Maui comedian gets serious about his craft.
By: Jacqueline Kapu
Looking for a good laugh? You don’t have to look any further: Curtis “Chino” LaForge, recently voted “Maui’s Best Local Comedian” by Maui Time and its readers, headlines a variety of comedy shows here on Maui and stars in many of our local theatre productions.
Chino, known as one of Maui’s most dedicated and versatile performers, has made a name for himself throughout Hawai‘i, but calls Maui his home. In an interview with Ho‘oulu prior to his “Tuesday Open Mic Night” at Three’s Bar & Grill, Chino took time to discuss his comedy lifestyle and what he believes to be his idea of success. “Success is having the ability to balance childhood dreams with adult responsibilities,” he said.
Chino was born in Torrance, Calif., a West Coast beach town, just outside of Los Angeles. He boasts of a multicultural background of Hawaiian, Korean, German, French, Irish, Polish and Native American ancestries. His father, who passed away when Chino was a young boy, called O‘ahu home. Chino always felt that his roots and heart were in Hawai‘i, so he was happy to move with his mom to Maui when he was just 13 years old. “Moving to Hawai‘i was more of a homecoming than anything else,” he said. “Hawai‘i has—and forever will be—my home.”
Growing up, Chino considered himself to be more on the shy side, especially when he was a student at Maui High School. “I was always more of a listener and it wasn’t until about the middle of high school when I came out of my shell,” he said. “What I thought was funny, other people thought was just weird.”
Chino graduated from Maui High School in 2005 and went on to continue his education at the University of Southern Oregon (USO). While concentrating his energies on drama and acting classes, he also enjoyed participating in extracurricular activities like learning sign language, auditioning for college productions and performing in local shows. While attending USO, Chino participated in a variety of Shakespeare festivals. He chuckled as he reminisced about the experience. “I loved getting my hands dirty with intern work,” he said. As he continued to reach for the stars, he took on many of the challenges associated with show business, including stage production, lighting, stage combatting and acting technique courses.
Chino returned to Maui after college and realized his true love and vision was to bring laughter to Maui. “It is an escape for me,” he explained. “Comedy allows me to accept the bold truths that would otherwise be really heavy.” He sees comedy as a business that seems to choose the people that are in it. “It is a passion that manifests itself,” he said. With this idea in mind, Chino used his passion to become the CEO and founder of Power Up Comedy, a full-service Hawaiian entertainment company specializing in entertainment services for restaurants, special events and corporate functions. Power Up Comedy brought together a group of local comedians and entertainers who were determined to bring their talents to Hawai‘i’s venues. With many hours committed to writing and rehearsing, Chino’s hard work and determination led to the recent celebration of his eighth year of stand-up comedy—with many more to come.
Chino found that throughout his career, being a producer was tough because it did not allow much time for him to focus on his own development and performance. “The biggest obstacle with comedy on Maui is the necessity to become the producer of shows opposed to just doing performances,” he said. “[But] it’s an obstacle that is a growth, as well as a challenge.”
There are many elements that contribute to a show’s success: from selecting the comedians and finding the right venue to scheduling rehearsals and promoting the event. Chino said his past experiences have helped him overcome the challenges of producing, hosting and being a headlining performer for his productions. His dedication and success led him to be an opening headliner on three national and international comedy tours.
As of now, Chino has been busy planning many upcoming comedy events. He continues to host Tuesday’s Open Mic Night at Three’s Bar & Grill, while planning a bimonthly show for Wednesdays at Kihei’s very own Ambrosia Martini Lounge.
He will also be racking up some frequent flyer miles next month. “I will be on tour this May bringing laughter and sharing my talent with Los Angeles, Washington and Oregon,” he said.
When he’s not on stage performing comedy, Chino is making a difference in the community by partnering with nonprofit agencies he truly believes enhances the life of others here on Maui. He serves on the board of Hale Makua and most recently was the master of ceremonies at St. Theresa’s Hale Kau Kau’s annual fundraiser, which raised money to continue Hale Kau Kau’s meal program for Maui’s homeless, homebound seniors (Meals on Wheels) and families in need. He also partners with the Maui AIDS Foundation, Pacific Cancer Foundation, Mental Health Kokua, Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations.
“My ultimate goal is to better my community by simply doing what I love,” Chino said. “I want to offer the same opportunities to others, without having them work as hard as I have had to in order for me to make a difference and accomplish my dreams.”