Born and raised in Hawai‘i, Kimee Balmilero’s professional credits include the Emmy-nominated Discovery Kids series Hi-5, the original Broadway cast of Mamma Mia, and Hawaii Five-0. She studied improv with the famed Upright Citizens Brigade and has performed live at Radio City Music Hall and Second City-Hollywood.

After racking up all that experience, Balmilero returned to Hawai‘i in 2012 and has been busy in the comedy scene ever since. Now she’s putting together the first ever Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival at the museum’s Doris Duke Theatre March 28 and 29. Get ready for performances, music, and workshops, featuring local and mainland talent. We talked with her about her experiences, and the upcoming festival.

What’s up?
I know you want me to say, “the sky,” but that’s too easy. Wait…are you making fun of me ’cause I’m short?

What? Of course not! Anywho…anything going on with you lately?
Not much. Did some laundry, got my bangs trimmed, ordered five boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and now I’m in the middle of planning the first ever Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival. No biggie…

Sketch Comedy Festival?
Yup! Pretty stoked about it. It’s gonna be like Saturday Night Live in Hawai‘i, complete with live comedy sketches, original comedy videos and special musical guests. It’ll be at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art. You know where that is, right?

Most of the time I do! You were in the original Broadway cast of Mamma Mia, on the Emmy-nominated Hi-5, you’ve studied at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, and performed at Radio City Music Hall…
Is that a question?

Ummm…was that cool?
Very cool. I started performing when I was six years old in speech festivals and then continued to do musicals all throughout high school with Ronald Bright and Marcelo Pacleb. I never dreamed of actually making it a career. Still can’t believe I actually got to experience all of that. Pretty awesome.

What motivated you to put the festival together?
I was heavy into studying and performing improv and sketch comedy in Los Angeles before I moved back home to Hawai‘i. I really wanted to keep that train going. After creating and doing improv shows for a little bit, we started doing sketch comedy shows where anyone could put up a sketch. It was kind of like an open mic for writers. It was an idea I had borrowed from UCB in L.A., and people started really digging it. That’s when I knew a festival like this would be appreciated.

Who’s going to be there?
You, right?

Yup! Who else?
My Mom and Dad.

Who else?
Your Mom and Dad?

Maybe, but they’re not returning my calls. What can audiences look forward to?
We have performers coming in from Los Angeles and New York City, and we even have our own “Start Up Team” that is based right here in Honolulu. Music lovers will dig the powerhouse sounds of Broadway veteran Shoshana Bean. I guarantee everyone will walk out of our show saying, “HOT DANG THAT WAS A GOOD TIME!” or “Ooops…I think I just LOL’d my pants.”

Hawai‘i’s comedy scene seems to go through peaks and valleys, some would argue it’s in one of those valleys, but I get the sense that there’s a scene developing under the radar, do you think that this festival could inject some life into that scene?
Yes, that’s our goal. The comedy scene is thriving here in Hawai‘i. Lots of stand ups, improvisers and writers are just dying to share their work. The Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival provides a space for these creatives to showcase to a whole new audience. We’re also providing workshops and panels to help them take their work to the next level. 

Other than the events at Doris Duke Theatre, how can people get involved?
Lots of ways. Our festival officially starts on Wednesday, March 25th, with improv, sketch comedy writing and acting workshops at the Manoa Innovation Center. We also have panels and other events happening at Kaka‘ako Agora. Anyone that wants to find out more can visit our website 

What’s your favorite work of art?
This interview.


Hawai‘i Sketch Comedy Festival: March 28 + 29. Buy tickets online.