While kids of his age in his neighbourhood were out playing, Paul Ogata stayed indoors, listening to comedy records and fine-tuning his humour.
Compiled by: Chitra S
In 2007, Ogata’s hard work paid off when he won the 32nd Annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition, an honour previously bestowed onto comedians like Dana Carvey, Sinbad and Jake Johannsen. A familiar face on the comedy circuit in Asia and the US, Ogata’s tongue-in-cheek commentaries and on-stage banter has won him fans from LA to KL. The Hawaiian funny man tells us what it takes to be a comedian, what to do when people don’t react to a joke and who makes him laugh.
How old were you when you decided to become a stand-up comic?
I was 20 when I first tried my hand at stand-up. But in reality, I’ve been performing in one capacity or another from a very young age. Throughout school, I’ve always been the class clown, or the joker in the family. It was in college, however, that I decided to try to be funny for strangers.
Were you always making people laugh?
My mother has kept a journal of the funny things I said as a kid; mostly silly things and puns. Over time, I’ve refined my craft and now deliver naughtier and sillier puns.
Can funny be taught or does it need to be in your genes?
It’s more of a time issue rather than being born with it. You can teach someone to tell a joke or coach stage presence.
But this is a delicate art with subtle nuances that takes years of failure, emotional beatings and broken relationships to master. Otherwise, it rings false.
Do you get the nerves before you get on stage?
I get butterflies in the tummy every time. It’s not as bad as when I first started doing comedy, but the nerves are still there. I hope they never go away. They’re a sign that this is still an adventure to me, rather than a job.
Your family’s reaction when you announced you were going into comedy?
I was actually enrolled in the college of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hawaii. Not surprisingly, the curriculum revealed that I was more of an intuitive right-brained person, instead of the analytical left brained type. Even after I’d switched majors to Speech, my mother suggested I use my loquacious nature in the field of law and arranged for me to take the law school admissions test. I don’t think as a parent, especially an Asian parent, you want to see your child become a starving artist, but as I became better at what I did and more successful, my folks became my biggest fans.