Lanai & Augie: They Keep Oahu Laughing
in any other American city, Oahu’s radio dial has a little something for
everyone: classic rock, hip-hop, R&B and National Public Radio. But
you’ll also find Japanese, Filipino, evangelical Christian and Korean
programming – languages and styles that represent the incredible
diversity crammed into the air over one little rock. In this mix – a
bowl of saimin, if you will – filled with a tangle of different cultures
and a broth of geographic isolation, Grant “Lanai” Tabura and Augusto
“Augie T” Tulba provide a healthy dose of seasoning. The duo are best
known to Hawaii listeners for their morning show, “Lanai & Augie,” a
blend of local comedy, skits and interviews, as well as a playlist
offering Hawaiian and reggae music.
some bland, corporate DJ who is taped in Dallas and then played in Waco,
Houston and San Antonio as local talent, Lanai and Augie are the real
thing. They aren’t afraid to use pidgin, to joke about racial
differences or growing up poor.
exposure these guys have is unreal. Even if you don’t listen to the
radio station, you know who they are,” says Chris “Daddy” Rhodes,
promotion and events coordinator of KDNN-FM Island 98.5, which has
broadcast the show for four years. “It’s their personalities and the
way that they are able to project that to the public.”
as Lanai explains it, “People wake up to us [the show is on from 5 a.m.
to 10 a.m.] so they feel we’re more like friends than celebrities;
we’re accessible. People see us at the mall and come
up and say ‘hi.’ We’re not models.”
models for short and fat,” finishes Augie, a self-proclaimed “moke wit
da joke.” “We’re like anyone else. We have bills, child support,
kids. Lots of child support.”
has two sons: Tahj, 12, and Bo, 17, who was born when Augie was a teenager
himself. Lanai has two little girls: Kiani, 6, and Taylee, 6 months.
whole goal in life is to keep them away from poles,” he jokes.
got his nickname from the island he grew up on, a place so small that his
high school yearbook was a pamphlet.
was paperback!,” he laughs. “I came to Oahu to go to HPU on a
volleyball scholarship – they were trying to start up an NCAA team –
and I had culture shock when I got here. I didn’t know what an escalator
Augie was growing up in the housing projects of Kalihi Valley, later
moving to Waianae. One of six boys, he had no choice but to learn to
protect himself, a skill he later channeled into two talents: boxing and
comedy. He can make the unusual claim of having won both the Golden Gloves
and the Na Hoku Hanohano award for best comedy album.
wanted to do stand-up from small-kid time, but Lanai never meant to do
comedy, envisioning himself as more of an MC. Ten years ago, Lanai was
master of ceremonies at a prom fashion show and a local comedian asked if
Augie could come up and do five minutes of comedy. They disagree on how
good that performance was, but they’ve been friends ever since.
is the cut-up of the two while Lanai, wearing a T-shirt that reads
“HUSTLER,” is the deal maker, constantly on a cell phone.
free,” he explains with a shrug. “We have to market ourselves however
we can. Call me a sellout all you like, but I have to pay for the Mercedes
agrees, saying, “People will say we’re doing too many things. But
there’s no such thing as oversaturated. It means we’re working hard.
If I’m on every single channel, fine.”
may not be a Lanai & Augie Channel yet, but the two seem to be
everywhere. That’s Augie’s voice introducing music at the movie
pre-show. That’s Lanai and Augie doing endorsements for Hawaiian Tel
Federal Credit Union, Aston Hotels, Lava Lining, Lion Coffee and Hawaiian
Airlines. The family-friendly game show “Jan Ken Po” will resume in
November on Hawaii’s Fox affiliate, KHON-2. A Lanai & Augie
Christmas special for television is also in the works. They have done DVDs
and their book, “Jokes for Dummies,” has sold 12,000 copies.
there’s the stand-up show, “Comedy Shack,” held every Friday night
at Dave & Buster’s at Ward Centre. Damon Wayans, The Rock and Don Ho
have all stopped by to check it out. Lanai opens and Augie performs a long
session, covering everything from gay personal shoppers to growing up
poor. (One joke: Auntie gives Augie an empty Mrs. Butterworth’s bottle,
calling it “Kitchen Barbie.”) He pours himself into the set, talking
himself hoarse and keeping the audience howling. It’s not polite
laughter; it’s hoots of recognition and celebration, of “this is who
and Augie have taken some heat for their racial humor, but it’s so equal
opportunity, so inclusive, that it’s hard to find much fault in it. If
we can’t laugh at ourselves and our neighbors, the two seem to be
saying, what is the point?
also attracted their share of controversy for the All-Stars, a rag-tag
group of morning-show participants with names like Coach David and Pete
the Entertainer. Some have developmental disabilities, others are
recovering drug addicts or formerly homeless.
gotten complaints,” acknowledges Augie. “We’ve gotten complaints
from every group in Hawaii. But we don’t care. People don’t know what
it’s about. They’re our boys, our friends. They tease us back. It’s
equal. Pete, for example: People talk the talk but do they take him into
their house and feed him dinner?”
motions over to Pete the Entertainer, who is wheelchair-bound. “We need
to get Pete a leg,” says Augie, only half-joking. For his part, Pete
says, “I love them. They’re like brothers to me, family.”
think these guys are the best; they literally saved my life,” says
a tall man who goes by the name Maxx Effect. “I’ve been working with
them for a year and a half. I do commercials and intros for them. It’s a
whole new thing for me. Before this, I was a drug addict. They helped me
with their ‘Get Your Life Together’ program. They gave me work, helped
me get treatment.”
don’t take applications,” explains Augie. “It’s on a special
guys who just got off the street or out of prison,” adds Lanai. “Our
producer, Harold, needed a job coming out of prison. Superstar Willy was
brain damaged. He’s since become rehabilitated, gotten married, had a
kid and is now at training camp for the military. The All-Stars don’t
have to be here, yet they’re here at 5 a.m. A lot of people think
we’re teasing them but we’re not. We’re treating them equally. The
common denominator is that they want to be a star. We tell them they can
but that they have to work.”
Uchida, the third voice on the morning show, serves as a kind of straight
man foil for the zaniness of Augie and dry wit of Lanai. She has been with
the show about a year and admits that incorporating the All-Stars in the
format requires a little patience. “You never know what you’re going
to end up with. But it makes the All-Stars really happy. It’s a family
here. I love it. I have the best job in the world.”
the methods of “Get Your Life Together” are a bit unorthodox. Maxx’s
monthly drug test results, for example, are read live on the air.
Insensitive? Maxx says, “No, it’s incentive. People complain but they
aren’t here after the show. These guys take us to dinner, to the beach.
I moved from a shelter to a garage to my own place because of them. They
make sure we have clothes.”
tells the story of how one morning Lanai and Augie spotted him walking on
the street in Chinatown and had him take a drug test later that same day.
all about accountability,” asserts Augie. “We’re forgiving but if
they keep on messing up, they’re out. My brother was on ice. His life
for the All-Stars, it’s not all take, take, take. “You gotta give
back,” says Maxx, who is helping with a charity event as part of his
rehab process. Lanai asks, “Ever see that movie, ‘Pay it Forward’?
That’s exactly what it’s about. We were given chances, so we like to
give chances back.”
so much success in Hawaii, are they lusting to hit it big on the mainland?
They do comedy tours all over, especially on neighboring islands, Las
Vegas and the West Coast, yet they remain close to their roots. “When I
do stand-up in the Midwest, I’m the closest thing to Hawaii these people
have ever seen.”
audience still gets the humor, Augie says. “If you have good mana,
people can still connect to that. We’re successful no matter where you
are from or what race you are, because we’re everyday people.”