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‘Maui LIVE Comedy Series’ a homecoming for two comedians

Paul Ogata’s quick wit recently led him to victory in 32nd annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition. Topics of his aggravations include taking on Taylor Swift, the Constitution, and millennials. Ogata calls his childhood, “A better time, you didn’t have food allergies or attention deficit disorder. You were itchy and stupid.”

“My dad was born on Maui, so I get to perform and see family. It should be a great trip,” said Hawaii native and stand-up comedian Paul Ogata. This weekend is a homecoming not only for Ogata, but also former Maui resident Chino La Forge who opens for Ogata in the “Maui LIVE Comedy Series” performances at Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.

I asked Ogata about his first stand-up appearance and if he always knew that he wanted to be a comedian. “I was always the funny kid, or the troublemaker depending on how you look at it, but being on stage is the true test. From the first time, I was instantly hooked. It’s like every sensation right into the vein all at once. The second night was death, but it was too late. I was hooked,” he replied. Growing up on Oahu, Ogata related that he was influenced by both Rap Reiplinger and Andy Bumatai. Andy had a stronger influence because he was a stand-up and became a beacon — a lighthouse to me at an early age. Later I got to work with him on stage and he is a great friend and mentor. Years ago, he arranged for me to take over a weekly comedy show gig on Kauai and that was an amazing experience. A fish can only grow as big as the tank you’re in,” said Ogata.

Ogata describes his irate stage style as an edgy, wild ride through the corners of his mind and his quick wit recently led him to victory in 32nd annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition. Topics of his aggravations include taking on Taylor Swift, the Constitution, and millennials. Ogata calls his childhood, “A better time, you didn’t have food allergies or attention deficit disorder. You were itchy and stupid.”

Last week, it was announced that the esteemed 93-year-old comedian Mel Brooks would be co-producing a live musical production of “Young Frankenstein” for ABC in 2020. Brooks has recently been quite vocal about the future of comedy, saying that “Blazing Saddles” could never be made today. “Stupidly politically correct sensibilities will eventually lead to the death of comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks,” says Brooks on his website. I invited Ogata to share his thoughts. “As comedians, it is our job to find that line and then step over it a little. Mel Brooks did those things in the 1970s and that is why we are where we are today. It opened our eyes as a society. Brooks’ work was necessary for us to get to this point. Some think ‘Blazing Saddles is racist, but it wasn’t, it was racial. It addressed the issues we faced then. So yes, you can’t do ‘Blazing Saddles’ today, but now we need to look for other boundaries to push. It falls on the comics of today to find that bridge and help society get across it.”

Ogata divulged what Maui audiences can expect at this weekend’s performances. “I will resolve all of your complaints, and some you weren’t aware that you had. Picture a TV anchorman, but more like a vigilante. Just lower your expectations and you’ll have a good time.”

Hoku Pavao (left) and Leighanna Locke are shown in a scene from “How Can I Help?” It captured Best in Festival at last week’s Maui Fringe Theater Festival. Audiences also chose “How Can I Help?” for the Audience Choice Award. NICOLE SANCHEZ photo

* The “Maui LIVE Comedy Series” returns with Paul Ogata. Joining Ogata on the bill is opening guest Chino LaForge. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 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. This performance contains adult content and may not appropriate for children.

*****

Congratulations to the 2020 Maui Fringe award winners. “How Can I Help?” by Victoria McGee, based on the book by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, captured best in festival. Maui Fringe audiences also chose “How Can I Help?” for the Audience Choice Award. “Chemo Barbie,” written and performed by Heather Keller placed second, and David Kleinberg’s one-man show “He Wants To Run” finished third. April Wish of “My Name Is Mommy” received the Hoku Award for the best performance in the festival. Also in appearance was Glennis McCarthy in “Cave Girl the Musical” and the Maui Bellydance Company. The Maui Fringe Theater Festival took place last week at Historic Iao Theater.

ALSO THIS WEEK

Cabaret and Cocktails presents “Pastie Premiers 2020: An Open Night of Burlesque.” In this one-night-only event, Maui’s cheekiest burlesque troupe hosts a variety revue with new performers, new acts, new styles, and new teases. Performance is at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets range from $25 to $35. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com. This event contains adult content and is for audiences 21 and over only.

UPCOMING

Playwright and actor Moses Goods returns to Maui next week with his latest original piece, “Paniolo.” This one-act production brings the fascinating history and legacy of the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) to the stage and includes songs, both original and traditional and brings to life key moments in the evolution of this unique and treasured Hawaiian culture. Performance at 7:30 p.m. Thursdayday, Feb. 6 in the McCoy Studio Theater at MACC. Tickets are $28 (plus applicable fees) with half-price tickets for children age 3 through 12. To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order at www.mauiarts.org.

After three sold out shows in November, actor and musician Eric Gilliom returns with two “hana hou,” performances of his one-man show, “White Hawaiian,” co-created by writer/director Brian Kohne (“Kuleana”). Through comedy, pathos and music, Gilliom explores identity through the lens of Hawaiian history and contemporary culture in this autobiographical story about a family of entertainers and hope. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7 and 8 in the McCoy Studio Theater at MACC. Tickets range from $25 to $35 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order at www.mauiarts.org.

OPPORTUNITIES

Maui OnStage will hold auditions for “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.

All roles are available. Actors should memorize a one to two-minute monologue, arrive 10 minutes early to fill out audition forms, bring a headshot and resume, and be prepared to provide your potential rehearsal conflicts.

Call backs will be at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 at the Maui OFFStage studio in Wailuku. Rehearsals will begin the following week with weekend performances April 24 through May 10. For more information and to make an appointment, sign up through the “Get Involved/Auditions” page at www.mauionstage.com.