‘Jerry Seinfeld is OK but Charlie Sheen is awesome’

By Cristina DC Pastor

Funnyman Air Tabigue says he ‘jokes about’ his family not ‘make fun’ of them, because ‘making fun’ is what a bully does.

TF: Filipino standup comedians like you, Jo Koy, Alec Mapa, etc. love to make fun of family. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but is this humor common among ethnic comics?
AT: I don’t think only ethnic comics talk about family. I’ve seen a wide range of other comedians do it. Most Filipino families are close-knit. Mine is. I found some of my material in some funny life experiences. Also, I never call it “making fun” of my family. Maybe “joking about” them, but “making fun” sounds like something a bully does.

TF: How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be comedian?
AT: I was doing standup for two years before my parents found out. My dad found out by Googling my name! He called me up and was like, ‘Guess what? There’s a Filipino comedian named Air Tabigue. Do you know him?’ When I told him it was me, he wasn’t disappointed but he was concerned. I still remember the first show he came to see me. He looked nervous for me, but when he saw the crowd starting to laugh he had a proud look on his face. And afterwards he was telling everyone, Yeah, that’s my son! Felt pretty good. My Mom likes that I have some jokes about her. She says it’s like having a song written about you.

TF: How’d you get discovered?
AT: I’m still trying to get discovered. I feel I haven’t made it that far, yet.
I started doing stand up at open mics, tea houses, laundromats, museums, bar basements. Then started doing shows at comedy clubs and started to hit some colleges too. Also when I started comedy, I also befriended a guy named Jami Gong, who is the producer of Takeout Comedy, which started in New York and is now a full-time comedy club in Hong Kong. Jami took me on tour to some of his shows around the States. From then on, I did get other gigs.

TF: Laundromats? You cracked jokes while people were washing clothes?
AT: Pretty much. There’s this place in California called BrainWash. It’s a café and laundromat. Someone asked me to do a set there and I did.

TF: How did you introduce yourself to the FilAm community.
AT: I started to perform at Filipino events and conferences, parades, benefit shows, barrio fiestas and so on. Today, I still do comedy wherever I can, from small places and small crowds to big venues and packed audiences. Filipino shows and non-Filipino shows. For me, stage time is stage time. It helps me get better and there’s always something new to learn.

With sons Silver, Tanner and Asher

TF: Were you funny as a kid?
AT: Growing up in Long Island, there was hardly any Asian or Filipino. In school, it was me and this other girl: my sister. Yes, it was predominantly a white neighborhood. And for me to fit in, I felt I needed to be funny. I was always cracking jokes, telling stories, playing pranks. In high school I was voted “most dramatic,” and I wasn’t even in any drama class. I guess it was the way I told stories and got people’s attention.

TF: Define funny.
AT: Funny is something that makes someone laugh. Standup comedy isn’t easy. It’s not like making your friends laugh, cuz your friends know you already. On stage, it’s strangers you are talking to and you have a few minutes to get their attention and get them laughing. Standup is not about the joke itself, but about the emotion, stage presence and animation behind it. That’s the challenge!

TF: How has ethnic humor evolved over the years?
AT: I believe Margaret Cho and others have paved the way for other ethnic comics. And comedians like Russell Peters and Jo Koy have really turned it up and brought it mainstream. But there are other ethnic comics I know today that don’t rely on just ethnic jokes but just pure funniness.

TF: Who’s your favorite comedian, American and Filipino.
AT: I really don’t have just one favorite. American wise, there’s Dave Chapelle, Demetri Martin, Aries Spears, Brian Regan. Filipinos, I like Rex Navarrete, Jo Koy, Joey Guila, Kevin Camia.

TF: Is Jerry Seinfeld funny?
AT: Yes, but I liked his beginning years more. When people hear Jerry Seinfeld’s name they automatically think “comedian” or “funny.” I actually did a show at Gotham Comedy Club and Jerry Seinfeld walked in and did a surprise guest set. When he got on stage, the crowd erupted. He was trying new material. Honestly, I thought some of his new material was just OK. But the crowd was cracking up like crazy mostly because he is Jerry Seinfeld. That, or maybe because the crowd was just drunk.

TF: Is Charlie Sheen funny?
AT: He’s awesome. I think he’s great.

TF: How would you describe your comedy?
AT: I would call it observational with a splash of animation! It’s the way I present things. You’ll feel what I’m experiencing. When I talk about my parents you’ll get that live from me when I deliver my jokes.

TF: What is unique about Filipino humor? Do Americans get it?
AT: Like other ethnicities, it’s some of the stereotypes that make it unique. I try to keep a balance of Filipino humor and everyday humor. And yes, Americans actually do get some of the Filipino jokes. It’s not like years before when people didn’t even know what a Filipino was. America has become such of melting pot today and Americans have opened up to other cultures. Schools today are now filled with different backgrounds. I’m sure most Americans today have at least one Filipino friend.

TF: I like your joke about your mom warning you as a kid that if you swallowed a fruit seed a tree will grow out of your tummy. But instead of being terrified, you said, ‘WTF’? I thought that was funny.
AT: Yeah, that’s at Hunter College.

TF: Tell me about your family.
AT: My mother was a nurse at Long Island Jewish Hospital and my father was an auditor. Both are retired now. My mom’s from Pampanga and my dad’s from Manila. My dad started out at the mailroom and retired with the title of vice president of an auditing company, Rosenthal. My older sister Arlene is a teacher. My wife’s a nurse. Her name’s Amalia and we have three sons: Silver, 8; Tanner, 6, and Asher, 4.

TF: Are your sons bilingual?
AT: I was born here so I don’t really speak Tagalog that much. But my wife speaks Tagalog and she’s teaching them, but they’re like, ‘Whaaaaat’?

Air Tabigue will have a show March 25 at Laugh Lounge on the Lower East Side. On April 12, he is hosting a fundraiser for Japan featuring Asian American humorists led by Rio, a popular Japanese standup comic in New York. His website is www.aircomedy.com.


  1. If you haven’t witnessed Air Tabigue on stage – you need to!!! He brings to the stage a hilarious spin on culture, life, family, and events that the audience loves. Whether he is hosting an event or just on stage for a stand up routine, this man lights up the stage. We have been honored to work with him on several occasions and have never been disappointed. His vast talents appeal to a broad audience and his act maintains that “edge” while still being appropriate for the crowd at hand. Catch him at his next show or book him for a show.. YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED!

  2. Air Comedy wrote:

    […] Also I wrapped up an interview with a new FIL-AM online Magazine…..Its called THEFILAM.NET…..lol But had fun answering her questions. Check it out below ARTICLE […]

  3. […] The lineup of performers also includes Asia’s Queen of Jazz Annie Brazil and her daughter Rachel Anne Wolfe-Spitalleta; singer-comedian Jojo Mabolo; and standup comic Air Tabigue. […]

  4. philippine camia flower wrote:

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: