The Hawaii Comedy Blog

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Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

Hawaiian Driving Directions

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.

“Okay, Let Me Have It”

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.

Comedy Tsunami

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.

I’m Kenny


Kenny G, who performed to a sold out Waikiki Shell in 1988. His opening act - a juggler.

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?”

“I’m Kenny.”

Myk Drowns The Fish

So this 20-something girl gets in Myk Powell’s face after the show and starts ripping a new orifice into his body. “How could you?” “Subhuman!” “You’re perpetuating animal cruelty!” I don’t know what else she said because I was so stunned standing next to him.

After she moved on I asked, “Myk, what the heck is she talking about?”

This happened when all comedy in Hawaii emanated exclusively from the Top of the Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki, the early days of the Honolulu Comedy Club. Call Wacky-98 for reservations. Right, so…

Myk Powell was one of our top Oahu-based comedians. His regular gig, though, was sharing the coveted morning drive slot at 93.1 FM KQMQ along with Cliff “The Voice From God” Richards.

“Oh,” Myk replied, “you haven’t seen our new TV commercial yet?”

“Nope.” So he explained.

Myk was standing over a large barrel of water trying to control, a wildly flapping fin. There was a fish flailing for all it was worth in the barrel and Myk was barely hanging on. Cliff, standing next to Myk, explained to the viewer, “If you don’t listen to Cliff & Myk in the Morning on 93Q, then we’re going to drown this fish!”

It was a grave threat indeed, and one that our Honolulu Comedy Club patron apparently did not appreciate. She’s gonna call the ASPCA. Greenpeace. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Department. The madness must come to an end!

After recovering from fits of laughter I asked Myk, “Why didn’t you tell her?”

“Oh, she’ll eventually figure it out on her own.”

Poor fish. I never did ask what became of the little helpless fella.