With appearances in over 30 countries and a professional career spanning three decades, Tomáš Kubínek has won the hearts of thousands in theaters, opera houses, television specials, on Broadway, and at international festivals of culture. Transcending categorization, his original performances leave audiences clutching their sides with laughter, breathless, and madly in love. Kubínek will perform at the Kahilu Theatre on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, at 7 pm. Ticket info below.
In preparation for this interview, I watched several of Kubínek’s zany YouTube clips. The experience was as if comedians “Professor” Irwin Corey and Lord Buckley had a son, and he used wild props in his act – unpredictable, witty, and at times unbelievable. In the interview, I included several rapid-fire questions which usually generate short fun answers, but instead, I got really deep meaningful responses. I came away impressed with Kubínek’s sincerity about his craft and his daily joy of making people laugh.
Aloha, Tomáš.Where did I reach you today?
Atlanta, Georgia. I have a week here of performing, teaching, and outreach programs.
I understand this is not your first Big Island performance. You’ve been to the Kahilu Theatre before, right?
I was there quite a while back. I think it must be 10 years or so.
What can folks expect at your show at the Kahilu Theatre on February 6?
They’ll have a fantastic time and a laugh. They’ll feel warm and part of the whole thing and enjoy a one-man show.
I understand you’re also doing a matinee show for local school kids, too.
I don’t really do school shows, but I’m going to do sort of a “meet the artist program” where I’m going to tell them a bit about what I do, show them some clips of my travels, and do a little bit of shtick… just try to inspire them to do whatever they want to do in their lives.
You also teach as well as do outreach programs for youth detention centers and prisons, right?
It’s something I do for free when there’s an area that has a detention center. I just go in, pretty simple bare bones… with a doctor’s bag and my clothes, and I usually stand on a table in a gym, and I make all the residents laugh, and all the guards laugh, and get them breathing and laughing, and then talk with them about what they aspire to do when they get out, and what they’re doing to stay healthy, and to try to help them find a better track in life. It’s kind of just supportive, friendly, and loving.
So, you use comedy as a kind of healing therapy, if you will. I’m sure you’ve seen the joy it brings and relieves some of the stress that we go through in life, right?
Yeah, it reframes how you function, even if it’s just temporary. Often, when I go into prisons, they’re usually wearing cotton scrubs, kind of like doctors would wear, but they’re yellow or orange and red, or whatever. And so, I pretend like I’m not sure where I am, and I’m kind of frazzled and my hair is tousled. Obviously, we’re in a high-security compound, and I treat them like they’re all researchers and doctors, and tell them “we’re trying to keep people out of here while you do important research work.” And then I just address them all as “doctor,” and it’s fun. It kind of just changes the dynamic where they are and adds some dignity and fun. It’s very successful. It’s some of my favorite stuff, and I do it for free.
I’m curious. Where do you find the inspiration for your shows?
Everywhere really… just being in the profession and in this state of observing and applying an observation creatively to sharing it with people. It’s like I’m in constant process…. Like if you’re an experimental musician walking through a work-site, and you go, “Oh, I like the sound of that jackhammer, or I like the way that the wind is blowing that sign.” I’m collecting stuff all the time.
I think you referred to it in an interview as “Clown Jazz.”
Yeah, that’s it!
OK, it’s time for some rapid-fire questions! What did you want to be when you grew up?
This! [laughs]A traveling artist and performer. There were other things too. You know, I like and love animals and I love art, but I get to incorporate all that into my travels.
Most pivotal career experience?
When I was younger, like 19, 20… I would travel to see famous theater clowns and performers. I’d hang out with and meet them. There’s two in particular. There’s one who passed away two years ago at age 80. He was a Swiss theater clown named Dimitri. And then there’s another one who is kind of my mentor. He’s in the Czech Republic and his name is [Boleslav] Polívka, and both of them were very generous with their time and spirit with me, even though I was a nobody. We’d spend hours talking and having dinner or whatever. I think that kind of mentorship and encouragement was really important. That same thing is important in a lot of people’s lives… If you want to be something, and somebody who’s already doing it sees that you want that, that experience can be transformative and give you a leg up.
Weirdest performance experience ever?
When I was 16 or 17, I did all kinds of stuff for money. There was one time I was an Easter Bunny. I would be giving out chocolate eggs during Easter, up and down the street, and I’d have to go to the bank to refill with eggs. [laughs]I’d walk into the bank dressed as a rabbit, and I’d go [in a James Cagney gangster voice], “All right. Nobody move!” They said to me later, “Uh, yeah… don’t do that.” [laughs]
What super power would you choose?
Flying. I fake it up pretty well in my performance. I’ve done skydiving. That’s fantastic.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Either I have to get up early, and I’m fried, or I stayed up really late until three or five or seven in the morning, and I sleep till three in the afternoon. But, like this morning, I taught a bunch of university students here at the University of Georgia. So, I got up fairly early and had breakfast at the hotel, then I sauntered over to the theater, put some stuff in the dressing room, and then a student led me over to my class and I taught some students, like 30 students, for 90 minutes.
What do you bring with you on tour?
I bring one suitcase, that’s about 50 pounds, with multiple shoe contraption, wings, rigging and rope, and some costume bits, and then a costume bag that’s about 40 pounds. It’s filled with clothes and extra shoes, and then a roll-on thing with a wireless mic/headset, transmitter.
Tomorrow I’m going to do a sort of crazy guerilla theater thing to raise awareness for my show on Saturday. I’m going to be borrowing a 12-foot ladder and climb up it and have a bull-horn, and gather a huge crowd around me and say, “I’m going to fly.” I have some ostrich feathers… then I’ll start making excuses and talking about the humidity and how there’s a slight breeze so it’s not going to work this time… like a big build up and then a big letdown, and then apologies. [laughs]I travel light, and I find creating an atmosphere from a performance is dynamic.
Anything else that you’d like to add?
I’m looking forward to being there and I really love Hawaii. I love the custom of getting the lei at the end of the performance. Yes, that’s lovely. There’s something very humbling and spiritual about it.
I’m going to be in Hawaii for that tour and then I’m going to take a week off, and just travel around and relax, and then I go to the Yukon of Canada. So, it’s from the tropics to 40 below.
Thanks for your time, Tomas. We’re looking forward to your upcoming show at the Kahilu. Aloha!
Great. Thanks very much!
If You Go
TOMÁŠ KUBÍNEK – Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible will perform at the Kahilu Theatre Wednesday, February 6, 2019, at 7 pm. This performance is not for children. Tickets are $65/$45/$25 and can be purchased at kahilutheatre.org, (808) 885-6868 or at the Kahilu Theatre Box Office located at 67-1186 Lindsey Road, Kamuela.
For more info on Tomáš Kubínek, please visit: http://www.kubinek.com
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photo credit: D.A Hill, Bruce Leseur, and Rui Pires.