Welcome to Samo-ha

By Luke Oram

Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea’i. Photo / Supplied
Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea’i. Photo / Supplied

Some might say a preacher and a stand-up comedian have plenty in common. With Samoan ministers for parents, you could also be forgiven for wondering why the Laughing Samoans chose comedy over the priestly mantle of their fathers.

For Eteuati Ete, the reasoning is simple. "My father had to write a new sermon every week. I get to write a new show every year and then tour that. It's much easier being a comedian."

It seems the Lord smiles down upon the side-splitting slackers. The duo, made up of acting veteran Ete and Tofiga Fepulea'i, has been running riot since their 2004 debut A Small Samoan Wedding propelled them from modest Wellington theatre houses to selling out major venues around Australasia.

These Samoans have taken their shows around the world; a kind of warped tourism advert for the Pacific, amplifying the Island stereotypes to hysterical heights. From fafafine to fresh-off-the-boat uncles, no stone is left unturned.

There's Aunty Tala, the cantankerous elders Sam and Tony as well as Bryan and Jonathan, the bungling hosts of the children's TV show Island Time ("Cudday Gids, we were supposed to start at 10:30, but now it's quarter to 11!") - all based on family members, who Eteuati says now proudly claim their part in the inspiration.

The Laughing Samoans' new show Funny Chokers (to be pronounced in a heavy Island accent) will see the return of the duo's regular cast of caricatures. Eteuati says that's about as much as he can tell you about Funny Chokers - you see, even the writing of the show runs to Island Time; the duo make a habit of booking their shows before they're written.

"We seem to work well under pressure so we tend to throw in a whole lot of ideas at the beginning - as the premiere nears we tighten things up and by opening night it's a new show."

No big deal. Boasting over eight years of sell-out shows across Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Guam and Hawaii, Eteuati and Fepulea'i have yet to miss the target. Everywhere they go the pair reduces even the stuffiest theatre critic to a knee-slapping mess. And you can forget the old scripture about prophets not being welcome in their hometown; when they bring the show to Samoa they're national heroes.

Luckily for the Laughing Samoans, laughing at themselves is what Samoans do best. "Only we Samoans can get away with what we do." Says Eteuati, "If we were Tongans, oh we wouldn't be laughing, that's for sure."

Who: Funny Chokers
When: Saturday 18 February
Where: The Civic

*This article originally appeared in The Edge's publication, Live.

- NZ Herald

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