Kermet Apio's Laugh Corner
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For those of you who haven’t seen me live, I am a stand up comedian by trade. For those of you who have seen me live, that was stand up comedy you were watching. When I perform in Hawaii I realize that there is a lot of competition for your entertainment dollar and there are a lot of talented entertainers there. But all of us have to compete with the most popular Hawaiian activity of self entertainment. You guessed it: Karaoke. Karaoke, pronounced ka-ra-OH-kay, is a Japanese word meaning “empty orchestra.” When pronounced carry-OH-kee, it is an American word meaning “Don’t let Barry Manilow’s music die.” Karaoke is incredibly popular in Hawaii and in honor of this great tradition I am writing this column with a tiny pencil.
For those of you who don’t know what Karaoke is, welcome out of your cave. It is essentially the practice of drinking enough alcohol to a) want to sing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” to a bar’s worth of strangers and b) believe that you can. The main difference between Karaoke in Hawaii and on the mainland is where the singing takes place. In the mainland, singers come up to a staging area where everyone can see them. In Hawaii , you sing right there at your seat. We are humble people. Sure we love getting attention just as much as the next guy, but we don’t want to be over the top about it. It’s as if Christina Aguilera was Lutheran.
There are generally three groups of people that take part in karaoke. The first is the American Idols. These are people who are hoping that Simon Cowell is hanging out at Captain Jack’s Broth and Brews off the freeway tonight and their next stop is the fame superhighway. These people will always belt out one of three songs, depending on how they feel after warm-ups. Although these songs differ with each performer, they usually include “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Greatest Love Of All”, or that Celine Dion song from “Titanic” that sticks in your head all day long despite the fact that you hate it. The Idols don’t favor the Hawaii form of karaoke because sitting with friends in front of a plate of sashimi is not the place for your big break. They always try and sit a little bit off the table so that a patron anywhere in the bar can take a gander at who is exuding such melodic perfection.
The second group of people is the No Ways . When asked to sing, these people will say “No way” as part of a shy façade. They sing every week, just not the first hour. By the end of the night, research usually shows that the No Ways have signed up for as many songs as the Idols. Sometimes the female No Ways will suggest that all of her friends sing a group song like “Love Shack” or “Louie Louie” and then springboard to a solo of “I Honestly Love You” because “you know, why not?”
The last group is the Rest. Somewhere in the middle of the Idol or the No ways sits the person who may or may not sing, but will enjoy the night either way. Often times they make fun diversions like convincing a drunken No Way to sing a song they have no business singing. Sure, you feel a little guilty as they experience physical pain trying to sing the bridge of “You’ve lost that Lovin’ Feeling”, but it is funny and quite frankly, no arms were twisted.
An interesting karaoke option in Hawaii is the karaoke room. These are businesses where you rent a room about the size of a Fedex shipping box which has a couch, coffee table, and a big screen. You bring the food, the drink, and the drunk people. They supply the video, sound, and Backstreet Boys songs. This is a great option because it takes out the total stranger aspect of karaoke. Although Idols do not like this scenario, the Rest sings more in this enviornment. It doesn’t feel like a bar as much as Thanksgiving at your Uncle’s 1970’s bachelor pad.
Another popular item in Hawaii is karaoke-the home game. The microphone has a memory chip in it that stores thousands of songs and plays on your TV, perfect for your uncle’s bachelor pad. It is a way of being able to experience the joy of karaoke without having to shower or change out of your sweatpants. Just put a TV in your garage, have your friends over, and sing “Blue Bayou” till the neighborhood dogs start howling. Just remember that most people, when sleeping, don’t want to hear a drunken rendition of “Mack the Knife” through their window, so there is some unhappy neighbor risk involved.
Whether you like to sing, like to hear people sing, or get a morbid thrill out of hearing really bad singing, karaoke is actually a fun night out. When a Spice Girls’ song comes on and no one leaves the room, it proves that anything can be enjoyable if there’s enough alcohol. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go practice “All Cried Out” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. I’m headed to Captain Jack’s tonight.
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