Paul Ogata

The Artist Who Interviews

(Dec/09- Jan/10)
Artist who interviews

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An Interview with Comedian Paul Ogata

Paul Ogata 1

Your work is awesome and truly a breathe of fresh air. When did you realize that comedy was for you? Explain how this process came about?
Thanks for that compliment! I guess I'd always been the funny one in class. But while I always wanted to do stand-up comedy, I never thought that it was something I could do. Then one day at college, I saw a poster for a comedy competition on campus. For the next several days, I tossed the idea around in my mind and finally decided to give it a shot. When the night finally came, I snuck out of the dorms and didn't tell anybody where I was headed. I tied for third, with horrible material I threw together over a couple of days, but from that moment I was hooked.

In addition to standup, you've done television shows, radio, movies, voice-overs and numerous other comedy projects; yet, standup always permeates your approach to comedy. Please describe how you view the role of stand-up in being a comedian.
Stand-up is comedy at its purest. It's just you and the audience in the moment. It can be a scripted delivery of a honed bit, or a jazz-like scat-singing of a premise idea to flesh out the funny, or a playful interaction between comic and audience, or a battle of wits between me and a heckler. In any case it is beautiful and something to be enjoyed on both sides of the mic. Stand-up is really the genesis of all other forms of comedy. Stand-ups will often branch out to other comedic genres such as acting, writing or directing. Often with much success.

Paul Ogata 2

I think I speak for the masses when I express that I'm glad that you decided on a career in Comedy over being a Magician. You have been quoted as saying "comedy is about truth," can you further describe what comedy personally means to you?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a magician. I had a bunch of store-bought tricks and did a show at a family Christmas party. But magic is about deception. Lies. Making your audience applaud for doing something you didn't really do. I mean, I still have much respect and awe for great magicians. But when I discovered comedy albums and comedy specials on HBO, that really floored me. You can tell the truth about how you feel about things? Awesome, I wanna do that! Certainly, there are some comics who employ the absurd to great effect. For me, however, speaking my mind on things is at once a good source of material and also incredibly cathartic. I can get things off my chest, work through my issues and get paid! Everybody wins.

A captive audience or being captive in front of an audience? …Can you describe your experience of performing a private comedy show for an (alleged) organized crime lord? Is it safe to even talk about it?
The guy who roped me into the gig told me it was a family reunion. I just didn't know it was a "family" reunion and the reason why there was a reunion is that some of the "family" were away for awhile at an "extended stay resort." But guess what? Alleged criminals want to laugh just as much as the rest of us. They were nice people. Those nasty Federal Agents in the white van across the street should just leave them alone, and that's all I have to say about that.

Paul Ogata 3

You were made an honorary Senator for the State of Hawaii, please describe how this happened for you?
Like anytime the government does something nice for you, it was because they needed something from me. The two houses of the state legislature and the Governor's cabinet were competing with each other in a talent show at the Governor's mansion. The Senate decided that they really had no talent amongst themselves and opted to bring in a ringer. And in order to play by the rules, they made me an honorary Senator. A nice sized check but also a textbook lesson in shady government practices wasting your tax dollar.

Having basketball lessons from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is awesome! When and how did you acquire this experience? Are you a better basketball player for it?
The Kareem Incident happened when I was in the 5th grade. I call it the Kareem Incident because it makes it seem like a crime. Which it was. I'm not a big guy as an adult, and I wasn't even this big at the age of 10. So for Kareem to roll into town and charge good money to teach basketball to tiny kids was like a crime. He didn't really strike me as enjoying himself around us kids. Plus, it's not like he had some big secret that would make us all NBA stars. He pretty much told us the same things our coaches told us. Basically he got paid for saying, "Hey, work on your fundamentals. And next time be born taller."

Paul Ogata 4

Performances: Do you need to emotionally/mentally prepare for a live performance? If so, how do you prepare for this?
I still get a little nervous before every show, but I like it. It's a furnace in pit of my stomach that lets me know I'm alive. Would I still get on stage if it never got me excited anymore? Not likely. I pace around a lot, running through what I might say first. I stretch a little, too, since I can get physical on stage. I've pulled muscles while performing and that makes for a long show. Also, I like to do a little reconnaissance on the crowd. I watch the opening acts to see what kind of stuff the audience is into. I take note if there are people who want to be part of the show, and what sort of things they are saying to the comedians.

Inspiration: What are your sources of inspiration for writing comedy? Who/what have been your greatest inspiration? Strange/horrible/curious things happen to me all the time. I'm blessed that I'm so cursed. I talk about that stuff on stage. If something gets me worked up in the news, I'll share that too. Also, my wife is an endless spring of material. Man, if I knew there would be so much material I would have gotten married years ago. And to multiple women.

If you could work with any celebrity on a project, who would it be? What type of project would be ideal to work on with this person?
I've been a huge fan of Mel Brooks' all the way back to the original Get Smart TV series. And his edgy irreverent humor in Blazing Saddles was classic. Of course, Richard Pryor had a hand in that, too. But I'd like to see Mel get back to his former glory, and much like Cleavon Little did I'd like to help Brooks shatter society's sensitivities about what is and isn't okay to laugh at.

Paul Ogata 5

On a personal note... The contrast of growing up in a more traditional, conservative household (and expectations therein) to that of standup comedy must have been substantial. Describe the impact of hearing your father express that he is proud of you. In the beginning, were there other expectations placed on you instead of comedy?
Maybe it was because as a kid I'd shown an interest in writing video games that I was told I had to get a degree in Electrical Engineering. A lot of people ("parents") probably see comedy as the antithesis of a respectable career in Engineering. So I always figured myself as somewhat of a disappointment to my mom and dad, who were a lawyer and a chemist. I never got to hear from my dad that he loved me or that he was proud of me. I thought it was because of the typical emotionless Asian father thing. But a couple of years ago, they came to see me at a sold-out theatre of 1400 people and I thought it was the time to strike. And on stage, I made a joke about him never telling me those things. Maybe you can't be proud of your son if you think he's telling fart jokes to 6 people in a smoky bar, but in this situation you've got to be proud. And the next day, after 35 years of silence, he finally told me that he loved me and was proud of me. It was totally a forced confession, coerced by my mother, who was jabbing him in the ribs, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. So the moral of the story is: fathers, tell your kids you love them. Or they'll develop issues and become comedians.

Paul Ogata 6

What charities do you support and have worked with? How have these experiences touched your soul?
I've done several shows for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I hear all the time how comedians are brave to get up on stage in front of all those people. But if you take a look at how these kids, stricken with cancer, are able to face the world with a smile, now that's brave. The kids came up to thank me before a show, and I was like, "No way, I should be thanking you guys for showing me what courage is all about." What people need to realize is, you get as much as you give when you help others. Also, I just did a show for the Brittany Foundation, a no-kill dog shelter. Dogs can bring immeasurable joy to the right homes. I like that they try to match homeless dogs with dogless homes. That's purely win-win. How can you not help?

What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
In comedy, I am most proud of winning the 32nd Annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition. It's the granddaddy of all comedy competitions and was won previously by folks like Dana Carvey, Sinbad, Doug Stanhope and Jake Johannsen. It took three weeks of grueling travel and continuous self-doubt. In life, I still can't believe I got my wife to marry me. That's been seven years of self-doubt!

Paul Ogata - Make Some Noise

Paul Ogata | MySpace Video

Describe your most embarrassing moment.
I did a show once where an elderly white couple was sitting front and center. They were old, like from when everybody was racist. As I took the stage I noticed the old lady was shaking her head at me. So I immediately tried to squash the hate and told her, "Hey, I didn't even say anything yet. Let me do my act, then you can judge me." But as I started my first joke, I noticed that she was still there, shaking her head at me. So I stopped and addressed her, "Is there so much hate in your life that you won't even let me speak? Come on." And I tried to do my act again. But sure enough she was still looking at me shaking her head. That's when I exploded, "That's it, bitch! I've had it with your racist ass!" And I was probably more foul than that. That's when her husband stood up and said loudly in his old man voice, "She has Parkinson's!" Well, at that point, the only four words you can say are, "Thank you. Good night."

Paul Ogata 7

What are some of your up and coming projects in the near future?
I did a movie which is playing the Festival circuit now, and it just won an award in Australia. It's called "Porndogs", and it co-stars Ron Jeremy, Marilyn Chambers (her last film) and Heidi Fleiss. That will be out in the US in a couple of months. If they can find a gutsy distributor, look for it on the big screen, but more likely it will be for sale as a DVD. Don't let the title (and the cast) fool you, it is a hilarious comedy and nobody gets naked, no animals were harmed. Aside from that, last week I shot the interview portion of the Showtime comedy special that I headlined. The tentative air date is in December. And I'm talking with the producer of that show to shoot a live comedy special in Hong Kong. I can't wait for that!

Paul Ogata 8

Genie and a bottle, three wishes, what would they be?
I'll be selfish here, because I know the world's governments are going to address poverty, hunger and war. (1) I want a 500-HP V10 Dodge Tomahawk motorcycle that runs on self-loathing so that I never have to pay for gas again. (2) I wish there was food I could feed my dogs that would be totally metabolized by their bodies so that I wouldn't have to pick up their crap. I might eat that stuff, too, from time to time. (3) I once saw Elton John's yacht. It was bigger than every house I've ever lived in put together. His boat was so big it had a spare boat on it, and his boat's boat was bigger than all the other boats I have seen. Also it had a helicopter. I think you know where I'm going with this: I wish I could play the piano.

If you were to give advice to beginner standup comedian, what would you tell him/her?
Be you. That's all you can be. And no one else can be you, which makes you unique. You see so many young comics trying to emulate the style and material of Dane Cook or Mitch Hedburg or Bill Hicks. Don't be the next Mitch, be the first you.

Paul Ogata's Links

Paul Ogata official website
Official Website

Paul Ogata on MySpace

Paul Ogata on Facebook

Paul Ogata on Twitter

Thank you Paul!


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