Tumua Tuinei May Be Hawai‘i’s Next Big Comedian
The former UH football player has been selling out shows with his straight-up, hilarious local humor.
After earning a scholarship and playing football at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Tumua Tuinei seemed destined to carry on his family’s storied football legacy. (His father, Tom Tuinei, is a former UH defensive lineman, and his late uncle, Mark Tuinei, was a longtime NFL star.) But life pointed Tumua Tuinei in an entirely different direction. While taking a stand-up comedy course at UH, Tuinei unleashed a hysterical 10-minute set before a live audience that not only earned him a top grade but launched a blazing career. Over the past five years, the O‘ahu local has sold out show after show, including three consecutive nights at Blaisdell Concert Hall. On Nov. 12 and 13, the 26-year-old will play his biggest gigs to date, at Blaisdell Arena.
Tuinei said his success started to sink in when he sold out 18 shows at Blue Note Hawai‘i in 2021. Initially, he was booked for one show, but after the first night sold out, Blue Note continued adding performances. That led to his national tour, culminating in his successful run at the concert hall in 2021. “It felt great selling out a concert hall,” Tuinei says. “And it feels like a blessing seeing that I can perform my material on the mainland, and I’m excited to keep doing that.”
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Tuinei describes his style as “observational comedy” rooted in Hawai‘i’s local culture. Some skits are in Pidgin, like the one about everyone on Kaua‘i knowing each other. He’s also riffed about running for governor of Hawai‘i with the slogan, “If you not shua, vote for Tumua.” “I want people to watch and say, ‘I know who he is talking about,’” he says.
Along with performing at open mics across the island, Tuinei got his career on a fast-track by posting clips and skits on Instagram, especially after COVID-19 shut down venues. “I started making more videos on Instagram and saw my social media grow,” he says. As of mid-August, he had 115,000 followers on Instagram (@tumua_) and 186,000 followers on TikTok (@tumua_). One of his recent TikTok posts (with more than 255,000 views at the time of this writing) depicts him as a local TSA agent who takes his job way too seriously. Another has him pretending to be a fitness instructor who goes to Costco and stands in line to exercise.
Although Tuinei didn’t wind up with a career on the football field like others in his clan, he believes he’s not too far removed. “Comedy is a sport because I sweat a lot on stage,” he quips.
Tumua Tuinei performs on Nov. 12 and 13 at Blaisdell Arena. tumuacomedy.com