With classic, island-style humor, Augie T has been a mainstay of the Hawai‘i comedy scene for decades. This Friday, Augie T will take the stage at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center for his “Last Stand” event at the Castle Theater, with guests Daryl Bonilla and Jose Dynamite.
This event is a part of Augie’s final comedy tour. After 27 years of performing, the classic comedian is going out while still in his comedy prime. Augie has been a central figure in the local comedy revival, influenced by Hawai‘i’s comedy-great Rap Reiplinger and mentored by local comedian Andy Bumatai. With local themes and an innocent and classic style, Augie T performs for a local audience who feels in on the joke.
With a litany of recognition and awards to his name, including two Na Hoku Hanohano awards for Comedy Album of the Year, Augie T is native to O‘ahu’s Kalihi Valley. The Filipino-Caucasian comic makes use of light teasing, falsetto, and pidgin for an endearing and family-friendly stand-up experience.
Ahead of Friday’s show, I chatted with Augie T about his heart for comedy and service, his pre-comedy days as an ameteur boxer, what Mr. Miyagi taught him about comedy, and his potential future political aspirations.
Lantana Hoke: I understand this is your last tour, ‘Last Stand.’ How’s it been going?
Augie T: We just completed Las Vegas, a sell-out show; Hilo and Kona, same thing. In Kona and Hilo, I got to perform with the guys who I was inspired by, so it was nice for them to come and finish up my last show with Frank Delima, Mel Cabang, and Andy Bumatai.
LH: Congratulations. In terms of your show, what should people expect?
AT: I’ve been telling people, if you want the best of Augie T, this is it right here. There’s a bunch of new material, and of course, if I don’t do some of the fan favorites, people always ask. So what I try to do is take my DVDs recorded over the last 27 years and find the bits I really like, and mix it up with material I’ve been working on in the last seven to eight months, including the fake missile attack.
And not only that, it’s super affordable. I’ve always tried to give the people a super affordable show, and it’s clean. I’ve been working clean now for a long time. I want to encourage parents to bring their kids, let them laugh. Believe it or not, when I was in the fourth grade, my auntie brought me to the Maui War Memorial Stadium. My dad is from Maui. And I saw Andy Bumatai, and I was inspired and blown away and I knew I wanted to be a comedian. I was sitting there like, ‘That’s what I want to become! I want be a standup comedian.’ Not knowing that however many years later, not only would I be his opening act, but I would be recognized at the same level as him. Everything is full circle. How’s that?
LH: That’s a great story. And if you hadn’t been exposed to that, who knows, right?
AT: Yeah, and that’s why I want people to bring their family, come laugh together, you know?
LH: You’re known for your family-friendly and clean humor.
AT: When I first started out doing comedy, I was working at a bar in Kalihi, and Mr. Miyagi, you know Pat Morida? So Pat Morida used to go drinking at this place, and he saw my act, and he pulled me aside and said, ‘Maybe to express what you’re really feeling, maybe you should use bad words. Nobody going see you, only get like four people, and there’s a freeing effect to that.’ He said, ‘I think you’re holding back.’ So anyway, the bar was really dark, and I couldn’t see who was walking in. And my dad walked in. And he saw me swearing and saying things I don’t usually say. And he walked on stage, it was so embarrassing because you get Pat Morida in the back just laughing, and my dad was scolding me on stage. I’m in my late 20s, and my dad is on stage lecturing me. They’re the only crowd that saw me swear in my act and at the same time get scoldings from my dad.
LH: That’s hilarious. So you’ve been ‘clean’ ever since.
AT: Yeah, because I never knew when my dad would show up. He’s the kind of guy that would walk on and give me lickins in front of everybody. Even at 50.
LH: So this is the last tour you’re going to be taking in Hawai‘i. Why?
AT: This is it, it’s my final big show. I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and I want to step away and do new things, something I couldn’t do when I was a younger comic. I’m going to go explore the mainland, even maybe possibly, down the line, run for public office.
LH: So, Mayor Augie T?
AT: I see myself doing some kind of public service. The proceeds will go to a foundation my daughter created, and we go to schools. It’s about anti-bullying, making the right choices, setting goals; on the Big Island, we do a drug and alcohol program. It’s called BRAVE Hawai‘i. BRAVE is an acronym: ‘Be Respectful And Value Everyone.’ My daughter started it when she was 11-years-old because she was bullied in schools. For the last couple of years, it’s been very gratifying for me to give back. I’ve been giving back in different ways, like making people laugh, for years, and it’s been so amazing helping out and watching my daughter’s program grow. For now, I’m going to help her focus on that.
LH: I think a rest is in order, and you’re a known name around here.
AT: For 27 years I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. A lot of people don’t know, I go to a day job, I do radio in the morning. For the last couple of years I’ve been working in public office, with the mayor on the Big Island and the Lieutenant Governor, and then at night I do my comedy. And on the weekends, I do a lot of private shows. So I might take a break, and regroup, and see what happens.
LH: I was reading your Wikipedia page, and it said you were on “Baywatch” and used to be a champion boxer.
AT: I knew Jason Momoa before he was Aquaman, when he first started out. Jason Momoa was a star of “Baywatch Hawai‘i,” like a beach boy, and that was a fun experience. And now he’s this big, huge star! And a lot of people don’t know that I had over a 147 amateur fights. I was ranked number 6 at one time in the world, and I had six professional fights. I won the 1985 championship in Hawai‘i. I got tired of getting hit in the face, so I decided to try stand-up. That was a sport that really taught me discipline. I see boxing the same as comedy: You don’t know what to expect when the bell rings, and you’re by yourself in that ring or on that stage. It’s a lot easier bombing than getting knocked out. I bombed several times but I never got knocked out. Thank you Jesus.
LH: What do you want people to know about you?
AT: My biggest thing is that I put my heart and soul every time I step on stage, because I’m thankful. And I say this with all sincerity, because I grew up in public housing. I grew up extremely poor, I was a teen parent, and I’ve had all these beautiful things happen to me. I’m thankful that for the last 27 years, I got to be expressive on stage, and hopefully brought joy to a lot of peoples’ lives. I think the biggest thing is that I’m very, very thankful.
If you loved watching me the last 27 years, you’ll enjoy the show for sure.
Augie T – Last Stand
Maui Arts and Cultural Center
1 Cameron Way, Kahului
Friday, Nov. 16. 7:30pm
$15 – $45 (plus applicable fees)
Image courtesy Ohana Broadcast Company