TOMS RIVER, N.J. – Filipinos are known to smile, laugh or even joke in the midst of tragedies. To smile after a typhoon or an earthquake is not unusual for Filipino survivors.
When it comes to making people smile, there’s one Filipino-American that immediately comes into mind.
“Comedy is an inherent ability of being Filipino. In so many ways, I think it’s one of the major survival aspects of our nature. I just decided to turn that into a profession,” said standup Filipino American comic Rex Navarette.
He is known as the first Asian American, a Filipino at that, to sustain a career in making people laugh.
He said, “They pay me to have fun. It’s a nice little relationship. But yeah, it’s that that keeps me going.”
Through standup comedy shows, Navarette has been educating America about Pinoy culture, history, and how to understand the Filipino accent since 1989.
One of his favorite characters in his jokes is his Filipino mom.
Even Philippine boxing champ Manny Pacquiao is not spared from his hilarious parodies.
“Filipinas! Thirdry, thirdry of all I’m just doing my jab, doing my jab, left jab, right jab, above jab and below jab,” said Navarette doing his impression of the Pacman.
This California native has settled in Portland, Oregon but he continues to perform all over the US and the Philippines.
After 26 years in the business, Navarette continues to hit the crowd with knock out punch lines.
He said, “Chicharon bulaklak, do you eat too much of that, huh? First of all, it’s translated to crispy crunchy flowers. Chicharon – crispy crunchy, bulaklak – flowers. So guess what, people? It’s vegetarian.”
Navarette has also become an inspiration for up and coming Filipino comics to shine in their own right.
“We have one of the most developed senses of humors in the world. That’s what I found out traveling. Pinoy humor is really, wow, quite sophisticated and, you know, really in the gutter, sometimes — which I appreciate,” said Navarette.
Navarette admits standup comedy can be a tough business.
“You gotta get on stage. This is where it counts. You gotta be up on stage for you know, like two hours straight sometimes. Do a two hour show and keep it going. Make it feel like only 20 minutes went by,” Navarette said. “You get to tell your story. I don’t know any other art forms where you get to speak your mind and still entertain.”
Fellow kababayans can be his best audience, after all. Navarette says they have the best laughs – laughs that have carried them not just through the good times, but even through the toughest situations.
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