For The Laugh Of It

A nebulous swirl of images rushes forth anytime someone mentions their theatrical career in New York or Los Angeles. For those of us who haven’t filtered through those performance art meccas and their daily blur of auditions, rehearsal halls and stages … well, then we haven’t experienced Kimee Balmilero’s life. The Castle High grad, who was in the original Broadway cast of Mamma Mia and national touring company of Miss Saigon, also developed a knack for improvisation while among fellow thespians overseas. When she returned home three years ago, she created improvhi.com, an improv and sketch comedy hub. Now, with the help of $10,000-plus raised in a crowdfunding campaign, she’s putting local artists onstage and bringing in a few headliners from New York and L.A. for Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival. She’s bringing her overseas experiences to us.

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Broadway veteran and vocalist Shoshana Bean is the musical guest, SNL style, opening night

The first day of the two-day laugh fest includes musical guest Shoshana Bean (a powerhouse vocalist known for her role as Elphaba in Wicked), live acts and some video sketches. Day two highlights select videos submitted for the festival, as well as a few live sketches. Surrounding the festival are a series of workshops by some of the guest artists.

“Sketch comedy is like Saturday Night Live. It’s scripted ― Rap’s Hawaii, song parody by 3 local Boyz. Nowadays, we have Da Braddahs, Almost Local,” says Balmilero, describing the relationship between improv and sketch in the world of comedy.

The audience sees the finished product, but to get there takes improv.

“Improv is made up on the spot. Short form improv is Whose Line Is It Anyway? Long form improv is what I’m trained in, which is longer scenes that are more fleshed out, and you can make more discoveries in them. A lot of sketch comedy starts from long form improv ― the characters the actors develop, the relationships and the storyline. A lot of times writers will get together and play out an idea through improv, and then sit down and write it to see what works.”

Balmilero is too busy organizing to perform herself, as she likes to pack as much into a show as she possibly can. Her idea with the fest is to tap into Hawaii’s flourishing comedy scene and give the artists a space to showcase their talent: “I like to call them creative entrepreneurs, which is important, because people forget sometimes that, as artists, we run our own businesses.”

She also wanted to give these creative entrepreneurs a broader audience than their usual niche community, and she tagged Doris Duke Theatre at Honolulu Museum of Art as the ideal space.

“Whenever we do these sketch comedy shows,” says Balmilero, “people walk out and go, ‘Wow, I had no idea you did this here in Hawaii,’ and that just kind of makes me go ‘Yay!’ That’s what I’m hoping for and I think we’ll accomplish that.”

The brand of comedy the festival will deliver is edgy but intelligent.

“I like comedy that is smart,” says Balmilero, listing Kid Rock and Bill Burr among her favorite stand-up performers. “Our (festival sketches) will make you think. The comedy is very clever. It’s definitely for a more mature mind, but it’s fit for the museum.”

Among the many performers in the lineup is Honolulu startup team Goof Troop Riot. Los Angeles sketch comedian Ann Maddox, songwriter and viral YouTube performer Kevin Yee, Matt Newell from Upright Citizens Brigade and actors Kristen Rozanski and Tim Neenan not only will perform, but also host workshops on topics including sketch comedy writing, building character, funny songs and more.

“These are very specific workshops that I think will elevate the skills that our local performers already have,” says Balmilero. “It’s the extra seasonings that take your dish to the next level.”

Balmilero promises that, with video, song and comedic sketches all on the menu, whatever your preferred form of entertainment, “You’ll definitely enjoy the show.”

the TICKET stub
SKETCH COMEDY FESTIVAL
When: March 28-29 (workshops March 25-28)
Where: Doris Duke Theatre
Cost: $25-$35 Saturday, $8-$10 Sunday (workshop packages are separate)
More Info: hisketchfest.com