Comedy Spotlight: Meet Josh Fonokalafi

After his father brought a VHS tape of Bill Cosby home (“a bad example” Josh laughed), Josh Fonokalafi fell in love with stand-up comedy. It was the storytelling aspect that captured him, the idea of being able to relate to audiences and make them laugh just through storytelling alone. The stand-up comedian, actor and writer has come quite a long way since then; he even has a comedy special with the well-known series Dry Bar Comedy.

Josh’s career officially started in 2009 after he began performing open mics at Wiseguys, a popular comedy club in Utah. There, he learned the craft of comedy. While he started out very structured with a fear of deviation, he has since grown to love the chaos of stand-up comedy, loving the unpredictability of performing with an audience. Josh notes that when you deviate from your set to converse with the audience, it becomes even more entertaining for both sides, with the audience getting to be a part of the show. It takes a while to do this though, as Josh explains, remembering how he killed it at his first open mic but then fell flat after coming back. He didn’t give up after realizing that comedy is a lot harder than it looks. To him it just means trying harder each time. 

Josh has since performed locally in Utah with Wiseguys, Portland’s Helium Comedy Club and various venues throughout California. He cites the incredible storyteller Bill Burr and the goofy Maria Bamford as some of his favorites in the comedy scene—who both happen to have performed at Wiseguys as well. He contributes a lot of his style to Brian Regan, the self-deprecating yet clean stand-up comedian. 

Josh prefers writing and performing clean comedy because he wants to do comedy that he knows his own kids can watch. He also likes that clean comedy is more of a creative challenge since it forces you to think a certain way by deviating from some more obvious jokes and slang language. To him, clean comedy is a real skill and one that is fully worth it since it challenges his own writing and has the reward of his family getting to watch it. 

At the start of Covid, when bars and clubs were closing throughout the country, Joshua and fellow comics began performing socially distanced shows in each others’ driveways and streaming them online. He says that it was a way for the local scene to keep performing and keeping their sense of community while staying safe and healthy. It became a catalyst for the comedy community in Utah since they were not only able to come together to continue to work but also grow. Streaming the shows helped him and fellow comics get into the avenue of online comedy. Comedy clubs in Utah have begun opening up with socially distanced crowds, so while following Covid protocols, Josh headlined two shows this fall. He is also looking forward to his next performance, which will take place this January with Dry Bar Comedy.

Purchase tickets to Josh Fonokalafi’s shows here:  

Follow Josh on Instagram @the_american_islander and on Twitter @FonoPrime.

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