That ‘Thing’ They Do
Life is a barrel of laughs when Brook Lee and Lanai Tabura, co-hosts of the exciting new TV show and podcast “It’s a Hawai‘i Thing,” are poking fun at one another.
Get media celebrities Lanai Tabura and Brook Lee in a room together and the gloves (and their masks) are bound to come off.
“Did you brush your teeth?” Lee asks Tabura after realizing that MidWeek‘s photo shoot would require that they temporarily disregard current social distancing recommendations and squeeze in close together.
Tabura shrugs off the personal hygiene zinger and makes a shaka for the camera. “Underneath that crown and everything, Brook’s very witty … and mean,” he says. “I’m not. I’m the opposite. I’m more of a nice guy who’s very sensitive.”
Of course, his congenial side was noticeably absent just a few minutes earlier. When Lee begins recalling Tabura’s many “shenanigan” parties she attended during his DJ days on local radio and wonders aloud if the two had actually met prior to her capturing both the Miss USA and Miss Universe titles in 1997, Tabura interrupts her and proclaims, “You had won already!”
“What? You mean Miss Universe?”
“Yeah — ’cause I wouldn’t have invited you to the parties if you hadn’t!”
Lee’s eyes widen as she mouths the word “wow,” but she’s not about to back down from Tabura’s latest dis. Asked how much Tabura has changed in the more than two decades that they’ve known each other, she coldly quips, “Well, he has a lot less hair, that’s for sure!”
Then she flashes that familiar wide-grinned smile of hers, suggesting that maybe she’s only half-kidding.
You see, despite all the back-and-forth teasing that goes on between Lee and Tabura — and it goes on a lot — the truth is they have nothing but love for each other. As longtime friends, their playful interactions have always been a way to lighten the mood and bring laughter to just about any setting.
That will be important as they grow into their roles as co-hosts of the islands’ new lifestyle TV show and podcast, It’s a Hawai‘i Thing. Sponsored by the state Office of Elections and Honolulu Star-Advertiser the weekly program is built around the duo’s on-air chemistry and their interviewing skills with prominent celebrities, influential artists and respected community leaders.
For Tabura and Lee, the aim is to keep their conversations with guests informative, entertaining and humorous (naturally).
“I used to do this radio show with Augie (Tulba) for 20 years, and I think our success had a lot to do with us being local and talking to locals. That was a fun time, but we were always trying to stir up some type of controversy back then,” says Tabura, who retired from local radio several years ago, but still hosts weekly radio shows for stations in Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan.
“With this podcast, we’re not trying to stir up any controversy,” he adds. “We just want people to listen, watch and leave with a positive vibe.”
Tabura believes the state has been in need of a show that successfully merges the television and podcast worlds. More importantly, he says that Hawai‘i must take back ownership of all that makes it unique, and the program is just one way of accomplishing that goal.
“I grew tired of these national and international food shows coming here and taking things like our poke and our Spam musubi …and telling us we can’t use (the word) ‘poke’ and things like that,” explains Tabura, who also hosts a popular TV food show these days called Cooking Hawaiian Style, and whose weekly Mid-Week column features recipes from the program.
That’s why he’s so adamant about using It’s a Hawai‘i Thing as a platform to promote local items, especially now as businesses look to rebound from the pandemic shutdown.
“We’re talking about li hing mui, T-shirts, jewelry — everything,” says Tabura. “We really want to uplift our restaurants, our local entertainment and everyone.”
As for Lee — who parlayed her pageantry career into a successful second act as a model with bit parts in movies and television shows, including serving as host of Travel Channel’s Great Cruises and the locally produced Modern Wahine Hawai‘i — she views her role on the show as more of an “agitator” and advocate for those deserving of the spotlight.
“If I can find a way to put people on the show by giving opportunity to Asian-American actors and people of color, who are not necessarily getting as much press as I feel they should, then I’ll try to marry those two together,” says Lee, who moved back to the islands in 2018 after two decades of living on the West Coast. “I’ve advocated a lot for getting people on the shows who were doing great things, and I mean big things, like winning Emmys and making movies, but were just not getting traction in the mainstream media.”
Great things are also expected of the show’s co-hosts, who despite their routine barbs remain each other’s biggest fans.
“The thing with Lanai is that he’s such a comedian, and I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for comedians,” Lee says.
“You’re a comedian, too,” Tabura adds. “You have comedic timing, and you have sarcasm and …” He pauses briefly, anxious to begin needling his co-host again.
“For so long, Brook and I talked about working together,” continues Tabura, “but she was so damn expensive!”
“Wow!” Lee gasps. “It was a money thing with her. She was in Hollywood for 20 years, after all.”
“Except for the fact that I couldn’t be on your cooking show because I lived on the mainland, and you’d always tell me, ‘You’re on the mainland and it’s hard to fly you out here!’
“But then I saw that you flew Tia Carrere out here and let her cook, which, sure, she can cook better than me, but …”
Accept it, Hawai‘i. Non-stop teasing will always be on the menu with Lee and Tabura. It’s just the thing they do.
For more fun and laughs from Lanai Tabura and Brook Lee, tune in to “It’s a Hawai‘i Thing,” which airs on Spectrum’s OC16 at 6:30 p.m. every Monday. Rebroadcasts of the show are slated for Wednesday (8:30 a.m.), Thursday (11:30 p.m.), Saturday (4:30 p.m.) and Sunday (noon). Podcasts, which feature extended versions of the show, may be accessed by visiting itsahawaiithing.com or “It’s a Hawai‘i Thing” on YouTube.
STARS COME OUT FOR SHOW
It’s a Hawai‘i Thing made its debut on June 1, and since then, the TV show/podcast has delivered on its promise by rolling out recognizable celebrities to appear opposite of co-hosts Lanai Tabura and Brook Lee.
Here’s who else the show is welcoming in the coming weeks:
Comedian Andy Bumatai (June 22, TV; June 29, podcast/ YouTube)
Musician Justin Young (June 29, TV; July 6, podcast/YouTube)
Actor/comedian Alec Mapa (July 6, TV; July 13, podcast/YouTube)
LA weather anchor Maria Quiban (July 13, TV; July 20, podcast/YouTube)
Big-wave surfer Makua Rothman (July 20, TV; July 27, podcast/ YouTube)