The Funniest People in Hawaii
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Bumatai officially became one of Hawaii’s funniest people after that, eventually claiming the Monarch Room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel as his own and shooting a TV special, All in the Ohana, that became a comedy classic.
It was an amazing time. Radio personality Michael W. Perry calls Reiplinger, Bumatai and De Lima “the holy trinity of comedy” in Hawaii.
And in the ’70s and ’80s, Booga Booga was still cycling through various comedians, like Ray Bumatai, Andy’s brother and one of Hawaii’s funniest people in his own right. But the next batch of funny people were already waiting in the wings, memorizing entire albums.
When Bumatai opened for Yvonne Elliman at the Maui War Memorial, a 10-year-old kid named Augie Tulba was in the crowd. He never forgot it. Around the same time, Tulba’s dad took him to see Reiplinger perform.
“I sat in the front row and he signed my arm,” Tulba says. “I didn’t wash it for a week. I treated it like a cast.”
A rambunctious kid, Tulba began doing comedy in high school after a teacher forced him to enter speech contests. In the first contest he simply did a verbatim recitation of Reiplinger’s “Room Service.”
“I won,” he recalls. “I won every school speech contest in high school.”
Tulba did grow into doing his own material, both on stage and on the “Augie and Lanai” radio show with Grant “Lanai” Tabura. Tulba’s one busy funny guy. This year he raced through the Islands on “Augie’s Keeping Sane Through Insanity Tour,” putting together TV specials and doing all kinds of other things. The reason I’m being vague is because Tulba talks real fast, faster than I can type and I’m a pretty fast typist. So, here’s a few things I managed to get down when I talked to him … never went to college, loves reading, age 41, something about the “Slow Goose” theater … that’s in Alaska, where he fell off the stage once … met Andy Bumatai two weeks after he started doing comedy, opened for the Platters, and America, his dad thought that meant he was getting a government job (America—get it?) … something about, no, can’t make that out … Hālawa prison inmates make for the best crowd in the world, lots of his school friends in there.
When he played Halawa prison the inmates wanted an encore and kept yelling “hana hou!” But the Adult Corrections Officers (ACOs) wanted him off the stage. When Tulba tried to tell the crowd of prisoners he couldn’t do an encore, one of them shouted, “We know where you live!”
“I did 20 more minutes,” he says. “Because those ACOs not going to protect me at my house when those guys come out of prison.”
The Hawaii funny person genealogy wiggles down from Sterling Mossman to Don Ho, to Bumatai, to Paul Ogata, who has become one of Hawaii’s top comics. He started out at open-mic nights in Honolulu, but now tours everywhere from the Mainland to Hong Kong. I caught up with him in San Diego, where he’s just moved with his wife, Kris.
Ogata has won national comedy contests and has a special coming out in December on the Showtime network called, and I’m not making this up, “Slanted Comedy.” He also starred in a strange movie called Porndogs, which is apparently so racy, theaters in the United States won’t show it. I don’t know if “starred” is the right word. The real stars are actual dogs who do nasty things and actors do their voices.
“I play the Shar Pei,” Ogata says. “It’s typecasting.”
“It’s not actually porno,” Ogata says. “It’s sort of like Look Who’s Talking meets The Green Door.”
Despite the many exciting things that have happened in his relatively short comedy career, his biggest thrill came when he first started out as a comedian.
“The phone rang during lunch,” he says. “My mom answered and she got all excited. ‘It’s Andy Bumatai! It’s Andy Bumatai!’ That was a huge moment. He asked me to be on his show. I thought, I must be doing something right.”
He also was able to work with that other link in our genealogical comedy line, Don Ho.