Paul Ogata’s laughs bring prizes—and dog porn

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What does Paul Ogata have in common with Dana Carvey, Sinbad, Jake Johannsen, and Doug Stanhope? Well, sure, they’re all standup comedians. But they’re also all former winners of the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition. Not bad, considering finalists who couldn’t pull it off over the years include such notables as Robin Williams, Louis C.K., Marc Maron, Ellen DeGeneres, Dane Cook, and Dana Gould.

Ogata won in 2007, making him the first Asian American to take home the award. And that’s not all he’s won. According to his Wikipedia entry, the fourth-generation Hawaiian is also the proud winner of the decidedly niche “Funniest Asian-American Comedian in the U.S.”. Reached by phone in Las Vegas, Ogata says, “I cherish that one even more than the Funniest Asian American Under 5-4 Whose Last Name Rhymes With Show-gata.”

Ogata likes what competitions bring out. The San Fran one, in particular, is a monthlong affair at a wide variety of venues. “It’s good practice,” he says. “You’re up on-stage nightly. It’s a good networking experience. It’s certainly something I’d do again.”

But since he’s won it once, wouldn’t that produce the added stress of being a front-runner? “The Yankees don’t stop playing baseball just because they won a World Series,” he says. Still, though, he realizes it’s a crapshoot. “It’s not really nerve-racking as much as you feel helpless. You do the best you can, and then a bunch of strangers decide to put a number to your art. You can’t judge art. It’s all subjective. You might be the winner, but you’re the winner for that set of people under this set of circumstances.”

Although his career hasn’t taken off in quite the same way as those of some of the notable winners listed above, his victory got him work in the movies. Actually, it was a porno. Of sorts. Ogata (mercifully) didn’t disrobe. He provided one of the voices for the canine stars of 2009’s Porndogs: The Adventures of Sadie, starring the voices of Ron Jeremy and the late Marilyn Chambers, in which actual dogs were filmed doing the nasty and a story was built around it. No, you didn’t miss it at a theatre near you.

“No distributor in the States really wanted to touch it because it’s not for everybody,” he says, before reconsidering his statement. “In fact, it’s probably not for anybody. Everything you’d see in regular porn you’ll see in this: there’s a girl-on-girl scene, a guy-on-girl scene, an S & M scene; there’s a glory hole. There’s all that kind of stuff.”

Ogata spends most of a given year, though, travelling around the world performing standup. He plays Hong Kong twice a year, Singapore, Macao, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and South Africa. And then there are regular shows he performs with the U.S. military in such hot spots as Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany, Spain, and Italy. In 2014, he’ll play Djibouti and the Middle East before heading to Shanghai. This will be his first time performing in Vancouver. It’s not exactly the life for a family man, but Ogata is making it work.

“I’ve got a wife who I rarely see and who I dearly miss,” he says. “But I hear she’s doing okay.”

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