Dis One Funny Guy

While working as a custodian at Wilcox Elementary School, Zavier Cummings would also host assemblies, bringing laughter and joy to students and faculty. Photo courtesy Karen Joto.

Zavier Cummings walked away from jobs as a construction worker and custodian to launch a smoking-hot career in comedy.

Zavier Cummings, aka Howsdisguy, has a natural ability to make people laugh.

So, it’s not surprising that he’s become one of Hawai‘i’s top comedic content creators, amassing hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, and partnering with large companies like Toyota, Texaco and First Hawaiian Bank.

But despite growing up as the “class clown,” the Kaua‘i native never imagined that his silly antics would turn into a full-time job.

In fact, after graduating from Kapa‘a High School in 2012, Cummings earned a scholarship to take up trade school, went into electrical installation and did that for a few years while also working as a server at Wahooo Seafood Grill & Bar.

“When I got that job on the solar farm, I quickly realized that not that I just didn’t like it, I just wasn’t capable of doing it,” he recalls. “I wasn’t that hammah uncle with the big 7-inch forearms lifting up these C purlins and solar panels and stuff like that. They would tell me, ‘Grab that side boy!’ and I’m like ‘Unks, I can’t.’ I’m over there struggling to lift these solar panels.

“Honestly, it was such a junk feeling because I had went to school for three years at that point, finally got a job in the field that I went to school for and was getting paid decent. But I just knew, brah, this is going to be a very unhappy life. This is going to be terrible for me. I have cousins in construction and they kill it, but if you look at my lower back in an X-ray, you would see why I can’t be doing construction.”

Thankfully, Cummings was able to move on and work for the state as a custodian at Wilcox Elementary School for a few years. It may not have been the most glamorous job, but it’s where he would find his calling.

“The principal asked me if I could host a welcome back assembly for the kindergarteners and the new teachers,” recalls Cummings. “I did that and I connected well with the kids. I was doing cartwheels, doing the wave, running in the crowd and one of the teachers ended up filming me and posted it to Facebook. It got some traction and that just kind of became a recurring thing where I would host every assembly and it got me out of cleaning the toilets for that day.”

Cummings credits those early videos of him at the school assemblies for his start on social media and his moniker because, as he tells it, people would see it and say, “Howsdisguy?”

“I’m glad he thought about us as far as getting his start, but I think his start was way before working as a custodian here,” says Corey Nakamura, principal at Wilcox Elementary School. “We were, I think, a part of his journey. It was always great to have him during the school day. He started to be a constant part of the program and at our assemblies. Kids looked forward to it, parents looked forward to it, even if it was just a short two, three minutes that he said something, they looked forward to it.”

Nakamura adds that he admired Cummings’ talent, his ability to take risks, and his drive and motivation to create things that are entertaining. He inspired not just the students (some who even dyed their hair the same platinum color as Cummings’ at the time), but teachers and faculty as well.

“He was kind, funny and showed his aloha with everyone,” remembers teacher Karen Joto. “When our grade level asked him to help our second graders host our Kōkua Assembly (a monthly character education assembly) by leading the school in a cheer and doing the ‘wave,’ he did not hesitate one bit and wowed the audience.

“He left everyone feeling good about themselves and reminded them to show their kōkua. His enthusiasm is contagious, and his personality shined through our hallways.”

A teacher even asked Cummings to host her wedding, which he initially declined. But she booked him anyway, and that experience would turn into a key moment for his career.

“I hated public speaking, just feared it,” explains Cummings. “Everyone always asks, ‘Did you go to school for production or public speaking?’ because I host some of the bigger concerts nowadays. I didn’t go to school for any of that.

“Six weeks before her wedding, she said, ‘I locked you in.’ I told her, ‘Don’t do this to me,’ but I remember doing it and had so much fun. The next morning, she asked if I could come over to her place. She gave me flowers and an envelope. I opened it and it was like $250 cash.

“I told her, ‘I’m not taking this,’ and she was like, ‘I want to give this to you because one day you’re going to be doing this for a lot more money.’ Honestly, if it wasn’t for her forcing me to host her wedding — there are so many events and I can connect the dots pretty clearly — but if that didn’t happen, it just set up a chain reaction. It was a big turning point in my career as far as what I thought was possible.”

Since then, Cummings has continued to rise in popularity and success. As an entertainer and sketch comic, he specializes in clean comedy, and names Will Ferrell and Steve Carell as his favorite comedians to watch.

His goal, he says, is to not only make people laugh but to also be a connecting point for people, especially in Hawai‘i.

Among the highlights of his career, he makes special mention of his partnership with the Honolulu Police Department and its push to increase recruitment.
“On camera it was a lot of improv,” notes Cummings about the 10 episodes filmed. “Aside from me writing the general theme, the interactions were improv.”
Looking ahead, Cummings says he plans to do more writing — whether it’s commercials for companies or content for other creators (something he’s discovered he really enjoys).

He also recently partnered with friends Brandon Baptiste and Micah Gonsalves-Gregg to create Island Media Group, a full-service marketing agency/production company.

When he’s not busy making others laugh, you will likely find Cummings digging for antique bottles. His collection of treasures includes about 40 “display-worthy” finds, such as hutchinson blob tops, Hollister & Co. bottles and vintage hand-blown glass bottles. The others are stored in about 14 large bins. (You can follow his bottle-hunting adventures @antiquehawaii on Instagram.)

“I go underwater detecting, where I’m fully submerged underwater metal detecting, and I go to the old plantation camps from the 1800s and I go digging for these glass bottles,” he shares. “Social media is a great tool, but to be on there and to do it full time, you gotta pop out.”

For now, he says he’s still living his dream as a “laugh dealer” (follow Cummings at @howsdisguy on Instagram and Howsdisguy on YouTube). He’s also appreciative of all the support he’s received from loyal followers.

“You got this local braddah out from working a job that I really didn’t enjoy and because of your love and support over the years, it’s literally opening doors,” he says in addressing his fans. “You guys have put me in a place that I’m just stoked to be in. I wake up and I get to meet people, connect with people and work on these projects that I just am so grateful for.”