In a strip mall on Eagle Rock Boulevard, locals and comedians congregate weekly to eat Filipino food and perform stand-up at Motherland, a free stand-up comedy show at Kusina Filipina every Thursday at 9 p.m. The show is produced by Michael Joyce, CJ Toledano and Rob Haze. Their inaugural show was Aug. 8, and their lineups have included comedians from NBC, Comedy Central, HBO and Fox.
During the day, Haze is a screenwriter, Toledano is the head writer and creative director of the Bleacher Report and Joyce is the digital marketing manager of The Week. But on Thursday nights, Haze entertains the audience, Michael is the head producer and Toledano promotes the event, according to Toledano. The producers said they connected in New York and eventually all decided to move to Los Angeles within the last seven years. This week, the host was Haze, and the lineup included comedians Joey Villagomez, Ryan Dalton, Lindsey Adams, Andrew Orolfo, Carmen Christopher and Kyle Kinane.
Kyle Kinane, a comedian who has performed on Comedy Central, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Conan, was the headliner at the show. Kinane said they came in contact through Toledano’s fiancé, Megan Gailey, when Kinane performed with her in 2018. Kinane has been doing stand-up comedy for 20 years, but it was his first time performing at Motherland or at any Filipino restaurant.
“Comedy exists everywhere. It can. So yeah, it’s not different because there’s a stage, mic and good lights. I’ve done comedy in parking lots, fields and abandoned buildings. It’s like music — you can set it up anywhere,” Kinane said.
According to Kinane, his goal for the night was to make sure everyone in the crowd, from young professionals to older Filipina women, laughed. He said he appreciated the diversity in the audience and that it was why he loves living in California. Kinane, who is originally from the Chicago suburbs, said he used to skateboard and admire old pictures of Venice Beach, and now he gets to live his dream.
“I do comedy for a living, and that’s preposterous. I did it because I’m not a career-minded person. I thought I was going to be a warehouse manager, which is what I was. But I did this at night because it’s what made me happy,” Kinane said. “The thing that was making me happy turned into my career. I can’t believe this is how I keep the lights on.”
Aldrin Cornejo is a regular at Motherland. He is originally from Eagle Rock, but he currently lives in Burbank. Cornejo said coming back to Eagle Rock for Motherland brings back a lot of nostalgia because he used to bowl at the bowling alley next door. This was his fourth show. He found out about Motherland through Twitter.
“One of the fun things about coming out to these shows is seeing someone you don’t recognize, and that you’re learning about new people. But at the same time, there’s so much talent in town, so it’s cool that this show is fairly new and can get people like Kyle Kinane,” Cornejo said.
Cornejo said he followed Kinane on social media after going to his show at Meltdown Comics in 2013. Whenever Cornejo finds a new comedy show that pops up, he always checks it out. Cornejo said he enjoys comedy shows because they are live performances that are not too expensive.
“It’s nice to turn your brain off and laugh. It feels so good to laugh. Everyone’s stressed all the time. Rather than unwinding and watching something on TV, it’s fun watching a live performance,” Cornejo said. “It’s also cool seeing comedians work the same jokes and sets over and over until they refine it. And then when you watch an hour special with them, you’re like, ‘I remember that joke. And wow, it’s gotten so much better.’”
Jun Mirande is the co-owner of Kusina Filipina, which he opened in 2013. Kusina Filipina is a Filipino restaurant that serves dishes such as lomi, chicken adobo and bulalo soup. According to Mirande, he did not expect the show to be as successful as it is. He said the restaurant has attracted many new people since Motherland started seven weeks ago. Many of them are not Filipino, and it is usually their first time tasting Filipino food. However, Mirande said some of the new customers have been celebrities as well.
“I didn’t have any idea,” Mirande said. “One time, I saw a lady who was an actor sitting over there, and someone pointed it out to me. She was just sitting here. She was just a normal customer watching the show.”
According to Mirande, this collaboration began when Motherland producers were dining at his restaurant. They told Mirande they liked the stage and asked if they could have their stand-up comedy show in the space. Mirande said he was open to the idea because, as far as he knew, there was not another comedy show like it in Los Angeles.
“I love it, and people love it. I believe that if they want to continue, I will support it,” Mirande said. “I hope that they grow and that there’s more media and collaboration. I want people to know that there’s something like this here.”
Joyce said they like producing the shows because each producer can get stage time and have a lot of fun with friends. Also, Toledano said all of them have been performing comedy for so long, they know how to run a show and whom to invite.
“Back when we started, we used to produce shows and we would use a lot of marketing tricks, like telling people to come to the show because of great food. Now all of our friends that came up with us are on TV and movies and writing for shows,” Toledano said “But they’re just buddies we started with a decade ago. So we’re in a good position in our careers to have a show like this.”
Haze said Motherland was intended to create a comfortable space for comedians to practice their comedy. According to Haze, they want to encourage new and old performers to try out new ideas before performing for a larger audience or on a TV special. Toledano said it is fun to have a weekly event where their comedian friends can relax and work on their jokes.
“Two weeks ago, we had Chris Redd, who started with us in Chicago. He’s on SNL. And he did a roast, and he came and he practiced all his roast jokes a week and a half before he did it on TV. It’s great catching up with him, because he’s on SNL and living this crazy life,” Toledano said.
According to Toledano, most of the comedy clubs in Los Angeles are in West LA. He has lived in Los Angeles on and off for almost seven years, and he noticed a couple of years ago that there was no consistently good comedy show in Highland Park or Eagle Rock. In response, Toledano said he and the other producers wanted to make sure they consistently booked good acts and picked a venue that supported the show. Marketing for Motherland is also a big priority, according to Toledano. He said he always posts preview videos to generate hype.
“Hopefully it reaches the comic’s fans, either by just seeing it on social media or by people who are following that performer and they’re like, ‘Oh, I can go and see Kyle Kinane for free at a Filipino restaurant. That’s a wild situation,’” Toledano said.