Yes, there’s a comedy scene on the Big Island, and funny lady Justine Smith is leading the charge. Smith, a Kona resident, runs a monthly comedy showcase through her outfit Dirty Girl Productions. In 2017, she won KMA Productions’ Best of Kona Comedy Tournament. KMA Productions is a stand-up comedy promotional team run by Oahu comedian Jose Dynamite.
I caught up with Smith backstage last Friday at the Kahilu Theatre before her opening set for YouTube comedian J.P. Sears. Smith returns to the Kahilu on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, on the bill with headliner Pauly Shore and local comedian Nikki Gour. Ticket info below.
This will be the second time you’ve opened for JP Sears. What’s it like working with him?
He’s a unicorn of a human being. Truly. He really made a big impact on me the last time I opened for him. He was so kind and so humble and so caring about me. The hope he gave me set the bar pretty high for me when I am as famous as he is, and I strive to be as authentic as he is too.
And you’ll be back at this theatre with comedian Pauly Shore next Sunday, and you’re doing a multi-island tour with him too.
Yeah. Of course! Pauly Shore and I are not that far apart in age, and I’m very familiar with his movies and the characters he’s done. So, it’s slightly nerve-racking to think about working with him, but I’m very excited. I think I can definitely knock it out of the park. And his crowd is probably my people. It’s not like he’s a clean comic, and that gives me a little freer rein to let loose.
Many may not realize it, but there’s an emerging comedy scene here on the Big Island. When did you get involved with it, and how is it progressing?
I think we’re doing great. I’m running two shows with just straight comedy and also my comedy cabaret, called Tits and Giggles that we do at My Bar in Kona. It’s called Ta-ta’s and Ha-ha’s at Privateer’s Cove because there it can be 18 and over. With Tits and Giggles, it’s a very female-centered show, and we do everything from burlesque, to pole, to comedy, to group numbers. We have a gal that does fire. It’s absolutely amazing! But is it all comedy-centered, right? We are doing really well, and I’m really stoked about what we have going on in the comedy scene.
Can you name two people who influenced you the most as a comedian?
Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, for sure. I grew up with both of them. Lucille Ball went beyond just being an amazing comic. She changed the industry completely. She made things that were once not OK to do, like, ‘No, this is how we’re gonna do this.’ Like being pregnant on TV and being married to somebody who was not Caucasian. That was a big, big deal back in the day. She was really a game-changer. And then, of course, Carol Burnett. I’m somebody who strives to be kind of a cross between the two. Carol Burnett was surrounding herself with such talent, and being so talented herself by supporting, loving, and giving to the people she had around her, and her improvisation was amazing. Nothing was cut. It was just this amazing group of people trying to make each other laugh like they weren’t even concerned if everybody else was laughing with them. Brilliant!
If you had the power, what would you change in the current local comedy scene?
I love what we’re doing, and don’t know that I would change anything. I wish we could do more shows because I think more shows offer more opportunities [for comedians]to get comfortable [on stage]and really hone those skills. But, you know, we do live in a very small town and its support is not overwhelming. You know, we couldn’t do comedy every night as they do on Oahu where there’s, you know, a million people on the island at times with the tourists. We’re just a tiny island, and we do well at our shows. I average about one hundred people per show.
All things considered, I’m really stoked with it. But I wish we had a little more to give, and a little more people willing to be there, and want to support it. It’s just tough. It’s a tough game, comedy.
I’m sure it’s even tougher than the music scene here.
Yes. Oh, my gosh. Do you know how much I wish I played music instead? I wouldn’t have to work three jobs, which seems ridiculous. I’d just be following my music passion and not my comedy passion.
What advice would you give up-and-coming local comedians?
Because we live in a small town you need to be on your game, and you need to be able to come up with new content. It can’t be the same set every time for three years. Our town is too small. You’re not touring L.A. where you could do that. I think it’s actually harder to do comedy here than it is in other places. We draw on a lot of new people [tourists], but we also get a lot of the same people [locals], but every time [a comedian]does the same set again, and the audience has already heard it, you know, it gets old and then it gets hard to get people to come to the shows. It’s very difficult for a struggling comic to really do well if they can’t come up with new content, which is not easy.
Where can folks keep up with you on the web?
I am big on social media. I do have my Dirty Girl Comedy page on Facebook, or they can follow at Justine Smith, that’s my personal page. But if they’re interested in the Dirty Girl Comedy, that’s the best place to follow me. I’m big on, if it makes me laugh, it might make you laugh, so I do a lot of sharing of those kinds of things on Facebook. It’s not necessarily material, but things that I find funny that I think someone else will too.
If you go… Have a good show!
Event: A Night of Comedy with Actor & Comedian Pauly Shore w/Justine Smith & Nikki Gour
Where: The Kahilu Theatre in Waimea
When: Sunday, Jan. 05, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. – Show 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $50.50 / $45.50 / $42.50 + service charges
Info: Tickets can be purchased at kahilutheatre.org, (808) 885-6868 or at the Kahilu Theatre Box Office which is located at 67-1186 Lindsey Road, Kamuela (Waimea). This is an 18+ event.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times bestselling author, and a Big Island filmmaker. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos from Dec. 27, 2019 show: Steve Roby