We all love a homegrown hero, but Chino LaForge is not your typical prospect. A class clown turned comedy professional, he moved from Maui to pursue his big dreams in LA, leaving behind his hard-earned Maui legacy: the Power Up Comedy shows. Lucky for us, those blossoming local shows still draw LaForge back home to perform from time to time. The Maui High grad has returned from Tinseltown and will be touring the rest of the month, appearing on Maui’s biggest stages. We caught up with LaForge to get a taste of his mainland life and find out if he feels the aloha in Hollywood.
MT: So what have you been up to lately? Catch us up on your last year and a half.
CL: I’ve been working with a huge mix of the most talented to the most delusional comedians on the planet. LA is full of the best performers from all over the world, as well as the weirdos that truly believe they are the “next best thing” in the craft, yet lack any formal training or experience. What makes it fun is that it’s not just about performing. It’s about interacting, sharing, and assisting. It’s not as competitive as it is grueling at times – a total battle of attrition. A race of getting good enough work versus making sure you don’t run out of funds. Getting a day job to keep the dream alive, and grinding it out to prove that you want it as much as everybody around you. I’ve been on booked on stages across the city, and spending a lot of time at The Hollywood Improv lately with fellow Maui comedians Willie Simon and Callahan Welsh. I won a Roast Battle at The Comedy Store with roast masters Jeff Ross and Mike Lawrence as the judges, had a chance to audition for NBC Stand Up, and I’ve also enjoyed integrating music and comedy in a variety of projects.
MT: Did your experiences growing up on Maui prepare you for the Mainland?
CL: I wasn’t really aware of just how special Maui is to the growth of a person, in terms of emotional maturity and temperament. I find myself being called kind, patient, and mellow; when in reality, I just think the people around me are lunatics. It’s a crazy world out there. Especially in the heart of the city. Traffic brings the worst out of people, and I even find myself indulging in road rage window-up rants to ease the suffering. Also, being from Maui makes you generally more interesting to most people. Our way of life truly is different, and I try to be a good representative to those where I am their first contact with our culture.
MT: Mainland life sounds like a grind, is it all worth it? How do you find the comedy there?
CL: As far as what makes a good comedian, there are a lot of ingredients. Pain. Time. An overactive humor-coping mechanism. Childhood trauma helps. A divorce or death in the family seems to be one of the more common ingredients. I know it’s dark, but it’s also why you see a lot of comedians in pain. Instead of mastering our problems, we talk about them onstage. It can be therapeutic, but it’s not therapy. Sometimes you end up keeping the emotional wounds open so you can tap into it for a really honest joke.
MT: How do you find aloha in Hollywood?
CL: I cook a good amount of local food at my house. I got a great shoyu chicken recipe before I left, and make it frequently. Having Trish [Trish Smith, aka Trish the Dish] by my side is an amazing help. When LA gets insane, we both have someone to look to and say “this is crazy, right?” I can see how people forget who they are when they come here alone. I’m very happy to have someone that loves me, and keeps me intact. Also, legal cannabis doesn’t hurt.
MT: Tell me at least one sordid tale from the last year
CL: Interesting enough, I helped a fellow comedian write for a celebrity roast… that was for adult film stars. It was a fun flex of talent to not go for the easiest, low hanging fruit. We got some intel for the actors and actresses, and got to write based on what was given about their personalities. But of course, you’ve got to hit some of the easy jokes. Gotta give the people what they want!
MT: So you got adult film stars as friends and legal cannabis. Why come back to Maui?
CL: First off, opening for pros like Ari Shaffir and Paul Ogata! Doing this on Maui is turning heads for me in LA as well, and Ari is a big deal to my community of comedians. People who know comedy today, know Ari. And Paul, I’ve been inspired by Paul Ogata in Hawai‘i since I was young. I’m honored to work with them and so many fine talents. Also, I’ll be headlining my own shows the following week with our Power Up Comedy ‘ohana, including Jan. 22 at ProArts, where we’ve put together a very special night for fans. We’ve named it the “Show & Tell Tour” because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m showing and telling from my experiences over this past year and a half. One of them being then culinary appropriation of pokè. Eating pokè is also on my list of why I am coming back for a few weeks.
MT: How has living in LA changed your comedy career?
CL: I’ve really focused solely on my performing in this past year. Not to mention working with everyone’s favorite comedians. I’ve had an amazing opportunity to work around some of the greatest minds in the craft, and it’s shown me where I need to grow. If anything, it hasn’t changed any outlooks on my career, but at the moment, it has just made my intentions clearer. I see my future in some of the comedians out in LA that I look up to, and it gives me confidence that I’ve made the right sacrifices to truly make this a career. There is no halfway in this. You are only robbing yourself of your own potential when you don’t take the chances by making the efforts.
MT: Speaking of taking chances, tell us about your podcast experiences.
CL: The format for podcasts is quite interesting. It’s part radio show, and part talk show. So you get the chance to promote, while still being yourself and vulnerable. I’ve been on countless podcasts, due to all of these countless comedians starting them. I’ve done everything from a fitness podcast (why me?) to chatting with a puppet about serial killers.
MT: What are your Top Five?
CL: Podcasts are a great way to pass the time during mundane tasks in LA. I’m tuned in any time I’m doing the long drives of tours or passing time. Top Five faves: 5. The Dollop; 4. Legion of Skanks with Big Jay Oakerson; 3. Your Mom’s House with Tom Segura and Christina P; 2. Hardcore History; 1. Joe Rogan Experience
MT: Why is podcasting so huge in the comedy community?
CL: Podcasting is huge for the fact that it gives you the opportunity to see the performers you enjoy while they aren’t onstage. It used to be that you got the set, and that was it. You’d wait patiently for your hero to release new content that you could replay until you got sick of it. Now, fans have a chance to have a connection with the performers they love in their actual life. Our world as content creators is constantly changing. It’s on us to give the people what they want, while at the same time leaving them wanting more.
MT: Can you give us a hint about your upcoming podcast plans?
CL: First off, I’ll be starting a cooking show/tutorial for people with Instant Pots. It’s a hobby of mine, and after searching it for myself, I found the category to be deficient in entertaining tutorials. I’m locking down the name “The Instapothead.” Two podcasts I can’t really talk about yet. They are both concept podcasts, so if I tell anything about it, the idea could be taken. You’ll just have to wait and see…
MT: What is something you want your fans to know that they don’t already know about you.
CL: I love to cook! Give me your recipes. I just got an Instant Pot and an Air Fryer, so I’m looking for those good recipes. I’m talking family secrets. I can trade if I need to.
MT: How can local fans follow you on your mainland adventures?
CL: Please do! My Instagram is the hotspot for keeping up with me (@chinobrah) and you can always visit Chinobrah.com. You can follow me on Facebook, and will have two podcasts and a cooking show starting up when I go back to LA. Stay tuned!
CHINO LAFORGE LIVE:
Friday, Jan. 17 – McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (opening for Ari Shaffir)
Wednesday, Jan. 22 – Power Up Comedy Presents at ProArts Theater (headlining set by Chino)
Friday, Jan. 24 – Eli-Mac & Rabbitt at Casanova Makawao (emceed by Chino)
Saturday, Jan. 25 – ManCandy DragBall at Diamond’s Kihei (emceed by Chino)
Wednesday, Jan. 29 – Chino’s Crowdwork Chaos Show at VIBE Kihei
Friday, Jan. 31 – Maui Live Comedy Series at the Historic ‘Iao Theater (opening for Hawai’i legend Paul Ogata)
Saturday, Feb. 1 Maui Live Comedy Series at the Historic ‘Iao Theater for (opening for Hawai’i legend Paul Ogata)