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Laughter is the key to world peace

Updated: 2012-09-14 10:07
By Mary Katherine Smith in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Laughter is the key to world peace

Paul Ogata  Provided to China Daily

Paul Ogata was always the funny kid in class, but it wasn't until Ogata was into his 20s that he realized his calling.

The road to comedy was a bit of a long one for Ogata, who grew up in Hawaii, with his first real taste of stand-up in college. Not the most dedicated student of formal education, he decided the prescribed plan his parents wanted was not for him.

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Some 20 years later, Ogata, now 43, has a resume full of comedic achievements. He's won the prestigious San Francisco International Comedy Competitions and also appeared on numerous TV shows and specials.

Despite his achievements, he admits that one of the best parts of his job is going to places. He has performed in 25 countries in five continents. His travels as an "American of Asian appearance" abroad provide great stories and jokes that have audiences rolling on the floor.

"Whenever I'm traveling, I'm a fish out of water, and people like to hear about the troubles you run into," he says. "Sometimes it's foreign to them that this can happen in their own country."

While there are some minor adjustments to jokes for his shows abroad, he says the human condition is universal. "Sometimes you go into a new country and they've never seen this kind of entertainment before and it's shocking to them at first, but you see their faces sort of warm up as they get into it. I like to see people changing, I think for the better," he says.

He's a strong believer that laughter is the key to world peace. "It sounds cliched and cheesy but I think once we learn to laugh at ourselves, we're going to get along with everyone else," he adds.

Now he's bringing his jokes and prescription for world peace to China. "I'm looking forward to getting in there finally and performing for the world's largest population," he says.

As for China's emerging stand-up comedians, he says that practice, tenacity and perspective are key. "What's really difficult when starting out is finding your voice, finding your point of view," he says, adding that stand-up comics need to know how they feel about everything in the world. "Once that falls into place, its much easier to talk about anything and find the funny in it."

Laughter is the key to world peace

One of the most memorable experiences resulting from his comedy was a special moment he later shared with his father.

He says it happened after a show in his home state, Hawaii, when his parents attended and Ogata told a joke about his father not ever telling him that he loved him. "I guess its an Asian thing - but he never said 'Son, I love you', and I did a joke about that," he says.

The next night while at his parents' house, his mom pulls his father over and asks him, "Do you have something you want to tell your son?"

"And he said 'Ugh ... I love you'," Ogata jokingly imitates. "That was the best thing that ever happened to me because of comedy."

It may seem as if Ogata has reached his peak. He's got a few more milestones left to go though.

He hopes one day he will be able to say he's performed in all seven continents. "My dream gig would be in Antarctica," he says. "Hopefully there would be a couple of scientific researchers, maybe a penguin or two."

China Daily

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