Rex Navarette brings down the house at Fil-Am fundraiser | Global News

Rex Navarette brings down the house at Fil-Am fundraiser

/ 12:05 AM June 29, 2016


Rex Navarette on Comedy Store stage. CECILE OCHOA

HOLLYWOOD — A good mix of Filipino Americans across generations filled to capacity the world famous Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard last June 15 to share laughs with Rex Navarette and his comedian friends and raise funds for a Filipino community institution.


Billed as “Laughs for SIPA,” the special event was a benefit for the 42-year-old community organization Search to Involve Pilipino Youths (SIPA) based in historic Filipino Town in 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 classic jokes from his DVDs “Hella Pinoy,” “Badass Madapaka!,” “Komik Organic,” among others.

“I like to use my talent as a comic to benefit programs such as this in LA,” he told “I brought in today’s show some of the best Filipino comics from both North and Southern California.”

With comedy colleagues

The evening’s lineup included Kevin Camia, Shain Brenden, Niko Santos and special guest Vargus Mason, known as the “Human Cartoon.”

As an opening act Mason, who is 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 crowd knew what to anticipate from Rex, some of them clamoring for “Packers!” referring to his famous SBC Packers skit, where a make believe Fil-Am reporter Emil La Cuesta interviews a Filipino employee “Jojo Enriquez” of a mythical SBC Packing company. Jojo, with a heavy Pilipino accent proudly proclaims, “We’re the best packers in the world (emphasis on P), we’ll pack anything, we pack a lot of things–books, plants, animals. We packed more animals than Noah!” It’s his exaggerated “Pinoy” accent that endears him to his audience.


The group with brothers Gus and Jerry Papa (of the famous Papa Ketchup company) from San Fernando Valley were just excited to see Rex’s live performance and to support the SIPA fundraiser.

“We follow him on YouTube, he is very popular among the older immigrants because they relate to his Fil-Am experiences growing up in the U.S.,” said Jerry.

Jorge Bustamante of Mission Hills said he likes following Rex when he is in town; he also follows another Filipino comic, Jokoy.

Gags galore

When asked what their favorite Navarette gag is, they almost uniformly replied, “the Packers and the blocks (meaning, 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.


Comedians with Rex Navarette (center) include Kevin Camia, Vargus Mason, Shain Brenden. CECILE OCHOA

The audience familiar with him doesn’t seem to get tired of his jokes about his mother, his ESL (which he calls “English as a Stupid Language”) teacher, his “Uncle Boy.” “Why is every man called “boy” in the Philippines?

When switches from his smooth American accent to unmistakable “Pilipino” the audience simply adores the self-effacing humor. Rex mirrors many of the immigrants’ experiences and their ability to laugh at themselves, remembering their early days in America. His favorite is poking fun at religion, frequently shifting characters and voices between Jesus and Satan as they confront her church-going mother.

One classic joke, perhaps his favorite, is about his mother who lives in San Francisco and who doesn’t fail to text him even though he has moved to Portland.

“Every Monday with no fail, she calls me at seven in the morning, asking if went to ‘chirts’ yesterday,” referring to one of the most commonly mispronounced English words by old timers. This doesn’t fail to bring the house down, drawing laughter especially from the younger members who could empathize with 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!” Rex quipped

“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.”

‘Glow in the dark hot dogs’

A crowd favorite 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 spaghetti outside 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 (banana-tomato ketchup), and a whole bag of sugar and mixed 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!

“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!”

Rex said he likes helping community groups like SIPA, now headed by Dorothy Gamoning. The organization provides health and human services and teaches community economic development.


SIPA supporters in the audience: Yey Coronel, FSGI Executive Director Gus Papa, Jerry Papa, Jorge Bustamante. CECILE OCHOA

SIPA was started in the ‘70s by foremost Southland leader Royal Morales and others for “Pilipino youth.” Its former executive director Joel Jacinto is now one of Los Angeles’ Public Works commissioners.

The acts of Rex’s Fil-Am contemporaries were spiced up with common experiences of growing up “brown” in America. Shain Brenden, who traded his military uniform for stage comedy, started with: “So I look familiar to you? You see me in many Mc Donald commercials – I’m medium brown and not so black in color.”

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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 with SIPA, said Rex has always been a supporter of FilAm Arts’ celebrations, which have featured him in the past. The comic called out the names of SIPA Board of Directors members on stage including Cirilo Pinlac, Faith Santillan, Stephanie Uy, Jessica del Mundo, Dj Icey Ice and Lyle Del Mundo.

TAGS: Filipino American comedians, Rex Navarette

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