Laughs let loose
Comedy clubs cropping up on Maui embrace emerging scene with heavy guffaws
Live comedy has had a series of ups and downs over the years on Maui. In the 1980s, resorts and nightclubs would occasionally host comedy tours, and since the opening of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului, dozens of A-list comics have performed at both the Castle Theater and McCoy Studio Theater.
What Maui is lacking is a traditional cover charge-based comedy club that could allow both comics and patrons alike to embrace our emerging comedy scene.
Producer and comedian John Padon is the founder of Sin City Comedy located at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Now living on Maui, Padon continues to produce comedy events and shares his life-long passion for standup.
“I continue to do it for the love of good comedy and sharing that with the community, but it’s also a good excuse to bring friends here to hang out for a week,” he said.
In 2016, Padon presented King Kamehameha Komedy Klub at the Waikapu Ballroom to moderate success.
“After King Kamehameha [Komedy Klub], I stepped back to see what it would take to get more people to support smaller comedy events. Maui needs affordable, consistent, high-quality comedy.”
Padon is launching the Maui Live Comedy Series this summer at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku with that idea in mind. His first headliner will be veteran comedian, director and actor Kevin Farley who has appeared in such films and television shows as “Paranormal Movie,” “An American Carol,” “Joe Dirt,” “The Waterboy,” “Drunk History,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Hawaii Five-O.”
“I fell into getting Kevin to come out,” explains Padon. “We both started doing comedy at the same time and have ties to David Spade. I landed in San Diego working at The Improv, and we were booked together a lot. Kevin has had an amazing successful career. He’s a hell of a lot of fun, and people are going to love him. Solid, professional comedians can kill anywhere they go in the world to perform. But I wouldn’t be able to book them for their regular price — I’m doing this series because of lasting friendships built over 25 years. Guys want to come out here for a week’s vacation.”
Farley, the brother of the late Chris Farley, will kick off the new series on Aug. 9, with Las Vegas-based comedian Carl LaBove scheduled for November.
Just across Market Street, the Wai Bar now hosts Last Saturday Comedy Showcase monthly.
“We have the ability, with our stage, to host a variety of entertainment nights, and comedy is a perfect fit for the room. We love having live jazz and comedy, and we’re always on the lookout for new, creative live events,” said Johnny Wilson, co-owner of Wai Bar.
The standup series resumes this weekend with emcee Cool Hand Luke, Chuck Thompson and many more in performance. Thompson, who performs monthly with Power Up Comedy, is also the co-host of “The Biscuits and Gravy Show” on KAKU 88.5.
“We’re on every Wednesday at 11 a.m. — that’s when the gravy train departs,” said Thompson.
The show regularly features standup comics, and I asked Thompson about the challenges for comedians on Maui.
“It’s always two steps forward, two steps back for live comedy on Maui. Supporting the open mic nights is the heart and the future of Maui comedy, but live shows at bars can be hit or miss. Sometimes it’s too loud and the crowd may not even be aware that it is a comedy night. The AARP crowd is great for comedy nights, tourists as well. The people that are semi-retired with a condo in Kihei are familiar with comedy clubs on the Mainland and they’re great supporters,” he added.
Thompson has performed at nearly all of the comedy nights that have come and gone all over Maui like at Stella Blues, Hard Rock Cafe [both since closed] and Three’s Bar and Grill in Kihei, and I asked him how he got started.
“I had just moved to the island and a friend took me to Stella Blues, bought me some wings and a beer, and secretly signed me up for the open mic,” recalled Thompson. “The next thing I know, Chino (La Forge) called me up and I just winged it. I got a couple of laughs and decided to go back. Well, I bombed for three months almost every week, but after five months I started to have some success and was booked for my first paid show.”
Alternative locations continue to be the homes for Maui’s comics. Free Range Comedy, currently on hiatus until August, performs three times monthly at ProArts Playhouse in Azeka Shopping Center Makai in Kihei, Maui Coffee Attic in Wailuku and Temple of Peace in Haiku.
Musical-comedy actress Laura Lee Cole and special guests will be in performance next month at the Maui Coffee Attic with her comedy cabaret showcase, “OMG, Remember When…?”
“It’s a comical, klutzy, messy, lesson-learning journey remembered through hilarious songs,” says Cole. “If I created a soundtrack of my life, even if the songs are sad, they trigger joyful and humorous memories.”
Power Up Comedy also hosts a monthly comedy night on the third Friday of every month at ProArts Playhouse.
“When they have a production running we have to take a break, but we’ll be back in July. It’s only $15 and includes pizza and soda,” said Thompson. “We’re able to add headliners several times a year too. Todd Barry is coming in October. But if we were paying their usual price, we couldn’t afford it. It becomes a ‘casual comedy show while on vacation’ for them. That’s the big advantage that Maui has.”
“In the ’80s the Ice House in Pasadena booked a two-week Hawaii tour,” shared Padon. “We would always end up spending more than we got paid, but we got a two-week Hawaiian vacation! We would start out at the Kona Surf in the Poi Pounder Room and we’d get three or four hundred people. Then, it was off to the Kauai Sheraton, The Sports Page in Kihei, the Maui Marriott and [we’d] finish up at the Ilikai in Honolulu. The Sports Page had a big table that they made into a stage, and all of those headliners I talked about performed on top of that table.
“The market is here. Comedy could become a great outlet for locals and tourists to see great comedians, but at an affordable price.”
• “Last Saturday Comedy Showcase” resumes with host Cool Hand Luke, Vince Foti, Ronda Hanson, Corky Gardner and Chuck Thompson. Performance at 6 p.m. Saturday at Wai Bar in Wailuku. Tickets are $10 at the door.
• Laura Lee Cole in performance with Sal Godinez and Sara Jelley at 7 p.m.
Friday, July 26 at Maui Coffee Attic. Tickets are $10. To purchase tickets for any Maui Coffee Attic event, call 250-9555 or order online at www.mauicoffeeattic.com.
• “Maui Live Comedy Series” with Kevin Farley and John Padon kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9 and 10 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $40 for premium reserved. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.
Army of Sass Maui and FuzzBox Productions in association with Galaxy Laser & Lights presents an original, adult-themed cabaret production of “Snow White.”
• Performances are at 7 and 10 p.m. Friday at Lahaina Loft, 736 Front Street in Lahaina. Tickets range from $25 to $45 and are available through www.eventbrite.com.
Maui OnStage presents the Maui premiere of “Mamma Mia!” by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, directed and choreographed by Kalani Whitford, under the musical direction of Kim Vetterli.
Set on a Greek island paradise, this jukebox musical tells the story of a young woman’s search for her birth father told through the pop hits of ABBA, including “Dancing Queen,” “SOS,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Take a Chance on Me” and its title track.
• Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, running July 12 through Aug. 4 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.