Thrilla in Manila

Local comic Rex Navarrete invades the Philippines

How did Navarrete achieve such success? His home base is San Francisco, where he regularly appears at the Punch Line Comedy Club, but he performs wherever there's a Filipino community -- be it in North America or Guam.

At the Sanctum Unmasct, the audience is now clamoring for the Maritess sketch. Navarrete obliges, but he adds a new twist -- Maritess is now working for the X-Men, and she has an ongoing relationship with Wolverine, who she thinks is Filipino because he was in the military.

Such experiments are typical of Navarrete. (He declared tonight's show experimentation night -- since it was free.) Even experiences from this visit have become fodder for his comedy: the Filipino mall security guard whose main weapon is a tiny stick (in actuality, he uses it to inspect bags), fast-food employees who greet you with "Ma'amSir."

Local Boy Makes Good: Comedian Rex Navarrete 
performs to sellout crowds in his native Manila.
BJ Formento
Local Boy Makes Good: Comedian Rex Navarrete performs to sellout crowds in his native Manila.

He delivers his material in a variety of Filipino accents, each with its own intonation and pronunciation. Among them are the voices of fictionalized relatives and acquaintances -- the domineering Mom, Mrs. Scott the overconfident high school teacher, the literal-minded Lola, and the most bastos and popular character of them all, Tito Boy (Uncle Boy).

"Tito Boy! Tito Boy!" shout the young people at the back. Navarrete has just announced that he's about to wrap things up. Following the cue from the audience, he launches into one of his raunchiest spiels, about the uncle who was all wrong for the "birds and the bees" lecture. This is Navarrete at his most bastos, and everyone is hysterical.

When it's over, the audience stands up for a lengthy ovation. Navarrete has performed for almost three hours, and one wonders at his stamina. But he says that being onstage is the easy part. What's important, he says, "is to be inspired by your work."

Is there time for an encore? Not tonight -- but definitely in November. Because of the overwhelming success of his first Manila tour, Navarrete's sure he'll be coming back soon.

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