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Maui LIVE Comedy Series resumes with headliner Helen Hong

Helen Hong is known for her appearances on radio and television. She will be the headliner at the Maui LIVE Comedy Series Nov. 8 and 9 at Historic Iao Theater.

Next month, the Maui LIVE Comedy Series resumes with headliner Helen Hong at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Talk radio listeners will recognize Hong’s voice and wit from her National Public Radio appearances on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” as well as the political talk show “The Stephanie Miller Show.” Hong also pops up regularly on network sitcoms, but she considers her first love to be performing standup comedy live.

Hong shared why Maui audiences should attend her performance. “There is so much stand-up on TV and Netflix now, but the beauty of it is seeing it live. You never know what’s going to happen. I do a lot of jokes about my Asian family and I’m hoping the community comes out. There’s only so many female Asian comedians. There’s Margaret Cho, Allie Wong and me. I’m hoping my people will be there saying, ‘girl, we got you.’ Plus, we need some comedy right now, since the world is falling apart. My shows are very communal, I do a lot of crowd work. I’m kind of a softy, but I might drop an F-bomb or two. It’s a great time and we could all use a good laugh.”

I asked if she was inspired by any comedians as a child. “It’s interesting, I entered into comedy backwards. I didn’t become a stand-up comedy fan until I started doing stand-up comedy. My parents were from Korea and didn’t speak English, so we didn’t watch a lot of TV. I didn’t watch ‘The Tonight Show’ or comedy specials. We watched “Star Trek,” probably because there was an Asian character, and later Margaret Cho, she was the only Asian that had her own show. I didn’t know standup comedy was even a job. In a Korean family, you can be a doctor, a lawyer or a loser,” she explained.

Hong took a stand-up comedy class on the advice of a friend, and eventually performed in a showcase. “On the first night, it just clicked. I was so nervous, but the second I got a laugh, oh my God. I was hooked. It was like crack, cocaine and meth and heroin all in one. After that night I just never stopped doing standup,” she said.

Hong spent a year in Hawaii as an exchange student at UH-Manoa, and is looking forward to returning for the first time in many years. “When I was there, I got so dark — and my hair turned blonde! I suddenly looked like a Mexican. Though I was living in Honolulu, I would island-hop a lot. The last time I was on Maui, we went to Haleakala. I just remember we had to get up at the crack of dawn,” related Hong. “Yeah, I could have skipped that. It was beautiful, but I could have used more sleep. I’m not a morning person, and now that I’m a comic, I’m really not a morning person.”

Some of Hong’s multiple acting appearances include “Jane the Virgin,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Pretty Little Liars.” I asked what she was currently working on. I’m on “Huge In France,” it’s about a comedian who moves to America where no one knows him. I play a handsy doctor. It’s nice to be a predator for once. Even in the ‘me too’ world an Asian woman can be a harasser. And I’m on a new CBS series “The Unicorn.” Actually I play a sexual harasser on that show too, so maybe this is my thing.”

* Catch the “Maui LIVE Comedy Series” with Helen Hong. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $25 general, $40 premium reserved. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

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THIS WEEK

Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “Rock of Ages,” Book by Chris D’Arienzo, musical arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, directed by Dejah Padon, choreographed by Rachel Lockhart, and under the musical direction of Kristen D.F. Otterson. This squeaky-clean teen adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway rock musical features the hits of Journey, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and many more. Set on L.A.’s famous Sunset Strip in 1987, “Rock of Ages” tells the story of Drew, a city boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, who have both traveled to Hollywood to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25 through 27 at Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $12 adults, $6 children. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.