Racing against the sun, Jake (co-founder of TRADES) and I are late to pick up Easten James, better known by his 64.5K followers on Instagram as @Clownin808, from Mai Tai’s. Our plan is to snag him, interview and snap a cheesy sunset photo (note: photo above) of him at Ala Moana Beach Park and return him to the bar before he loses his buzz. We finally make it to the mall parking lot and he jumps into my car and greets us with a signature “Sepppp you fehkas?!"
The 28-year-old Makaha native blew up on Instagram mostly as a result of his early followers tagging their aunty's sistah's bradah, and so forth, to watch his hilarious 15-second Disney movie and infomercial voiceover videos. The videos feature well-known characters such as Simba and Pumbaa from The Lion King, Cruela de Vil from 101 Dalmatians and infomercial star, Anthony Sullivan, speaking in a top-notch language specific to Hawai‘i. Initially, James created the Clownin808 Instagram account solely to prevent the content he posted on his personal account making its way to his boss’s feed.
Cruella always comes over all blind around dinna time. #hawaii #voiceover #420 #sapufakas #munchies A video posted by Easten (@clownin808) on
The Amazing new Sticky Buddy! #Hawaii #clownin808 #bango #handodat #grannyispumped A video posted by Easten (@clownin808) on
“My manager followed me from work,” says James. “I was always posting any kine, stupid ass videos, so I kind of used [Clowin808] for an outlet, and then that thing just went through the roof.”
I remember a friend asking if I watched the Clownin808 video he tagged me in on Instagram. It was the first time I had heard of that handle. No, I didn’t watch another shitty video you tagged me in was my first reaction, but I politely refrained, “No.” He assured me that I wouldn’t be disappointed.
The video is a Pidgin rendition of a scene from the 1964 stop-motion animation, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In the scene, Rudolf’s fake nose falls off and his true red nose is revealed to two other reindeer. A timeless character's voice transformed into Pidgin was too funny and brilliant not to double tap.
Everybody was TRIPPEN when Rudolph's fake nose came off earlier tonight. #rudolph #rednose #busted #zippet #unkokalai #merrychristmas #hawaii A video posted by Easten (@clownin808) on
Clownin808 credits the characters for carrying the workload and thinks of himself simply as the voice behind them. To a certain degree that’s true, but it’s much more complex. First, he finds an attractive scene within a movie, infomercial or commercial that has the potential to make a smash—typically, a scene involving two or more characters to use multiple voices. Next, he watches the lips of characters and carefully replaces their speech with entertaining Pidgin content. The trick is making the characters’s new dialogue match their lips and tone to coordinate with their facial expression to convince his audience as if the characters were fluent in Pidgin.
Since day one, James's target audience has been the local bradah and sistah. Whether it’s a 70-year-old tata or 16-year-old pimpled teenager, they’ll come up to him and say, “Eh, you’re Clownin808 yeah?!” While the experience has brought him emceeing opportunities, free clothing gear and drinks, and the occasional starstruck hottie, the importance of Clownin808 is to trigger laughter and help Pidgin flourish on a mainstream social media platform.
“The main goal is just to keep the language going, yeah,” says James. “Keep the Pidgin language alive...I’m not too selfish with making money off of it or anything. Of course, I wanna make some money, but that’s not the main goal. The main goal is to spread the word of the culture out there and keep ‘em laughing and get better at it.”
Clownin808 isn’t a chick posting selfies of her 99 percent body/one percent bikini accompanied by an inspirational caption. He’s not an amateur surf photographer aspiring to be the next Clark Little or Zak Noyle. He’s just a local bradah from Makaha making Pidgin voiceover videos who happens to have an audience of over 64,000. #bango
WORDS BY AOLOA PATAO
PHOTO BY JAKE HO