Kermet Apio on Hawaiian shirts: "Oh good, my culture is on sale at JCPenny's"
When you're born with an unusual name, you naturally become funny. At least, that was the case with Kermet Apio. "I liked comedy, and when I was a kid, on Friday nights, if I did my homework, my mom would let me stay up and watch The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson," he says. "I've always been a fan of comedy, but when I was doing open mics, I never thought I'd do it as a job."
Kermet is indeed an atypical name, particularly for someone who was born in Hawaii. "My mom was trying to be cool," he explains to an audience. "'Kermet' is a Celtic word meaning 'warrior.' It's also an American word meaning 'frog,' Mom. First day of school they're taking attendance... 'Kermet Apio?' Every kid with a weird name is quietly going, 'Yes! It's not going to be me. Frog boy's going to get it all year long. Hey, Seamus! Hey, Sunflower! You hearing this?'"
For a while, he worked during the day for United Airlines. "I was counting the liquor bottles," he explains. "You know those carts they push down the aisle on the plane? I was the one that would get those carts and count what was left. Then I would reset them for the outbound flights. Basically, I worked in a big room full of liquor." Not unlike today. "Once I was in comedy, I had more access to it. In the other job I was around a lot of liquor, but I had to keep track of it."
There are some gigs, though, where Apio has little or no access to alcohol: corporate shows. He's carved out a nice living doing these types of gigs, even though they sometimes have their drawbacks. "I would say corporate work is about half of what I do," he says. "That's actually a big percentage for a lot of comedians. The thing that's hard about them is you can't work on the act. You can't turn material, and you can't take chances. I do like them, but they are a different type of comedy."
Luckily he's been able to avoid bad corporate shows, ones where the comedian, for example, is performing in the middle of a trade-room floor. "I've gotten pretty good at expressing my opinion and saying what's a really tricky thing for comedy," he says. "If you're going to have comedy at your corporate event, then you should have it in a room where it's the only thing going on, because it demands so much attention, and it really demands that the audience be focused in on it."
They can be great shows, too. "Once I did a 9 a.m. corporate gig, and it was two hours from my house," he recalls. That meant leaving the house at 6:30 a.m. "It's hard for me to whine about it, because I saw cars on the freeway and thought, 'These people do this every day.' So, I'm not going to complain about the one day I have to get up at 6, but it is kind of weird." He adds: "It turned out to be a great gig. It was a really fun audience. They weren't used to having a comedian at breakfast, so they were very excited about it, and they were very into it."
For his club dates, Apio enjoys the chance to stretch his act a bit. It isn't necessarily more dirty, probably PG-13 by his estimation. Though he's interested in current events personally, he doesn't do a lot of jokes about them. Instead, he talks about his family and his life, as well as his Hawaiian heritage. "A guy came up to me after a show and said, 'Hey, Hawaiian guy, I've got a Hawaiian shirt.' Really? We call that 'a shirt.'" The gentleman explained to Apio that such shirts were back in style. "Oh good, my culture is on sale at JCPenny's."
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
708 N. First St., Minneapolis
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more info, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Minneapolis & St. Paul and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.