James Roque is one of those comedians that really stick with you. I have fond memories of watching James do stand-up at The Classic last year, so I eagerly jumped at the chance to review the funniest comedian on the NZ circuit right now (well, in my opinion). Boy Mestizo is a show that pokes fun at the casual racism he encountered while growing up Filipino in a white country, and in contrast how staggeringly well his ‘Le White’ girlfriend was treated on their latest trip to the Philippines. Don’t worry middle-class white people, James’ insights on causal racism are delivered through hilarious anecdotes, so you won’t feel awkward with the subtle confrontation.
While shuffling into the intimate Basement Theatre, I was startled by seeing James up the front welcoming us in like a cinema usher and pointing out the good seats. So humble. James also handled his own music and videos – yes, this show is so more than just stand up comedy – it’s an audiovisual extravaganza that also finds a way to cram in some seductive dance moves and Karaoke for good measure. My personal highlight was a unique rendition of Usher’s ‘Confessions part II’ and a video on the benefits of skin whitening products. Yes, really. It’s a thing… and I’ve used it.
On a serious note, James Roque is not the sort of comedian that shies away from letting us know what’s on his mind and through Boy Mestizo he really swings for the fences. The show is cleverly put together – after the laughter subsides, you are confronted with the concept of white supremacy and how much of a deep seeded problem it is in the Philippines, and somewhat on our shores too.
As a Kiwi Filipina myself, I can assure you each gag, accent and impersonation was right on point. While my non-Filipino partner was laughing along with his jokes (they’re funny you’ll laugh too), I couldn’t help but reflect on the hidden layers to the material that only I and the other Filipinos were likely to cotton on to. He has unashamedly shone his comedic light on little titbits of my Pinoy childhood that I had, up to this point, considered normal, but when told through the incisive lens of a comedian, turned out to be super messed up. Hands up who else was scolded for their skin tanning in summer?! I could sense the other Filipinos in the crowd having the same awkward epiphany. Either way, my partner and I both enjoyed immensely but for different reasons.
I’ve been to a number of comedy shows as a reviewer of the NZ International Comedy festival but none have managed to captivate the whole audience for the entire duration of the show. He kept things inoffensive yet culturally accurate, upbeat and so down to earth. He had us laughing, thinking, and even crying along with him on the night. James Roque’s brilliant hour of stand-up deserves sold-out audiences. Book your tickets now.
James – Salamat sa libreng tickets!
What: Boy Mestizo
Who: James Roque
When: 14-18 May
Where: Basement Theatre