Can Maui build a successful stand-up scene? Shaggy Jenkins aims to find out
“Comedy is supposed to be outside of territories, outside of reason, outside of logic. It’s supposed to be the outside-looking-in perspective,” says Shaggy Jenkins. So when Augie Tulba told Shaggy that if he wanted to pursue comedy, he’d “have to do it differently,” that logic fit nicely.
But Shaggy is a busy guy (just ask him), and dons more than a few hats during his day-to-day. The cap with the biggest feather is as Program Director of Q 103.7, where he’s beloved as the engaging radio personality behind 4:20 tunes and for being the kind of DJ that “gives [the community] their radio station back” by being there to take listeners’ calls and requests.
So when someone’s plate is so full that they Tweet there’s “no time to breathe,” to concoct—let alone execute—a scheme to create a comedy scene on an island where such things are just beginning to bud seems a bit ambitious.
But he’s done it—and has been doing it since February—with the popular Tin Can Comedy nights, every Tuesday at Mulligan’s on the Blue. An open-format standup comedy competition offering cash prizes, the event started off strong and continues to build momentum as it heads into Championship series, culminating this August.
“Augie had harassed me for, like, a year,” says Shaggy. “When I came to Q, I opened up for him, and he was like, ‘You’re alright, but the reason you’re only alright is that there’s nothing for comedy on Maui, right now… you need to have a scene.’”
It seems appropriate, then, that a regular comedy competition would begin with some encouraging pestering from a seasoned colleague. “That’s [how it began]. It was Augie just harassing me. He’d ask me, ‘Are you doing any comedy yet? Are you doing any comedy yet? Are you doing any comedy yet?’ Every time, I tried to get away from it,” Shaggy says.
But comedy is a true love of Shaggy’s. “Radio, is really what I put my energies into, but I really want to do something outside of the studio,” he says. “I get bored staring at walls, no matter how nicely decorated they are.” So eventually he heeded Augie’s call to action, in that the first step in creating a scene “is to start and host an open mic.”
Yet where? Enter Mulligan’s on the Blue and owner Mike O’Dwyer.
“Mike is always really good at being supportive. He’s one of those guys that wants you to succeed,” says Shaggy, who notes he didn’t think Mike would “go for it,” but asked anyway, saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Over the years and for many reasons, Shaggy says he and fellow comedians “had tried different venues—but the place that is built the best for this is Mulligan’s. You’ve got seating in there that’s very comedy club-like, and you’ve got an atmosphere in there. It looks like a place for a spoken word performance.”
Too, O’Dwyer rolls out the royal treatment. “He’s the strongest supporter I have,” says Shaggy. “He’s given us all the ammunition we need to make this work.” Meaning sound, stage, drink specials and free pupus. That’s right, free pupus. (Last week, O’Dwyer busted out the BBQ and hosted free hamburgers and hotdogs.)
“I didn’t know it was going to be like it is. When we started, all of a sudden, there’s all these people—people I’ve never seen or heard from,” says Shaggy. “Now I kind of know them as my regulars.”
“If you’re going to host a stand up show, you can’t be the center of attention. Nobody is there to see you, they’re there to see what’s being offered,” says Shaggy. “I’m more of a circus announcer. The show is not me. The show is never about me. It’s always about who comes there, what they do, all the different types of comedy they do. I see myself as the ringleader, but not really the main attraction.”
As the show launches into its championships (round one of four began July 13)—with the granddaddy prize being an show-opening slot for Augie T himself—Shaggy says he’s really looking forward to some of the up-and-coming wahine acts. He recounts a few jokes from the ladies he thinks are likely to steal the show, and is excited by their funny, original work. He also mentions his appreciation for contrast, referencing the clean-cut kanaka-boy-next-door look of King Martin, and his wicked undertone (Martin went on to win round one, scoring $50 cash and one of just for spots in the finals).
Since the beginning, Tin Can Comedy has had a few traditions. Between each of the four rounds are themed nights, like Improv, Musical and Flashlight Night. The former two are popular, though rather self explanatory. As for the latter, Shaggy explains:
“Because people on Maui are no good at heckling,” audience members are encouraged to bring their flashlights, and “so long as they like a comedian, shine the flashlight on them—like a spotlight. But the minute they stop liking the comedian, they turn off the light. Sort of our version of The Gong Show. The minute the lights are out, the comedian is off the stage—even if in mid-sentence… That’s really fun.”
Tin Can was named for Murray Thorne’s album Tin Can Telephone—Thorne performs the early set at Mulligan’s on Tuesdays—and because O’Dwyer also inspired connections with the Maui Food Bank (bring in a canned good and get half-off your first round).
“People are always looking for the gold standard,” laughs Shaggy, indicating that with “tin” it’s not their aim.
Yet with both established and rising comedic stars taking-part, a perfectly-suited venue and an open forum to laugh and be laughed with, not to call this a gold standard of community comedy would be the real laugh.
The who/when/where is easy to remember: Tin Can Comedy every Tuesday night at Mulligan’s on the Blue, 9pm. Here’s what kind of funny business to expect, week-to-week…
JULY 13 – Championships Round One
Winner snags first entry into finals, and a $50 cash prize.
JULY 20 – “Musical Night”
$75 cash prize and a chorus of bragging rights.
JULY 27 – Championships Round Two
Second entry into finals, and a $50 cash prize.
AUGUST 3 – “Improv Night”
$100 cash prize and bragging rights for being funny on the fly.
AUGUST 10 – Championships Round Three
Winner assumes third spot in finals, and a $50 cash prize.
AUGUST 17 – “Flashlight Night”
Silent and more subtle than a gong. $75 cash prize for the winner still in the spotlight.
AUGUST 24 – Championships Round Four
$50 cash prize and last-available spot to compete in the finals.
AUGUST 31 – Championships Finals
The final four qualifiers duke it out by performing their best 10-minute sets. Winner takes all.
SEPTEMBER 4 – Augie T Live at The ‘Iao Theater
The Tin Can Comedy Champion will take to Maui’s most historic stage, to open for Augie T.