What Augie T does that only a few can say they do for a profession is – to make people forget all their worries for a moment and to just experience sheer joy. Contagious, raw, uplifting laughter that’s pure therapy for the soul.
“Laugh Under the Stars 2”
At age 50, and having had done comedy for close to 30 years, Augie T says he will be doing his final big show, “Laugh Under the Stars 2,” on October 13 at the Waikiki Shell (visit ticketmaster.com). The show will be filmed for his 10th comedy special called “What’s Next?”
The show is also a benefit for B.R.A.V.E Hawaii, an organization committed to anti-bullying in school-aged youth. The non-profit organization was founded by Augie’s daughter Mahealani Sims-Tulba.
“My daughter Mahea was bullied in school at the age of 11. Since then, I’ve watched this girl grow up and use that challenging time in her life to make a difference. In the last five years, B.R.A.V.E Hawaii has reached over 70,000 students statewide. Only through private generosity and fundraising events like ‘Laugh Under the Stars’ can we continue to put on free events to students statewide,” said Tulba.
Augie told the Filipino Chronicle: “I’m not calling this retirement. Comedy is in my blood and I love making people laugh, something I’ve done my whole life. I’m walking away to focus on new ventures. I’m gonna step away and focus on public service with my daughter’s foundation B.R.A.V.E. Hawaii, and maybe consider running for public office in 2020.”
Could this be a scoop…public office? – why not. Augie has done it all.
On comedy and life
Augie first realized he wanted to be a comedian at a very young age. “I loved comedy since I was in the 4th grade when I first saw a comedian perform live. It was Andy Bumatai. I knew then.”
Bumatai, a fellow Filipino comedian, would give Augie many years later his first break by inviting him to perform comedy in Waikiki.
Asked about life growing up, he described his family as dysfunctional. “My dad was a very strict, drinking Filipino man, and mom, a very nurturing Portuguese/Haole lady. But 100 percent, I’m very thankful for my dysfunctional family and our humble upbringing.”
He added in a PBS Hawaii interview, “My brothers and I, we understood the value of hard work. But was tough; was tough growing up. You know, we never have the things most kids had. You know, my mom and dad did a lot to make sure that we were nicely groomed, you know. But was tough.”
Augie and his five brothers grew up in Kalihi Valley in the Kamehameha IV Housing Project, known to be one of Oahu’s tougher neighborhoods.
That tough environment and his experience as a Golden Gloves champion at age 16 helped him develop grit and a fearless outlook in life.
While many performing artists talk about having stage fright, Augie hasn’t had this problem. “It was kinda easy for me when I first started because before I did comedy, I was an amateur and professional boxer.
“Nothing is scarier than walking into the ring knowing someone wants to knock your head off your shoulders. The worst that could happen with standup (comedy) is people booing or walking out. Still better than getting punched in the face.”
Augie won his first professional boxing match while in high school. He remembers treating all his friends for lunch to celebrate that milestone. At one time, he says he was ranked seventh in the U.S. for boxing at junior flyweight.
The start of his comedic career started at 23 years old. He entered an open mic challenge. For those unfamiliar with what that is, it’s a show in which several comics are invited to perform; sometimes there’s an elimination round format. The last comic standing is the winner of that night and usually earns a monetary prize.
Open mics are where amateur comics test their material and hone their skill. Sometimes it doesn’t end well.
But it’s something comics serious about succeeding must do. “Get as much stage time as possible,” Augie recommends for aspirants in comedy, “you have to do it a lot to get good, and to find your voice!”
“There were many times I wanted to pull the plug on standup. I remember one experience that happened on Kaua?i. I only had to do 10 minutes as an opening act to Henry Kapono, Mel Cabang, Andy Bumatai and a bunch of other local entertainers. No one was laughing. People were just staring and not really paying attention.
“They came for the other people (entertainers). I got off stage and Mel Cabang pulled me on the side and said, ‘I think you are going to be the greatest one day. Don’t be intimidated and try to be like everyone else. You funny, but you gottah believe it.’”
Mel Cabang, another legend of comedy, is one of Augie’s role models in the industry. He also says he has been inspired by Booga Booga, Andy Bumatai and Richard Pryor.
As far as other role models, “I had a few. When I boxed it was Sugar Ray Leonard. In drama class at Farrington High School, it was Mr. Kau. My 8th grade guidance teacher Miss Morikami was another one. And my dad!” said Augie.”
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