Aiona to protest 'SNL' Hawaii skit


POSTED: Saturday, March 14, 2009

“;Saturday Night Live”; has tickled Hawaii comedians and a good number of locals with an outlandishly exaggerated portrayal of how annoying and frustrating it can be to deal with tourists.




        SNL's “;Hawaiian Hotel”;



But the comedy show has upset Hawaii's lieutenant governor and some in the tourism industry.

The four-minute skit depicts mainland tourists vacationing in Hawaii and a pair of disgruntled locals who sing and dance for them.


Hawaii Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona said he's worried the skit might hurt the state's biggest industry by deterring people from visiting the islands.

He planned to send a letter in protest to Lorne Michaels, the NBC program's executive producer.

The skit “;went too far in its negative depiction of Hawaii's native people and tourism industry,”; Aiona said. He added he would not let “;such distortions go unchecked”; when the economy is doing so poorly.

The sketch features Dwayne “;The Rock”; Johnson, who lived in Hawaii for a year in high school, and “;SNL”; comedian Fred Armisen as poorly paid entertainers serenading U.S. mainlanders at a restaurant. Wearing grass skirts, the two make the rounds of dinner tables while performing sloppy imitations of Hawaiian music and the hula.

When a woman gushes about being in Hawaii for her honeymoon, telling the entertainers “;it must be fun working here,”; they respond sarcastically.

“;Yeah, it's great. They make us wear grass skirts,”; Armisen says. “;We make $7 an hour. It's a dream job.”;

Johnson tells one visitor: “;It's a fun fact about Hawaii. Our biggest export is coffee. And our biggest import is fat white tourists!”;

He later deliberately knocks over the drinks of a customer who points to the flower lei around his neck and makes a lame joke about getting “;lei-ed.”;

Broadcast last weekend, the clip has since become one of the most popular clips on Hulu.com, a video site started by NBC Universal and News Corp.

But others in the islands are laughing, or at least nodding knowingly.

“;I thought it was extremely funny,”; said Augie Tulba, a local standup comedian who performs under the name Augie T.

“;As a comic, my whole thing is, I'm a reflection of society. And I say things that people want to say but they have a hard time saying,”; Tulba said, adding this is what the “;Saturday Night Live”; piece did.

“;We think that way but we won't come out and say it,”; he said.

Commentators on blogs and online forums called the skit “;satire at its best”; and wondered whether “;Saturday Night Live”; had a writer with Hawaii connections because the skit hit home so well.

“;Sorry, but as a local boy who used to work in a Waikiki hotel restaurant, that skit had me rolling,”; wrote “;MrWendell”; on the Internet bulletin board hawaiithreads.com.

Jonathan Osorio, a professor at the University of Hawaii's Center for Hawaiian Studies, said the skit accurately addressed how many in the islands work for low wages and how Hawaiian culture is sometimes packaged for tourist consumption without concern for its authenticity.

“;I thought the skit was not uproariously funny but was very much true to life in expressing how many people in Hawaii actually live with tourism,”; Osorio said. Tulba said “;one little skit”; would not stop visitors from coming to Hawaii, noting the islands are beautiful and people here are friendly.

We have comedy, he said, to help us tell the truth.

“;That's why comedy is important. I think you're hurting it more when you try to lie about the situation,”; Tulba said.