The Funniest People in Hawaii
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“He gave birth to a lot of local talent,” Ogata explains. “He was very generous and supportive. He said, ‘You gotta work clean, don’t use the ‘F’ word.’ I said, ‘Can I say fricking instead of the F word?’ Don said, ‘No, ‘cause those words know each other. You gotta behave your language, boy.’”
Now is the time I start feeling bad about all of the other funniest people in Hawaii I’m not going to be able to get to in any depth. Like all the hilarious radio personalities like Frank B. Shaner, Michael W. Perry, the late, great Hal “Aku” Lewis and Larry Price (usually unintentionally funny, but funny anyway). Great local comedians like Bo Irvine, who I have shared the stage with from time to time. And Mel Cabang, Hawaii’s Don Rickles.
And what about the funny women? Hilo Hattie and her “rascal” hula. Standup comic Cathy Tanaka. Melveen Leed. And Karen Keawehawaii.
Few people know that Keawehawaii got her first laugh on stage when an equipment malfunction made it sound like she had passed gas.
“I just stood there by the microphone, made a little look at my okole and said, ‘Good lunch.’ Everyone laughed. Before I sang a note I knew I had these people in my hand. It pivoted me from just doing music to using comedy to make people feel comfortable.”
And what of the unlikely comedy genealogy that has offered up a seemingly endless line of really funny people?
Somewhere right now a rambunctious girl or boy is disrupting a high school class or practicing the routines of Paul Ogata or Augie T in front of a mirror using the TV remote control as a microphone. Andy Bumatai told me that, at a recent open-mic night he hosted in a small Kapolei club, he may have seen the future.
“There was this Samoan guy who had never been on stage,” he says. “And he got up and did 10 solid minutes in front of a pretty good crowd. It was the best first-time effort I’ve ever seen.”
Charles Memminger is a national award-winning humor writer who has been known to perform standup comedy from time to time to the side-splitting befuddlement of Honolulu audiences.