Quote Unquote: Improv Your Life with “Hawai‘i Five-0” Actress Kimee Balmilero

Kimee Balmilero moved from Kāne‘ohe at 17 to join the national touring company of “Miss Saigon,” before making her way to New York to join the original cast of “Mamma Mia!” then, after years in L.A., returned home to land a growing role on “Hawai‘i Five-0.” She also just got married, to John LeBlanc, “a musician and digital plumber, smart and artsy.” This month, she’s putting on the Hawai‘i Sketch Comedy Festival.
Kimee Balmilero
photo: david croxford

I HIT A MAJOR DRY SPELL, two years of not working consistently. I was used to waiting for someone to tell me to go into work. It was John who shook me and said, “Why are you waiting for anybody to tell you to do something? You should be creating your own things.”


THAT TIME WAS THE START of people doing things on YouTube. I started doing stuff and putting it up. I really got into studying improv in L.A., at the Upright Citizens Brigade. I fell in love with it.


NOW I’M DOING IMPROV, I’M DOING FIVE-0, I’m going to teach this class at the festival. I blame him!


WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT AT THE FESTIVAL? Original comedy, live music and awesome. I’ve seen amazing things happen. A failure can shift a scene into something unexpected. The audience comes in with the same agreement: We’re going to stand on stage, you’re going to shout out suggestions and we’re going to hope for the best.


“I love the idea that I can work on a show like Hawai‘i Five-0 and still see my grandma over the weekend.”


ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS IS OUR STARTUP, beginning writers who work together to build a show. This year, we have six or seven local Honolulu-based writers who we’ve hooked up with a mentor in L.A., Ann Maddox. They meet once a week via FaceTime and do a virtual writing drill. Each one is responsible for one live sketch and one video sketch. Our goal is Two Scoops Funny, a one-hour live show.


WHEN I FIRST MOVED BACK I was taking the bus everywhere. People don’t realize how nice the ride is from Kāne‘ohe over the Pali, it’s gorgeous. When you’re driving, you miss it.


I HADN’T LIVED AS AN ADULT HERE, I didn’t know what was happening eventwise, artwise. I was pretty stoked to see all the cool things that were happening as far as art
and collaboration.


IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU’RE DOING, you will always find the energy to do it.


The Hawai‘i Sketch Comedy Festival runs Oct. 21 at the Honolulu Museum of Art, Oct. 22 at The Arts at Marks Garage, hisketchfest.com.