Why Rex Navarrete Will Someday Be Unfunny

The main selling point of Rex Navarette’s comedy, as is the case with most Filipino-American comedians, is how Filipinos cannot fit in Western society: bad grammar, pronounced accents, bad diction, backwardness.

It’s like how we teach foreign visitors Tagalog phrases and wait for them to mangle the words or use them inappropriately. It’s funny the first few times, but it either gets old fast, or they get so self-conscious that they eventually clam up and talk about how Manila is full of cockroaches and people with no arms and legs.

Cheap laughs from cultural differences will only be funny as long as one culture earnestly tries to adapt to the other. Consider how other immigrant cultures have matured: the Irish used to be the butt of jokes, then the Italians, then the Polish, but nobody really remembers what the jokes were, except perhaps the one about the Polish submarine that had a screen door.

African-Americans, for the longest time, had pretty much the same self-deprecating humor as we do. They poked fun at their backwardness, their blackness, their ignorance. Now, the same jokes could get one killed.

If one culture becomes strong enough to stand on its own, then each punchline will not be funny because it’s true, it’ll just be true. People will go, “Yeah, yeah. Those guys speak differently and they have a bit of trouble adjusting to life here. Yeah. Knock knock.” “Who’s there?”

It could go the other way, too, if we slip into a monoculture where everything and everyone will be the same, then such jokes would have no point.