Page 16 - MidWeek - Jan 12, 2022
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“I was never a social me- dia guy,” he says. “The rea- son why I didn’t want to do that was because I was try- ingtosayIwasa‘realco- median’ and I didn’t want to do those ‘silly videos.’ But when the pandemic hit, the clubs closed down ... and I thought, ‘What am I going to do? Am I going to just sit back and do nothing?’ So, I decided to put that toilet paper video out — it was a hot topic at the time — and it ended up on the news and we went viral. I was like, ‘OK, this is what the local people want.’
For Tuinei, there isn’t real- ly a disparity between talking in front of 12 people, like he did only a few years ago, to 2,100 each night at one of Hawaiʻi’s biggest venues. Perhaps the only difference is that the laughs just keep getting louder.
a cheeky grin.
“If I need to show off and
so many actors in the world and everyone’s trying to make it and I figured out that the quickest way to become a well-known actor is through comedy.”
(Inset) Tumua Tuinei suited up for the Rainbow Warriors during the 2015-18 seasons, logging much of his time on special teams. (Above) Hanging out with his dad, Tom, who played in both the NFL and CFL. PHOTOS COURTESY TUMUA TUINEI
“So, I kept doing videos of these stereotypical work- ers and videos from a local boy perspective and it kept blowing up and my fol- lowers kept growing and growing.”
“I wouldn’t have done it without my fans,” he adds. “I feel like Hawaiʻi is such a strong place; it’s different from any other place in the world. We have a strong community and a big fan base and whenev-
“I was into magic a lot,” Tuinei shares. “I was inter- ested in performing in front of people and I liked that feeling of amazing people, which now turns into making people laugh. That was in me from when I was a small kid. I also always wanted to be an actor and I realized there are
“My mom always tells meIhavetogetajobwith medical and I tell her, ‘Don’t worry! This is the plan. It’s going to work out.’ And, now, she’s starting to realize this is my career. Same with my dad, too ... he sees my pas- sion for comedy and that it’s my dream and he supports it. They both do — they’re my biggest supporters.”
“I have this thing about be- ing a lot smaller than my dad and uncle because that really did hurt me growing up and was part of the reason why I didn’t get any scholarships, just because I’ m a smaller guy,” he explains. “But talking about some hardships I went through and putting a spin on it and shedding light on it is what comedy is all about — it’s about pain and making people laugh at your pain. Also, (I talk about) the crazy stuff we deal with in Hawaiʻi ... this is like a gold mine for comedians right now, the jokes just write themselves.”
“If you ever come to one of my shows, you’ll see kids in the audience and you’ll see grandmas in the audience. It’s a whole wide range of people there, which is great because I want people to feel like they can bring the whole family to Tumua’s show for a good time.”
“It’s the same comedy, the same style of jokes and I’ m the same person no matter the show,” he says.
He describes himself as sil- ly, committed and caring as a child, characteristics not unlike those he embodies today.
He’s already scored a speaking part on NCIS Ha- wai‘i after a producer came across his work and asked him to portray a nīele paparazzi on screen. Next, Tuinei hopes to take on a bigger role and says he doesn’t restrict himself to just the funny stuff.
starred in several of his skits, helped out behind the scenes and are the focal point of some of his jokes on stage.
be big-bodied, I’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m from the Westside,” he adds with a laugh.
comedy where you can come up and make fun of Portu- guese, Samoans, Hawaiians and all that, and just have good fun and an interactive show. That’s why I called my tour ‘Bringing Back Local Comedy.’
  A Comedian Who Keeps ‘Em Rolling In The Aisles
 It wasn’t until the spring of 2020 when everyone was hunkering down at home and glued to their phones when Tuinei’s career skyrocketed after he posted a video to his Instagram.
“It’s crazy, it’s surreal,” Tuinei says with an air of always-present humbleness. “I remember the first show, right after I finished, I was telling (my manager) Greg that it just felt like any other comedy show. It didn’t real- ly hit me until the week after that I just did that.”
Ger they see a local boy succeed, they want to support it.” rowing up, Tui-
resides in Māʻili, lived all over Oʻahu from Kāne‘ohe to ‘Ewa Beach. When asked what side of the island he reps most, the 25-year-old is quick to say “it depends who’s asking” with
nei, who currently
 When restrictions eased, Tuinei announced he was doing a show at Blue Note Hawai‘i. Within an hour, it sold out. Then, he posted another one and anoth- er one. Fast-forward a short year and some months later, and Tu- inei sold out three nights at Blaisdell Concert Hall, a feat on the same level as big shot comedians like Jo Koy and Gabriel Iglesias (who were,
In fact, his parents have
As his top influences, Tuinei lists Hawaiʻi greats like Andy Bumatai, Augie T, Frank De Lima and Rap Reiplinger, saying they “paved the way for younger comics like me.”
Coming up next month, Tuinei has a show on Maui and hopes to lock down dates for Kauaʻi and the Big Island, too. (Follow him on Instagram, @tumua_, for updates.) Later this year, he’s planning to bring local comedy to the mainland with an extensive list of tour dates expected for cities west of the Rocky Mountains.
 in fact, scheduled to perform at the same venue in November and January, respec- tively).
Tuinei is a natural-born performer, who’s
as comfortable chatting it up with a small group of people as he is entertaining 2,000- plus fans at local venues.
“I don’t know when or why, but local comedy died down a little bit and it’s just different. We would have other comedians come here and they would be cursing and talking about taboo sub- jects, but we never really had that old-fashioned, local
At the end of it all, though, the question still remains: What happens when a Uni- versity of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa football player enrolls in a stand-up comedy class for an “easy A”?
Well, we’re about to find out.

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