Figuring out who you are isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey, because there’s no true terminus. You can travel as far as you like and engage new people and cultures, but it’s the internal processing of those experiences, which continue each day, that bring us closer to who we are. Comedian James Roque jokes that he is the Filipino step-son of New Zealand comedy, but he is so much more than that. Having migrated from the Philippines 20 years ago, his comedy has always hinted towards his grappling of the concept as other. In Boy Mestizo, Roque goes all in and reflects on his first trip back to the Philippines, and the result is an award-worthy hour of comedy.
With impeccable structure that provides a seamless narrative, Boy Mestizo is a masterful construction. No moment is wasted, and no joke is out of place. With some light crowd work upon their entry, Roque’s ease and desire to genuinely connect and share his story sets a tone which allows him not only perform in symbiotic cohesion with his audience, but also drop truths without any forced sense of emotional weight. They work, because he’s already put the work in. In one particular moment, Roque has the room as silent as to hear a pin drop, before releasing the tension by simply flipping the concept from a tragic to comedic perspective.
What makes the show so profound, however, is its accessibility. Roque may be telling a very personal story, and exploring a very specific set of stereotypes and experiences, which he acknowledges and explains to those who have not shared them, but the theme he has wrapped them in is threaded throughout, and comes together for all to hear. In doing so, he has found complexity in simplicity, and struck the vein of his comedic pulse.