Chuck Thompson loves comedy. So much so that he branded his own special blend of funny, and won the Best Comedian slot in this year’s Best of Maui readers poll. But Thompson is relatively new to the comedy stage, so we caught up with him before his vacation to New York to find out what makes this cab driver laugh and how he empowers the Maui comedy scene.
MAUITIME: What was your first experience on a stage doing stand-up?
CHUCK THOMPSON: Shortly after I moved to Maui around Christmas 2013, I started doing open mic at Stella Blues in Kihei. I had two friends who lived out here who I cannot thank enough because they signed me up for open mic against my will. They set a trap, each ordered me a beer and a dozen buffalo wings and while I was chowing down in bar food heaven I got called to the stage completely surprised. I winged it and got a round of applause. I was completely hooked on stand-up comedy. On my way home I bought three college ruled notebooks and wrote down every funny thought I had. I then bombed for about three months every week I showed up for open mic. The comedy scene here is very supportive–I cannot thank my friends and other comedians from Power Up Comedy enough.
MT: “Winged It”–I get it! How did you grow your material?
CT: The first few months I was doing comedy it was once a week in a small, dark, closed-off room with a great stage amongst friends and a handful of other comics. When Stella Blues closed down, we thought we lost our comedy home. Luckily we were able to move to Three’s Bar and Grill. After the transition our crowds went from 20 people to 60, and now during busy season sometimes 100 people at night. Even the comedians performing grew and changed. Power Up Comedy has made a name for itself and almost every week we have a visiting comedian who’s excited to do the feature spot. Our crowd is a big mix of tired, sunburned tourists and locals coming in for their pau hana. This offers me a great opportunity to try my material on new people every week! Frequently the bar is quite lively and it benefits comedians like me that are very loud. Sometimes the restaurant has a lot of families that are jet-lagged and looking for good food and challenges us comedians to tone it down and work clean, not using foul language.
MT: What’s the biggest show you have done?
CT: I’ve been lucky enough to perform at Iao Theater when I opened up for William Shatner last New Year’s Eve. Most of our venues are not that big. In fact, my favorite venue seats about 20 and we do it once a month in a comic book store in Kahului. Every third Sunday you can catch myself and other Power Up Comedy favorites at Maui Comics and Comics. The second Wednesday of every month we go Upcountry and do a show at Stop Watch–that crowd knows how to have a good time! Always check out the open mic at Three’s Bar and Grill. If you still can’t get enough of my uncontrollable yelling, tune in to my radio show “Biscuits and Gravy” on Kaku 88.5, the Voice of Maui. The Gravy Train departs every Wednesday at 11am. I love doing radio–on my show we talk about my two favorite things, cooking and comedy! I have an awesome co-host and a good friend I want to give a shout-out to–Vince Foti. Vince and I started open mic on the same day and has been rockin the mic ever since.
MT:Where does your love for comedy come from?
CT: I grew up watching mid-’90s Saturday Night Live reruns on Comedy Central and always loved and admired Norm MacDonald. I love deadpan dry comedy. But I also love when comedians talk about themselves and their family dynamic, like comedians Chad Daniels and Chris Rock. I come from a large family where comedy is appreciated; we use humor to show our love. My family’s humor is very sarcastic and it definitely rubbed off on me. But I have middle child syndrome and the worst ADD you can possibly imagine. When I think I’ve toned something down, I’m still yelling and screaming and enthusiastically running around. I like to take that energy and really let my creativity loose. I find that I come up with more punchlines in the moment on stage.
MT:What was your most middle child syndrome slash ADD moment on stage?
CT: Once at a poetry open mic at Akamai Coffee I scared off an entire family doing my bit in the style of Def Jam poetry. My comedy style can be very uneven–I love to experiment telling the same joke slow or fast, quiet or loud. I’m very short and look younger then I am. I like to have my routine split between adorable and friendly, keeping my comedy very conversational and being very loud and energetic. I certainly gravitate towards longform comedy-telling stories–it’s all about timing and energy to keep the audience paying attention. My style is mostly just me talking (or yelling) about my life. I almost never do political commentary or talk about social issues. I like to talk about going to the beach with my grandma or my drunk roommate or how I’m too lazy to take out the garbage but will spend 20 minutes killing the flies circling it in my kitchen.
MT: How did Power Up Comedy start?
CT: Power Up Comedy was started by a few local comedians who wanted to do comedy with aloha. This is not New York City, not LA and we are anything but cutthroat. Power Up Comedy focuses on growing local comics, running a great open mic, doing feature shows at local establishments. We’re always looking for more venues and more recommendations. We perform all around island and bring in Mainland acts–really talented comedians who’ve been in the business a long time. One of my favorite comics, Sammy Obeid, comes out here a few times a year. He was on last season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and is a Guinness Book of World Record holder for one thousand nights of comedy in a row.
MT: What can folks expect when they go to an open mic?
CT: I frequently host open mic at Three’s Bar and Grill. Sign up is at 9pm, and the show runs from 9:30-11pm. The host does about 10 minutes of opening material and keeps the energy going the rest of the night, often filling time in between comics. Sometimes open mic has 20 comedians signed up for five minute spots, but some nights we only have five that show up and we all–especially the host–get to do more time. I’ve seen a lot of comics come and go but Power up is lucky to have about five dedicated and talented comedians who show up for almost everything and have built up enough material to do paid shows and host. Almost all our shows we do are under the umbrella of “Power Up.” We produce and promote our own shows and almost all of which are free–it’s certainly a hobby that keeps me busy.