Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, June 21, 1999

KGMB photo
Andy Bumatai clowns for the camera.

Bumatai dazed &
confused no more

Andy Bumatai rewinds, then
goes forward with a new video

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


ONE of the characters in Andy Bumatai's 20-year-old television acting debut special, "Andy Bumatai's High School Daze," was more or less a self-portrait.

Bumatai had dropped out of Waianae High School in the 11th grade and, to make a living, sold "everything -- candy, vacuum cleaners door to door, and copy machines and supplies," before beating the odds to become one of Hawaii's first stand-up comics.

When KGMB considered rebroadcasting the 1979 special this year, Bumatai suggested adding new material.

"I went back and looked at it and it looked like an old show," he said. "I suggested that we create a new character who would be talking about the old days and give it a reason for being an old show."

Bumatai created older versions of two characters from the original show. Musical performances that producer/director Larry Fleece had used to stretch the running time of the original program were replaced with fresh footage of Bumatai in character as Coach, the cafeteria lady, and in his new role as Waianae High custodian, Mr. B.

"There were some real happy accidents. It didn't occur to us (in 1979) to add music behind any of the other scenes where I was doing stuff in the cafeteria. That's usually a problem when you go back to (edit) something.

"Maybe Larry thought it was clean, or maybe we didn't want to pay music royalties, but our inefficiency 20 years ago became efficiency today."

Bumatai credits KGMB director Nick Carter and producer Laura Pennington with making "Andy Bumatai's High School Daze 20th Reunion" much more than a routine rerelease. He adds that watching the old footage of himself performing was an uncomfortable experience.

"It just makes me cringe when I see myself doing stand-up with just a year's worth of chops. You see me (in 1999) doing stand-up to an empty room, and (even) with no audience, my timing is better."

Going back to Waianae to shoot the new footage gave Bumatai "chicken skin" for other reasons.

"It was really strange to go back to be in the exact same place that I shot the original one 20 years later.

"When Larry and I were there the first time it was pretty much, 'Well, what do you want to do?' We just basically faked the whole thing.'

"And to be sitting in the same classroom -- I used to sit in the back near the door for a quick exit. And the mop-bucket thing (in 1999) is the same model! It was too weird.

"One of the kids in the show now told me she really wanted to be in it because her mother had been in the original one. Her mom was a kid in the original and now ... you have the mother and the daughter and they're both the same age. How weird is that?"

Today, Bumatai, who hasn't done a formal stand-up show for several years, is working on several new TV projects. One is an "educatainment" concept that will entertain kids while also challenging them to think creatively. Another would put a fresh spin on the local talk-show format.

In the meantime, aspiring comics still look to him for advice, and he remains the standard by which all other local comics are judged.

Bumatai cites Steve Martin's description of stand-up as "a young man's sport" as one of the reasons he is several years into a new career as owner of Hawaii's three Wireless Paradise stores and an authorized distributor of VoiceStream products.

He still stays in touch with a few friends from his real high school days, and enjoys catching up with others at class reunions.

"Since I've been back in Hawaii I've been to most of them. Every year gets better and better. When we go to the reunions, we all come together pretty strongly and we all act the same way (as in high school). I stand up there as the MC and do the same things that I used to get kicked out of class for doing."

And, despite the success that came to this high school drop-out, Bumatai advises his young fans to stay in school.

"I say to 'em, 'Learn it while you're in school, because I had to learn it after I got out of school anyway, and I had to do it while I was washing dishes at night.'

"Yes, there are successful people who dropped out, but they had to go to the library on their own time. Learning never ends, so when you have the opportunity and your 'job' is nothing but learning, take advantage of it because if you quit that 'job,' you'll have to get another job and to be successful you're gonna have to keep learning anyway.

"That's the difference between successful people and people who are not successful. Successful people take the one extra step consistently that unsuccessful people never even think of.

"I didn't realize (comedy) would be as much work as it was. For a year I was sleeping in my car. To this day I have to constantly educate myself to stay on top of the technology curve."


‘High School Daze’
is classic Bumatai


Bullet "Andy Bumatai's High School Daze
20th Reunion" video; 57 minutes; list $14.95

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


NEW footage, two new characters, and 8 minutes of outtakes and other material, make this updated version of Andy Bumatai's first television project an exceptional memento and a landmark release in local video.

Bumatai, director/co-writer Nick Carter, and producer Laura Pennington, have created two shows where there once was one. New footage updates the story and shows how at least two characters from the original TV special aged over the years.

Bumatai is seen as both actor and comedian in 1979 and 1999. The new footage leaves no doubt that Bumatai has never been sharper. A scene in which Bumatai, as the custodian Mr. B, does stand-up to an empty room is sufficient to make this a significant local video release.

The new material also displays Bumatai's maturity as a writer and contains a subtle inside joke about racial stereotypes that may or may not kick in.

As with other recent KGMB home-video releases this one includes material that wasn't seen when the updated show was televised earlier this year. Time used then for commercial breaks has been reclaimed to include outtakes, historical trivia from the original show, and an entire segment that was shot but not used in the 1999 broadcast version.

Both the updated show and the overall home video package surpasses KGMB's prior home-video release of Bumatai's 1980 "All in the Ohana" TV special. This is Bumatai at his best.

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