Nearly two weeks ago, we thought Hurricane Douglas hitting Hawaii would be the biggest news of the weekend. Little did anyone suspect that most people’s takeaway would be the enduring image of a goofy local kid, Karl Fagaragan, now known statewide – and Internet-wide – as Karl the Fisherman.
I’m the reporter who interviewed him, and I’m going to answer here all the FAQs that friends, acquaintances, work contacts, and strangers ask me.
Here is that interview: https://www.kitv.com/clip/15108243/kalihi-fishermen-not-worried-about-storm
For background, KITV4 Island News was nonstop with storm coverage on Sunday, July 26. Photog Glenn Tengan and I were assigned to patrol Oahu’s South Shore. After bouncing around a few places, we decided the best place to set up the live truck (yes, I know people use Dejeros now, but they were all distributed to other crews, so we got the truck) was Kewalo Basin.
When you are in this situation, the idea is to constantly look for content to give the producers. The anchors always have to have something new to talk about or toss to. I try to give one or two live shots an hour; between the live guests, any new updates the newsroom receives from the weather service or the state, and every other reporter offering up a live, that should be sufficient.
It’s also pretty hard to find people to talk to on a storm day. Who, really, is out? Most people are sheltering at home by now. I approach anything that moves.
I wrapped up a live shot with someone else (the retired Army photographer), then Glenn said, “Those kids behind you want to be on tv. They keep looking here.” (That’s the beauty of an alert photographer; you are both working to create the content.)
I walked down to the waterfront where a group of about six young men were starting to set up. I identified myself and struck up a conversation. Without me actually explaining to people what I’m doing (because it’s irrelevant to them), I’m pre-interviewing the subject to see what their answers will be. Nine out of ten times – no, make that 99 out of 100 times, the answer is always the same on air. Always.
Karl sounded normal in the pre-interview, so I asked if he and his friends wanted to talk to “the news.” Most said no. Karl immediately and enthusiastically said yes several times. (I like that about him. I’m a little weary of so many camera-shy people in this state.) He dragged his friend Michael, whom we all know better as “Juilliard,” with him.
The minute, the very minute the camera turns on, he became this class clown. Oh, Karl. From the very first “Wassup,” I knew. Why didn’t I dump out of the interview sooner? For one, it’s a little jarring to hit it and quit it after one or two short answers (which his were.)
And, I kept asking him questions we’d gone over in the pre-interview (as well as the idle chat for 15 minutes while waiting for our turn to be live). For instance, he said he likes to fish before a storm because the fish come to the surface and are easier to catch. (Changes in barometric pressure affect fish behavior.) The answer I got on tv was the now-famous, “I like catch one fat fish, take em home, and flex on em.”
So yeah, I gave it a fair shot before I accepted that the whole interview was going to be the second coming of Rap Replinger, at which point I wrapped.
Did I notice Juilliard was throwing up gang signs? No. I was focused on what the hell Karl was going to say next.
How did I keep my composure? I have a teenager. Karl is also a teenager. Ignoring nonsense is my mom-skill. It’s second nature.
Did I realize it was tv gold while I was in the interview? Of course not. I was concentrating on creating live tv, which means I can’t absorb the experience the way you can as a viewer. I have to think ahead about the next question while at the same time listening to the current answer, think about how I’m going to sign off gracefully, and listen for wrap or stretch cues. Unlike a regular conversation, I don’t have the luxury to pause and create dead air, laugh, embed myself in the emotion of the moment, immerse there for a while, then respond.
My producer in the booth that hour agreed that creating live tv versus watching it is like being on a business trip and experiencing a city, versus being on vacation and really soaking it up. She, too, wasn’t immediately aware it was going to become legendary.
I didn’t realize it had gone viral until I went back to the station for dinner a few hours later. A few coworkers told me the video was getting tens of thousands of shares on at least two viewers’ pages. I had also started getting texts from friends. I cut the aircheck version of the clip and posted that to my and KITV’s social media pages.
As of this writing, my Facebook: Diane Ako video has over 288,000 views, 2,500 shares, and 671 comments. That’s just one account from one source (KITV/ me). I’m guessing the original interview must be creeping up on a million views by now, if you added up all the various people who posted their own versions. Then there are the memes. Lots and lots of memes and parodies.
Then there was the follow up interview I did on July 30. People wanted to know how to flex on a fish. I also gave an update on how sudden fame affected Karl’s life. (Good. Fun. Good fun.) Those two follow up stories are here:
Karl’s been on or mentioned on the radio, a bunch of times. He now stumps for at least one restaurant, and he’s selling his own t-shirts with the now-trademark “Flex on em” catchphrase.
I’m surprised and amused this interview became so popular and has taken on a life of its own. I’ve never been part of anything like this, or to this degree, and it’s fun to witness. I’m glad it made a lot of people laugh – particularly in a year when there is not much to laugh about.
I’m also really happy to be able to be a small part of this kid’s life experience. He seems nice, and I hope he takes this ball and runs with it.
His dad Ronald has kindly written me. He posted this to my public Facebook page:
“I am forever grateful that God made a way for you to be able to see my son that day amidst of the pandemic and the devastating/hurricane Douglas warning
We owe it all to you
God bless you
I fervently pray that my son will succeed
I can’t wait to see what’s in the store for him
Thankful to the Lord for all the outpouring blessings
Thank you again miss Diane”
It was a wonderful message to get, and it touched me. Sometimes, my job as a reporter is to tell you about someone’s life. Sometimes, my job affects lives. And when I can do the latter positively, I feel like I’ve made a small difference in the world.
Keep flexin’ on em, Karl!