Comedian Rex Navaratte headlines ‘Comedy Store’ fundraiser for SIPABy Cecile C. Ochoa
Hollywood, CA – A good mix of Filipino American generations filled to capacity the famous Comedy Store on Sunset boulevard this month June 15 as they welcome Rex Navarette and his comic friends to one of the best entertainment hubs.
Billed as “Laughs for SIPA,” the special event was earmarked to fundraise for the 42-year old community institution Search to Involve Pilipino Youths (SIPA) based in historic Filipino Town Los Angeles. “I started working in the community as a gang prevention specialist in San Francisco in 1989, “ Rex told his audience who came to hear once more his classic jokes from his dvds “Hella Pinoy,” “Badass Madapaka!, “Komik Organic,” among others.
In an interview with Inquirer.net the comic said “Raising funds for intervention projects just like what SIPA does is my way of giving back. I like to use my talent as a comic to benefit programs such as this in LA.” He continued, “I brought in today’s show some of the best Filipino comics from both North and Southern California.” The lineup included Kevin Camia, Shain Brenden, Niko Santos and special guest Vargus Mason, known as the “Human Cartoon”. Immediately as an opening act Mason, of Caribbean descent, quipped: “You know I’m not Filipino, I told Rex. He asked me, do you own a rice cooker? Or a karaoke machine? If you do, you’re Filipino!”
The group with brothers Gus and Jerry Papa (of the famous Papa ketchup company) from San Fernando Valley were just excited to see his live performance and to support the SIPA fundraiser. “We follow him on u-tube, he is very popular among the older immigrants because they relate to his Fil Am experience growing up in the U.S.,” said Jerry. Jorge Bustamante of Mission Hills said he likes following Rex when he is in town, same time that he follows another Filipino comic Jokoy.
When asked what their favorite Navarette gag is, they almost uniformly replied, “the Packers and the blocks (pronounced blacks) of Oakland.”
Navarette said he derives his satire from his own life experiences, “it’s your duty to tell your own stories to your audience.” His jokes are taken from everyday situations growing up in a bilingual household, and thus his observations as a Filipino American growing up.
The audience familiar with him doesn’t seem to get tired of his stand-ups on his mother, his ESL (which he explains “English as a stupid language”) teacher, his “Uncle Boy.” “Why is every man called “boy” in the Philippines?
He switches his smooth American accent to unmistakable ‘Pilipino’ and the audience simply adores his self-effacing humor. He mirrors many of the immigrants’ experience and their ability to laugh at themselves, remembering their early days in Amerika. His favorite: poking fun at religion, frequently shifting characters and voices between Jesus and Satan as they confront her church-going mother.
Once classic joke, perhaps his favorite, is about his mother who lives in San Francisco and who doesn’t fail to text him even as he is in Portland. “Every Monday with no fail, she calls me at 7 in the morning asking if I’ve gone to ‘chirts’, yesterday.” She meant church, referring to one of the most common mispronounced English words especially by old timers. Doesn’t fail to bring the house down, most especially from the younger ones who could empathize at the parody of their old folks at home.
“I live in Portland now where they are high on organic this and that. But you know what, I don’t like to cook their free range chicken. I don’t want any chicken that’s healthier than me!”
I was so happy to see many of the Filipino recipes on the Food Network; there was a time when the only time we see our food shown was on the “Fear Factor.” Like the balut.”
And a crowd favorite of course was his take on the spaghetti. “ We have to apologize to the Italians, because we bastardized their spaghetti. You know our Filipino kind of spaghetti has that “glow in the dark’ little hot dogs mixed in it.” Our version probably came about when in 1912 one of our uncles went to Spain and saw a picture of the spaghetti outside of an Italian restaurant and boasted: “I know how to cook that!” So when he returned to the Philippines, he got hold of a bottle of Jufran (a sweet banana-tomato-based ketchup), and a whole bag of sugar and mix those with a pasty pasta, and f…. ed it up! Because Filipinos do not know how to boil spaghetti- they cook it down to a paste!
SIPA, now headed by Dorothy Gamoning, enriches and empowers generations of Pilipino Americans and others by providing health and human services, community economic development. While it was started in the 70s by foremost Southland leader Royal Morales and others for “Pilipino youth” it currently provides a spacious community place where people of all backgrounds can hold meetings and other activities to strengthen community. It’s former executive director Joel Jacinto is now one of LA City’s Public Works commissioners.
“I was so happy one day to hear that the great food connoisseur Anthony Bourdain was featuring the Philippines in his popular ‘Parts Unknown’. But, heck, he started the segment by going to Jollibee and eating that Filipino spaghetti with fried chicken, and rice! – with that glow in the dark hot dog!”
The acts of his Fil-Am contemporaries were at best racy, spiced up by common experiences of growing up “brown” in America. Shain Brenden who traded his military uniform for stage comedy started with: “do I look familiar to you? You see me in many Mc Donald commercials – I’m medium brown and not so black in color.”
Yey Coronel, Executive director of Filipino American Services for Groups, Inc., another thriving Filipino American community organization in Historic Filipino town, commended Navarette and his friends for coming out and giving all-out support to SIPA.
Tina Bulchand, program director of FilAm Arts and formerly from SIPA said Rex has always been a supporter of FilAm Arts celebration that has featured him in past cultural events. The comic called on the names of SIPA Board of Directors on stage including Cirilo Pinlac, Faith Santillan, Stephanie Uy, Jessica del Mundo, Dj Icey Ice and Lyle Del Mundo.
(An earlier version appeared in Inquirer.net a content partner of TheFilamLA.com)