The Hawaii Comedy Blog

The official blog of the gang at Hawaii Comedy Theater

Archive for the ‘Waikiki’ Category

“Quick, Bring My Balls, I’m Opening for Jay Leno!”

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.

Charlie Laborte (with nunchucks around neck) & Eddie Sax (slightly worried) at the Honolulu Comedy Club

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.

“WHAT????”

“Grab my juggling suitcase and meet me at the Waikiki Shell as fast as you can possibly get there.”

“WHY????”

“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.

“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.

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.”

Foxworthy & The Butterfly Wing

My wife Charlotte can be confused for a local. Until she opens her mouth.

Charlotte, circa 1988, Honolulu Star Bulletin. Ignore the half of a man on the right.

But she looks like a local. Honestly, the first time I went to the Ala Moana Center by myself – an unusual occurrence, me shopping – my eyes were playing tricks. Half of the girls I saw at a semi-distance looked like Charlotte, the long dark brown hair, the high cheekbones (thank you Cherokee blood), seductive eyes… I, I need to get home.

But her distinctive Mississippi-bred accent is the reason Charlotte and Jeff Foxworthy become fast friends on his first visit to the Honolulu Comedy Club in Waikiki. Charlotte was the only comedy industry person within a multi-thousand mile radius Jeff could truly relate to at that moment. Looks Hawaiian, sounds like she should be barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen somewhere.

Jeff Foxworthy

The year was 1990, plus or minus one, and Foxworthy had been honing a new bit in his act informally called You Might Be a Redneck. “How far should I take this?” Jeff was wondering to himself. “Should I really let this Redneck thing define me?”

He was itching to run the question by someone who really might know the answer, to help him. And, lo, cometh prancing into his life a comedy club owner from the South living amongst Yankees. (Southerners consider anyone from a state not in the South a Yankee, even if that state happens to be 12 degrees further south in latitude than their beloved South.)

As Charlotte recalls:

“Hey Charlotte, I, I have a question for you,” Jeff asked. “You know my You Might Be a Redneck routine? Well, I, I was thinking of turning that into a book. Do you, do you think that would be a good idea?”

Charlotte thought about it and replied, “Yeah.”

Four letters for the ages, y-e-a-h. Thus, my friends, I deservedly give my good wife partial, if not single-handed credit for the entire Foxworthy Redneck craze. I mean, think about it folks. What if she had responded with something like, say, for instance… What if she had said, “Nah” ?

What then? No book? No Blue Collar? No Engvall? No Cable Guy? This appears to have been Jeff’s most vulnerable and defining moment in his life, and he received, no, not negativism but encouragement.

It’s the Butterfly Effect of Comedy. The flap of a butterfly’s wing in Waikiki could spawn a hurricane off the coast of Atlanta. Remember what happened when Marty McFly tried to save his peeping tom of a father from being hit by a car? Changed the course of human history.

No sir. Give credit where it’s due. Charlotte Sax, co-founder of the Honolulu Comedy Club, the largest and most successful comedy club ever in the South Pacific, now partnered with Wanda Shipp and Bo Namolokama Irvine operating under the name Hawaii Comedy Theater featuring Comedy Polynesia and Sharkey’s Comedy Club at the Sheraton Princess Ka’iulani Hotel in Waikiki.

The Butterfly Wing Who Propelled Jeff Foxworthy to Stardom.

Foxworthy Audio: Clampetts Go To Maui (very funny!)

The best ways to get around Honolulu

As anyone who’s driven in Honolulu can tell you, Honolulu’s city streets can be a bit of a challenge. If the narrow streets don’t get you to second guess your driving abilities, the number of one-way streets will definitely make you feel like you’re in a maze with no way out.

Parking can also be a nightmare around town, or even at your own hotel with parking rates as high as $30.00 per day. Add that cost to your daily car rental fee and you’re looking at anywhere from 70 to over 100 dollars a day–money that you can spend on sipping more mai tais or doing more shopping.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend your vacation time in Hawaii’s version of traffic hell. There are quite a few options for you to consider that will make you leave the driving to someone else (you’re on vacation, after all). Let’s look at the alternatives:

Taxi Cabs:

Probably not the most cost-effective way to get around town, but it will definitely do the job. There are a lot of cab companies that operate within the major Honolulu and Waikiki areas. However, if you want to go with reliability and dependability, there are only two that you can always count on: TheCab and Charley’s Taxi.

TheBus:

If you really want to experience Honolulu in all its metropolitan glory, nothing beats TheBus. It’s Honolulu’s only public transportation option with dedicated service around the island. For only $2.50, you can basically get around town to almost anywhere you want. You can even get a 4-day pass for only $25.00 (consecutive days only, unfortunately). However, keep in mind that both tourists and locals use the bus; it will take a while to get on one during rush hours and assuming that you do board a bus, be prepared to stand inside something that resembles a human sardine can.

Waikiki Trolley:

If you’re just looking for a way to get to the most popular tourist attractions (not to mention major shopping and dining destinations), then the Waikiki Trolley’s the way to go. The Waikiki Trolley has three lines specializing in distinct “themes” that take you to historic stops, scenic points along the Diamond Head area or to Ala Moana Center. A seven-day pass costs $49.00 online through their website ($58 elsewhere) though their Pink Line also accepts one-way fares at $2.00 per person.

Moped scooters:

Better than bicycles but not as useful as cars, using a moped around town is a cool way to get to wherever you want to go. It’s convenient to park and use, and it’s great gas sipper. The only downside with these things is the safety aspect; just like bikes, you’re more prone to accidents if you’re not careful. They’re easy targets for thieves too, so keep that in mind at all times.