Filipinos' humor part of heritage
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Wayne Harada
Filipinos are natural comedians, say three of the stand-ups in Saturday's "Fil-Am Comedy Jam III" at the Hawaiian Hut.
"I was the class clown while growing up," said Edwin San Juan, a Cerritos, Calif.-based comic for the past 10 years. "I was funny when the doctor first slapped me on the butt."
Joey Guila, of Los Angeles, said he's been a mimic from small-kid time. "I was like a parrot," he said. "I was imitating everyone." When he won the Kings of Comedy competition five years ago, he made laughter his life's calling.
For Shawn Felipe, who lives in Honolulu (but maintains an apartment near the Los Angeles airport to "use as a pit stop"), comedy is a drug that provides a natural high.
"I never thought I'd be at certain places," Felipe said after getting off a flight from Florida to Los Angeles last week. "I was in Tallahassee; now why would I go there?" he wondered out loud.
"This traveling has broadened my horizons, and the travel's free. It's great making people laugh. Across the nation, you realize that people are all the same. You get the same adrenaline rush, and I can't get enough of it."
Joined by local funnyman Mel Cabang and emcee Lanai, the Island 98.5 deejay, San Juan, Guila and Felipe — in separate phone conversations — also said Filipinos are good audiences.
"Filipino jokes work everywhere," said San Juan, even in Iowa, where there are virtually no Filipinos. "When you do Filipino jokes for non-Filipinos, it's more informative than entertaining. But they laugh."
Guila said Filipinos "are just about everywhere, no matter what city I go to." He had just deplaned in New York when he got on his cell to talk about his livelihood and his fans. "I grew up in San Francisco and I'm an American-born Filipino," he said. "But no matter where I go, I always get introduced to somebody who says we're related. 'This is your auntie,' they say — though we've never met."
Felipe, who is a mix of Thai, French, Filipino and Spanish, said his college- and community-theater background helped him succeed. He usually gravitated to comedic roles.
"My first experience with comedy was with Andy (Bumatai) a few years back," he said. "Then Augie (Augie T) took me under his wings and taught me a lot."
He said it's only coincidental that there's a swarm of working Filipino stand-ups. "Filipinos love to sing, they love to dance, they love to have a good time," he said. "But there aren't that many Asian professionals doing stand-up. Maybe 30."
San Juan said he's looking forward to the day when he can buy his mom a Jaguar. "That's when I know I'm successful," he said. "Right now, she drives a Toyota Tercel. She wants a Jag because it's got two gas tanks. Me, I'm in a Honda Accord. The other thing I want to do is get a TV show."
Guila is fond of Hawai'i crowds because of their warmth. "I love the Filipino accent," he said, breaking into a brief demonstration. "There are a lot of ... pauses. You ask a question ... and you wait for an answer."
Sure, it's somewhat of a cliche, but the routine works, he said.
"Then there's Tagalog, which goes 100 miles an hour, and you can only understand one word," he continued, uttering gobbledygook — he doesn't actually speak Tagalog but can capture the sounds, cadence and phrasing.
"There are Filipino jokes," Felipe said. "A lot of my stuff is about my mom, who's Thai, but every time I do Filipino things, people come to me and say it's fresh, refreshing."
He said laughter now is easier to provoke, despite the prevailing angst in the world, whether it's about high gas prices, flooding or the war in Iraq.
"People need to laugh," said Felipe. "And find the brighter side (of daily life). Comedy is a more positive way of thinking."
Reach Wayne Harada at firstname.lastname@example.org.