There is only one Hawaiian, Filipino, French, German comedian in the entire world and he is Hawaii's first stand-up comic-Andy Bumatai. A naturally funny and versatile performer, Andy's relaxed style, quick wit, stage presence and charm has made him Hawaii's Don Ho of comedy and the hottest star of the decade. There has never been a comic force in Hawaii quite like him, capable of being spontaneously funny anywhere, anytime. He is known to get a laugh even when he goes surfing. But the most refreshing thing about Andy Bumatai, which is reflected in his humor, is that his commitment to comedy is paralleled by his love for Hawaii and its people.

Andrew Jackson Bumatai was born in Germany (where his parents met and were married) on Christmas Eve, 1953, more than five thousand miles from Hawaii. While still a young child, Andy and his family moved back to the mainland where he began his early education. His meticulous speech and command of the English language was probably the result of San Francisco's demanding school system where he completed his first four grades. At the age of nine something significant happened to him that would affect him for the rest of his life. One afternoon, Andy was waiting for the family wash at the neighborhood laundromat when he spotted a pop sickle stick on the floor. Grabbing a pillowcase still wet from the wash, he snapped the stick across the room. Amused by his aim, he snapped it again, this time spinning it into the air, but to his surprise the stick shot back at him and pierced his left eye. The result was a near blind eye that still causes people to wonder if he's looking at them or not, but at the same time, it has contributed to some of his zaniest expressions.


Young Andy Bumatai, left, with older brother Ray
(who played "Aldo" on episode 10 of Raven entitled "The Journey")

In 1966 Andy returned home to Hawaii with his family. After one year of living in Kalihi, they moved to Waianae where he attended Waianae Elementary, Intermediate, and High School. He soon learned to surf, play saxophone and flute, and was voted the class clown in Intermediate School. His talent was showing itself and naturally he made many friends. But Andy learned one of his first lessons of comedy in Waianae - there's always somebody who can't take a joke. Asserting his independence early in life, Andy dropped out of high school, moved out of his parent's home, and got his first job as a dishwasher at the Fog Cutter Restaurant in Waianae. Having his own mouth to feed, he polished surfboards for a dollar a piece at the Mystic Surf Shop, took a cooking course at Kapiolani Community College, and finally got his first sales job shortly after his eighteenth birthday selling vacuum cleaners door to door. This led to a job with Gatliff Corporation selling Royal Bond Copiers, and as a result of his hard work he was promoted sales manager before he was nineteen, and had his own luxury apartment and two Mercedes. As sales manager, Andy frequently did business with clients in Hawaii's better-known restaurants and nightspots. It was during this four-year period that he noticed the total absence of stand-up comics on the entertainment scene.

Against all odds, Andy decided to fill that void. He quit his lucrative job with Gatliff, sold his cars, moved into a cheap apartment, and began his career in comedy. Supporting himself by selling used cars, leis at the airport and coconuts to tourists (and an occasional appearance as "Captain Wacky Pop" at kiddie parties), he knocked on the door of any bar or nightclub that even had a small stage he could beg his way onto for an audition. In a city bristling with musical entertainment, this was a difficult task for a budding comic. His first appearance on any stage was at Mama Mia's Pizzeria where they "hooked" him off the stage but paid him off in beer. One night, starting at one end of Waikiki's main drag of entertainment, Andy worked his way to the other end facing rejection after rejection. As he stood outside the Noodle Shop in the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel, discouraged and ready to hitchhike home, something told him not to quit. He turned around, went into the Noodle Shop and introduced himself to Millie Fujinaga who laughed and promptly hired him for three nights a week at $30 a night.

Now that he had the experience and paid some dues, Andy got his first big break. He became a member of Hawaii's comedy trio Booga Booga. A year later, he left the group and got a solo stand-up comic spot at Kojack's, a small club across from the police station. A three minute "live from Kojack's" TV spot on Ron Jacob's "Pictures in Paradise", and his first record album "Andy Bumatai - Hawaii's First Stand-Up Comic" were responsible for his "discovery" and long lines at Kojack's doors. In early 1979, local CBS-TV producer Phil Arnone signed Andy to do a one-hour color TV special "Andy Bumatai's High School Daze" which Andy wrote himself. The re-run of the special became the highest rated locally produced show in Hawaii's TV history. After opening concerts for Pablo Cruz and Peaches and Herb, concert promoter Tom Moffatt signed Andy for two major concerts as the opening act for Helen Reddy and Yvonne Elliman. Now a proven talent, on June 15, 1979, Andy opened a new major showroom in Waikiki, the Ocean Showroom in the Cinerama Reef Hotel, as a co-star with Keola and Kapono Beamer of "Honolulu City Lights" fame. Shortly after his debut in Waikiki while on the mainland with his manager Kimo Wilder McVay, Andy performed at the Comedy Store in Hollywood and met Don Rickles and Redd Fox in Las Vegas. The trip left little doubt that Andy's humor was universal in its appeal. His second album, "Andy Bumatai, Live in Waikiki", stints on the Don Ho show, his Saturday night late, late "Un-show", plus numerous radio and TV appearances were all dramatic steps in making his name a household word in Hawaii. At the close of 1979, the Honolulu Advertiser's Entertainment Editor, Wayne Harada, named Andy "Star of the Year."

1980 was the year Hawaii made Andy a SUPERSTAR. His second KGMG-TV color special "All in the Ohana" in which he played all five members of an island family, established him as a brilliant actor. The prestigious Honolulu Star-Bulletin called him "Hawaii's Peter Sellers" on the editorial page. Andy's TV commercials for Shelly Mazda were considered the highest quality on television and for signing on another year, Shelly's bonus to Andy was his dream car, a silver blue Porche 928. His third album, "Aloha, My Name is Captain Cook", reaffirmed his maturing talent.

All this excitement put the spotlight on Andy's blossoming success. He played an important role on the CBS television show "The Jeffersons", appeared on the John Davidson Show, the Mike Douglas Show, followed by a twenty-minute profile of Andy on Hollywood's highest rated television magazine, KABC's Eyewitness L.A.

On April 28, 1981, Andy set a precedence in Waikiki entertainment. He became the resident headliner of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel's elegant Monarch Room, an honor reserved only for a few. This marked the first time in the 54-year history of the Monarch Room that a comic has been the resident star and for Mr. Andy Bumatai it was the culmination of years of hard work. In 1992, Andy Bumatai was cast as "Big Kahuna" in the CBS series Raven, and later, in 1995, had a supporting role in the TV series Marker. Throughout all of this he has retained the qualities of compassion, determination, and honesty that made him a success. It seems that Hawaii's most popular and best-loved comic will have all of America laughing with him. Not bad for a local boy from Waianae.

This publication is courtesy of Lee Publisher Group, Inc. 1981 Lee Enterprises, Inc.

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