing some sort of show in Honolulu and was recommended to me by a few mutual friends in Los Angeles. The show never panned out but the memory of taking a call from Bill Dana… Jose Jiménez – that was forever.
I drove by the Maui Prince Hotel last week on my way to Big Beach with my girls. No, not Little Beach. Big Beach. Yes, we kept our clothes on. But I was reminded of our very first Hawaii-produced comedy show. Little known fact, our first show took place at the Maui Prince. Three weeks later we opened the Honolulu Comedy Club in Waikiki.
Not only did I remember the first show, but I remember the first comedy bit our headliner did opening night. Kevin Hughes, Comedy Sex Therapist. Above is a short clip from his show for your enjoyment. There’s no recording of Kevin’s Maui Prince show, but here’s exactly how it went down:
“I flew in yesterday and as I was renting my car I asked the lady behind the counter for directions to the Maui Prince. I wanted street names, highway numbers, north-south-east-west. But no, here’s exactly what she told me:
Go out of the airport. Turn left.
Go to the center of the island. Turn left.
Go to the ocean. Turn left.
Drive until you think you’re completely lost.
Then go another two miles. It will be on your right.”
That was January 1988, the beginning of a long relationship with comedy in Hawaii and Kevin Hughes heaping on the laughs while helping people’s marriages. And he’ll be doing it again the weekend just following Thanksgiving.
The Maui Prince is now called the Makena Beach & Golf Resort. Driving directions are the same.
As we were walking out of the Kula Lodge restaurant in Maui’s Upcountry yesterday, I noticed a family standing by the fireplace waiting to be seated. A grandpa, a teenage grandson, and a few people in between.
As I passed, I saw Grandpa smile at his family. I stopped, slightly stunned. I know that smile. I shook my head and kept on walking.
As we got to the lobby, Charlotte, who was a few paces behind me like the good Muslim woman she is not, whispered excitedly to me, “Hey, that looked like that comedian… actor… I can’t remember his name.”
So she saw it, too! It’s gotta be. “You mean Darrell and his other brother Darrell?” I said.
“Yup, that’s Bob Newhart,” I answered.
What a day! It had started with a horseback ride at Triple L Ranch a few miles south of Ulupalakua, continued with a wonderful wood fired pizza and killer view, and if it couldn’t get any better, I just encountered a living legend.
I’m feeling it in my bones. Share. “Hey kid,” I whispered to my teenage daughter, “See the guy in the baseball cap? He’s one of the most famous stand-up comedians and actors ever.”
“Really?” She doesn’t know the name Bob Newhart when I tell her, but all the same she’s impressed. She’s smart enough to know that a star is a star whether she knows him or not.
So we’re hanging out in the lobby waiting for Mom to emerge from the lua. I killed some time by skimming through a magazine. Saw a picture of Mick Fleetwood who lives Upcountry in Kula. I came of age on Fleetwood Mac. So here I am, in the same restaurant as Bob Newhart and standing probably within three miles of Mick Fleetwood’s home. Boy, if this ain’t heaven…
“Let’s go to the art gallery,” I said to Ariel.
We went downstairs to the Curtis Wilson Cost Gallery. The nice lady there greeted us. I couldn’t help myself. “I think Bob Newhart is in the restaurant upstairs.”
“Are you sure it was Bob Newhart?” she asked me.
I replied, “Honestly, no. But when he smiled… I know that smile.”
“Did he look older than you expected?”
“Then it was probably him,” she said with a knowing wink.
Went back upstairs to the lobby. Bob walks by me to go to the lua. We nodded at each other as random gentlemen acknowledging each other’s presence. Out of respect, I didn’t say anything to him, like thanking him for the thousands of laughs he has given me through the years, and, I assume, out of respect he didn’t say anything to me about the thousands of laughs I have given others by hiring stand-ups like him through the years. I let him enjoy his anonymity and his family and he let me enjoy mine.
Charlotte joins us in the lobby. “Bob’s in the bathroom,” I inform her.
And as the wonderful, classy woman my wife has been for nearly 25 years, she says, “You should go to the bathroom, too. Then you can say you took a crap with Bob Newhart!”
No thanks, I’ll pass. But God, I love that woman.
That night, several hours later, we went to Lahaina to see the amazing Ulalena show at the Maui Theatre. On my way to get the car I came face to face with Mick Fleetwood.
Charlotte didn’t believe me. I dropped her off with instruction to walk around the corner and look for tall guy, white pants, gray beard, gray ponytail, aloha shirt, lei, and British accent. And there he was.
That was yesterday. This morning I watched Legally Blonde II on TV with Ariel. “Hey kid,” I say. “See the guy next to Reese Witherspoon wearing the cap?”
“That’s Bob Newhart.”
“Ah,” she said, “so he is a star!”
Most of you know Bob Newhart from his starring roles on TV, but you might never have seen his brilliant stand-up. YouTube “Bob Newhart stand up” and take your pick. Or enjoy the clip below from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, circa late 1960’s.
I take no credit for Bo Irvine’s comedic talent. That came from Above. Suggesting what direction to go with that talent? Well, I’ll take a few points for that.
Bo and I usually drove into the Comedy Club in Waikiki together since we both lived in Kailua. It’s only 25 minutes in the car over the Pali, not enough time on our drive home to go over everything he did on stage that was right and wrong. So for the sake of his enjoyment, we would just focus on what he did that was wrong. It was a ritual that did wonders for our friendship.
I mean, heck, what he did that was right was not up for debate. Joke by joke, bit by bit, the audience’s votes are instantaneously tallied by the laugh meter. No need to run down that scorecard. Bo is a humble guy and there was no need to tempt him, no need for his head to start swelling unnecessarily.
Our discussions were about refinement. To steer his amazing raw talent in a direction that would enable him to have his own headline show in Waikiki some day. Cruise ships. Conventions. National television. Travel the world doing comedy.
It’s about more than Bo Being Funny. It’s about Bo being The Right Kind of Funny.
Money-Funny. Being funny where the money is. Entertaining locals – absolutely. Bo Namolokama Irvine is a Native Hawaiian. He mokes out with the best of’em. We’ve got that down. Check.
The challenge was to find our way to a unique place in the world of comedy entertainment in Hawaii, a level to which no performer had yet achieved. Ours was a long term plan and fortunately, time was our friend. There was no rush.
Bo Irvine would entertain visitors – not as easy as it sounds. He would bring aloha to their vacations via stand-up comedy, capturing their experiences in Hawaii from a visitor’s perspective. And then relate to them how a Hawaiian fares when he leaves the safe confines of his Hawaiian archipelago and ventures over to their neighborhoods on the mainland.
Which brings me back to our post-show ritual – one moment in particular.
The scene: Honolulu Comedy Club, Ilikai Hotel, Waikiki. Capacity 172, all seats full. Bo Irvine’s on the bill. He kills. Slaughters. There’s screaming. It’s a frenzy.
Show’s over. Bo stands near the exit to make himself available should anyone want to come over and shake hand, which pretty much everyone does, especially on this night.
“You were great.”
“We loved you.”
“You’re the best.”
“I can’t believe how funny you are.”
“Where did you come from?”
“How come I’ve never heard of you?”
Ad nauseum. On and on. I’m getting sick. 172 of these over a very long 10-15 minutes.
Last person leaves. The door shuts. Bo turns, looks at me and says, “Okay, let me have it.”
Let him have it? Like I’m going to find fault in perfection? There is no checklist to go down this night.
He’s arrived. Yes, he has definitely arrived.
Bo Namolokama Irvine headlines the Comedy Polynesia show every Wednesday and Saturday in at the Hawaii Comedy Theater, Sheraton Princess Ka’iulani Hotel in Waikiki. On Tuesdays, he’s at the Hale Koa Hotel: High & Right Comedy Night with Bo Irvine & Friends.
Had you been here two weeks ago, you could have seen him perform on the Norwegian Cruise Lines as it sailed between Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai.
Earlier this year He was performing at U.S. military bases in Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, and Bahrain.
His own headline show in Waikiki? Check. Cruise ships? Check. Conventions, National television? Check, check. Travel the world doing comedy? Check.
He’ll say that to me every once in a while with a sarcastic smirk. “Okay, let me have it.” Nope. The tables have flipped. Teacher is now student. And he rubs it in.
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