Eight years ago, Filipino American Rex Navarrete had to make one of the biggest decisions of his life. Pursue a career in the educational health field or follow his dream to make audiences laugh?
Inspired by the likes of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Brian Regan and Chris Rock, Rex Navarrete followed his heart and never looked back.
He was born in Manila, Philippines and moved to Chicago when he was about three. He settled in the California Bay area where he studied at San Francisco State University. Navarrete was in the cinema writing program and noted that his ability to write has helped his confidence in performing on stage.
He had been interested in the comedy scene throughout college and participated in various talent shows, “open mics” and other performance opportunities.
Navarrete also worked full-time in the non-profit sector as a drug counselor and educator in the school district for nine years.
“It was a cool day job but, at night, I still did stand-up. It was a strange kind of balance,” he said.
A few years later in 2004, he and his family move to Hawaii and then back to the mainland, settling in Portland, Oregon. The decision to move back to the west coast was a combination of family and career needs.
“Traveling is a given, you have to put in a lot of miles,” Navarrete said of his mobile career.
Navarrete said his family has been able to understand this comedic passion.
“They understand that this is the real thing and this is what I was meant to do,” he explained.
“My fans have also become family members, too,” he said of his American audiences as well his fan following in the Philippines.
Most of his material is focused on being Filipino American and the Asian American immigrant experience which many of his audiences can relate to. He said there are themes that focus on family, especially parents who speak a different language and the different angles of adapting to a new culture.
Navarrete said he’s still surprised that comedy is what he does for a living; writing jokes and bringing humor into people’s lives.
“The best times are always going into a new city and they really need to laugh — like they’ve been waiting. It feels like I’m not even working and it doesn’t feel like I’m working for it,” he said.
One of the most memorable performances for Navarrete was when he performed for Gloria Arroyo, the former president of the Philippines several years ago at the palace.
“I’ve spent a lot of years writing and performing … I’m still writing and it’s still fun but the older you get, the sharper you have to become in this industry,” he said of his job.
There are a handful of Asian Americans in the comedy scene, he said. Many of Navarrete’s colleagues including Joe Coi are all still performing for audiences around the country.
“Without Margaret Cho and Rob Schneider, there wouldn’t be a face of Asian American comedy,” he said.
“We’re all still doing it, it’s cool to be a part of the whole beginning in San Francisco,” he said.
Navarrete possess an optimistic outlook, which is fitting because he said the field of comedy is a tough business and people require thick skin to survive.
“For every missed opportunity, there were like five new ones,” he said. “This career is all about longevity; the actual journey rather than the finish line.”
Since 1997, Navarrete has released a total of six DVDs and CDs of his live performance recordings. He has been touring the country ever since and will be performing material off his latest DVD, Komik Organik, at the Parlor in Bellevue from June 24 through 26.