Review: ‘Ali’i’ rule in comedy one-nighter
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Local-style comedy at its best was in full effect at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Saturday, March 31, as the “Na Ali‘i of Comedy” concert tour arrived in Honolulu for the final show of a sold-out series.
Organized and hosted by Augie T, with Andy Bumatai, Mel Cabang, Frank De Lima and “Ace #1 Hawaiian Boy” Ed Kaahea also on the bill, the show brought together Hawaii’s top comic talents. Add the antics of Hawaiian KINE’s Lil Guy as the quintet’s midget stagehand and there was a sixth entertainer at work as well.
The fans who were lucky enough to get tickets for the show were fortunate, indeed.
Augie did double duty introducing his colleagues as well as entertaining the crowd as a stellar comic in his own right. He explained that a Filipino would win “Survivor” because “Filipinos eat anything,” noted wryly that guys he knew in “special ed” who saw him on “Hawaii Five-0” recently now assume he can fly a helicopter because they saw it on television, and confessed that he is so much younger than the other four comics that he had to get a fake ID so he could fit in and get the “senior special” with them in restaurants.
Augie also put a new spin on his ever-popular riff on drug addicts riding bicycles in Waianae with a look at what might transpire if there were vampires riding bicycles there.
The big surprise for old-timers — in this case, folks old enough to remember the three original members of Booga Booga — was seeing Augie join Kaahea in full costume to revive the classic Booga Booga comedy sketch, “Hawaiian Hunter.” Kaahea reprised the unforgettable character of Shawn Santana and Augie played on the Portuguese goat hunter character (originated by the late James Grant Benton) who repeatedly warns the “mahu” to “No Touch Me!”
Kaahea earned his place in local entertainment history as an originator of “Kanaka Komedy” with Benton and the late Rap Reiplinger, but he did quite well working solo and doing stand up. That said, it was also great to hear him do vintage Booga Booga commercials for two household products — Alas Detergent (“…like little Samoans trowing blows at the dirt”) and Majiro Shoyu (“If it’s black and salty it’s shoyu — or could be one sweaty popolo!”)
Cabang entertained the crowd with his standard comments about being Filipino — “I used to be Filipino. I quit!” — and the uniqueness of Filipino-accented English. He made several references to his experiences doing three years in federal prison — “I’m not that intelligent. I got caught” — but his comment about another prominent entertainer being behind bars didn’t go over well with a loud minority in the standing room only crowd.
“Did I say the wrong thing?” he asked, pausing a second before he continued on. Later, when sound system problems interfered with the show, he quipped that God must be punishing him for his earlier comment.
Cabang also showed a remarkable amount of self-confidence in leaving the stage for one-on-one contact with individual members of the audience.
Bumatai, who originated the concept of stand-up comedy in a local context as Hawaii’s first comedian at Kojack’s in the late-70s, was in great form. He has written so much great stuff during the last 30 years that he could do several hours without repeating any of it, and a lot of it is timeless. For instance, his observation on how guys of a certain age will greet each other with “You’re looking good,” his self-deprecating comment that being Filipino-Hawaiian means that you like to clean the yard but have no land, and his take on the lamentable “local” attitude that considers accidental eye contact with a stranger as reason to kill them.
Bumatai dismissed “import” automobiles as “turbo-charged sewing machines” no matter how many sound-altering mufflers they have, and gave women credit for being much better than men at finding things — like, finding your car keys even though someone put a magazine on them.
Bumatai didn’t rest on his classics. A quick bit on the right gift to take when visiting the neighbor islands these days was as topical as today’s gas prices.
De Lima come out of the audience in character as sumotori Lolobono and demonstrated how sumo wrestlers dance. He broke with tradition by changing costumes on stage as part of the performance and told the story of his first meeting with Imelda Marcos while changing into his Imelda costume. Imelda has been one of his most popular characters for more than 20 years and it was a hit on Saturday even without the standard Tony Bennett parody, “I Left My Shoes in My Manila.”
De Lima’s “Lucille” segment also worked quite well thanks to his skill at improvisation. The woman selected to portray Lucille was so shy she spent most of the song with her back to the audience. The man who was brought up to play the heart-broken guy “who was more big than one cattle” was a great sport and an energetic performer but when the time came to do the chorus he did the original Kenny Rodgers lyrics instead of De Lima’s version.
The audience loved it.
De Lima’s commercial section where he promotes products that he says didn’t sell in stores was as clever as ever and a hit as well.
With the “Na Ali‘i of Comedy” tour now pau, a pay-for-view version of the show is in production for local comedy fans who weren’t able to get tickets for the five concerts. All going well, the pay-for-view video will eventually be available on DVD as well.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.