Kimee Balmilero could be an one-woman show if she wanted, but she’s really more the inclusive type.
Ask any of the 30-plus people involved with her brainchild, the Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival 2019, which takes place tonight through Saturday.
The three-day festival, with facets of comedy from sketch to stand-up to improv, is now in its fifth year, featuring local and national talent.
“This is a way for people to tap into their creativity,” Balmilero said. “Some are newcomers and some are already accomplished.”
Though the festival originally started off solely as sketch comedy bits — one of Balmilero’s passions — other facets of comedy have been worked into the show over the years.
“I want to make sure we reach all members of the audience,” she said.
A HIGHLIGHT of this year’s festival will be visiting performers from the “Asian AF” variety show out of Los Angeles, who’re participating for a second year, presenting “A Filipino Comedy Variety Show!” on Saturday.
Balmilero will join the ensemble on stage, in addition to appearing today in skits from “Live from Honolulu: The Musical!”
“We’ve covered Filipino humor in Hawaii on so many different themes,” Balmilero said, cheerily. “With the festival, we’re covering it from different angles and by a different age group. … But you don’t have to be Filipino to enjoy the show. It just happens to be a cast of Filipino Americans.”
Actor Ian Anthony Dale — known as Adam Noshimuri on “Hawaii Five-0” — will make a special appearance on Saturday, interviewed on-stage as part of a set-up for a routine. He got involved at Balmilero’s request.
“Kimmee asked me if I was interested,” said Dale, who lives in Kahala with his family during production of “Hawaii 5-0.” “I attended an ‘Asian AF’ show in Los Angeles. I’m familiar with the requirements.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they will take my answers to the questions and incorporate it into the comedy.”
Other local celebrities and talent, as well as up-and-comers, also will be brought into the festival, Balmilero said. Look for musical improv act Oil in the Alley and the all-Polynesian improv comedy troupe Taro Patch.
BORN AND RAISED in Kaneohe, Balmilero now lives in Kakaako. She’s familiar to TV viewers worldwide as a current cast member on “Hawaii 5-0.”
Growing up, Balmilero was a fan of acerbic nighttime talk show host David Letterman and of various sitcoms.
As the founder of the Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival, what she finds entertaining are “things that make you think, things that are told clearly and the all-over performance, (and) anything that is new — anything that is new and funny. The delivery could be different, or the joke-telling. But here is a chance to try.”
Balmilero was a student at James B. Castle High School, and worked with the late, well-regarded theater director Ron Bright. She left Oahu at 17 to study acting in San Francisco before moving into the rarified world of Broadway, where she was part of the original cast of “Mamma Mia.”
She also met a life-long goal: getting a role in a touring production of “Miss Saigon,” her dream production.
When she first moved back to Oahu, she felt the need to stay closely involved with ensemble projects — and was inspired to start her sketch comedy project.
“As an actor, I was used to waiting for someone else to tell me what to do or waiting to hear from my agent about a part,” she said. “But when I moved back, I took control.”
Chockful of energy, Balmilero cheerfully calls the Hawaii Sketch Comedy Show “a selfish Kimee project.”
“I was an only child. I loved playmates, and this is the tea party of comedy,” she said.
But Balmilero is anything but selfish, if her behavior with the show is an indication.
One of the key components of the festival is that a start-up team of aspiring comedy writers is involved, hand-picked to work on sketches for the show from an open-submission process. Up to five applicants are chosen each summer, and each person picked works with a writing mentor.
This year Brandon Caban, Sean Choo and Susan Hawes were picked for the start-up team and worked with mentor Fiona Landers. The results can be seen tonight in numbers from “Live from Honolulu: The Musical!”
“We welcome submissions,” Balmilero said. “I am so focused on featuring and raising local talent, because I am local talent. What’s interesting is that a lot of people have 9 to 5 jobs, but this is their passion.”
Interested parties may apply for future productions via hisketchfest.com.