[ MAUKA MAKAI ]
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
"Hawaiian Ryan" Matsumoto helps his grandmother, Ayako Matsumoto, 89, at her home in St. Louis Heights. The KXME radio host talks to his grandma live on the air every morning. With them is Gloria Baraquio, a friend of Ryan's.
Natural comic indulges
her grandson on the radio
By Shawn "Speedy" Lopes
Every morning, a cab shuttles 89-year-old Ayako Matsumoto from her St. Louis Heights home to Chinatown, where she spends a leisurely day feeding birds, chatting with her homeless friends and enjoying a tasty nibble at her favorite sushi shop. It would be a pleasant, simple existence if not for the dreaded telephone calls which interrupt her routine, without fail, at 10 minutes before eight o'clock each morning. It's always her grandson Ryan on the other end, with crazy questions about this or that. "If I don't wanna answer, I don't answer," is her usual reply to his outrageous queries.
Over the years, KXME morning show host "Hawaiian Ryan" Matsumoto has built a loyal following of listeners who tune in each weekday to hear the hilarious exchanges that occur when a brash young disc jockey goads his grandmother into a string of ludicrous conversations. One day, it's the Iraq War, on another day, he'll ask her for details on her false teeth or whether she thinks he should try to get a woman into bed on the first date.
"Generally, I'll ask her something current, like something the president said, or something wild that you could never ask your grandma," he says. "The other day, the subject was 'If your spouse goes into a coma, when is it OK to sleep around?' And she was like, 'Never! Until the day you die!' And then I said 'How often did you and Grandpa do it?' She just hung up on me."
While few in the Matsumoto clan have mastered the art of dealing with Grandma's tough, assertive ways, Ryan says he's learned the best way past her defenses is to meet them head-on. "I think the secret is just not to be intimidated. It's like if you meet a lion somewhere, you can't show fear. She's real so she expects you to be real."
THE INTERACTION between the pair in their anything-goes conversations couldn't be contrived by any comedy writer, Ryan says. "What's cool is she'll talk about a certain subject and it'll be really nasty, but because it's Grandma saying it, it's not nasty," he says. "She can say anything like, 'Nah, I don't get urges anymore.' She can talk about sex, but it's Grandma, so anything she says is cute. She'll be like, 'Ryan -- what? I can't hear you, I'm on the toilet!"
"You get the nerve to talk about things like that," she scolds him. "No common sense."
Even with all the good-natured ribbing she endures from her grandson day after day, Ayako manages to tolerate Ryan's antics with remarkable patience and an unfailing sense of humor. "He's all right," she adds later, in an approving, maternal tone. "But he think he's so smart. He knows everything."
"The first few years, she didn't even know she was on the air," Ryan says with a naughty giggle. "But to be honest, I did that not because I thought it would be mean, but because I wanted to keep that reality. When I told her, she just laughed."
Ryan is currently working on a follow-up to "Saving Ryan's Privates," the CD which garnered the morning funnyman "Best Comedy Album of the Year" honors at the 2000 Hawaii Music Awards. By keeping an archive of his daily conversations with Grandma, Ryan has already assembled most of the album's material.
"I'm a comedian, so I'll write what I think are really cutting-edge, intelligent bits, but it doesn't compete with Grandma," he says. "I've been in radio, maybe 12 years already, and no matter what I do, Grandma is the thing people gravitate to. Everybody can relate to it. Everybody has a grandma."
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