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This Filipino restaurant hosts comedy and crispy sisig every Wednesday night

Comedy shows at dinner are something everyone loves. Can you imagine good comedy and good food together? Just ask any comedian — it doesn’t happen.

But on Wednesday nights at “Motherland,” a free weekly show inside a Filipino restaurant in Eagle Rock, a minor miracle occurs: great comedy in the dining room of a bustling restaurant, where monstrous oval plates of egg noodle pancit, fatty pork sisig and cans of beer crowd the tabletops even as the audience’s attention is locked on the performers.

Kusina Filipina, a Filipino restaurant in Eagle Rock that serves Filipino cuisine and Wednesday night comedy.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

C.J. Toledano, the show’s creator and a first-generation Filipino American, running a comedy show inside Kusina Filipina has to be part of some grand scheme to connect with his roots, right? “I just saw they had a karaoke stage on Yelp,” Toledano says.

Joking aside: This weekly arrangement, which is very unique in Los Angeles, was formed by a convergence of the Eagle Rock Filipino American community.

Felicia Folkes, an actress and stand-up comedian, takes to the stage on this particular evening. She’s killing it, while the smell of meaty, crispy lumpia billows through the dimly lighted room. Co-owners Jun Miranda and Vener Ramos expedite a rush of food and drinks to the evening’s mostly Filipino customers.

Though small sign holders advertise buckets of Modelo for $24.99, it certainly seems like everybody has instead opted to get tallboys of Red Horse, the extra-strong Filipino lager that’s smooth, sweet and potent. Toledano is seated at the soundboard behind the bar and, in between laughters, he quietly roasts Andrew Orolfo about dessert. BeforeHis set.

A close up of a bowl containing a sweet dessert with a cherry on top.

Halo-halo, defying gravity, at Kusina Filipina restaurant.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Indifferent restaurant owners are often a barrier to comedy-plus dinner. But “Jun [Miranda] was all about it,” Toledano recalls. “He just said, ‘The restaurant is yours on Wednesday nights.’” Miranda corroborates his enthusiasm: “I immediately said yes. Of course, I wanted to help the Filipino community.”

But the show doesn’t work Only Because of their shared interest, it takes the combined experience and knowledge of Toledano as well as his co-hosts Orolfo (also a first-generation Filipino American).Rob Haze ( “I have a specific vision for the show and the comedians who do it. [I want] people I’m fans of,” Toledano says about booking comedians.

“There’s math to it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It can be quite exciting. Comics come in many styles. So many different styles.”

“Motherland” is starting to attract a wider audience outside of the Pinoy community. “This year I noticed more non-Filipinos coming into the restaurant,” Miranda says.

Many of these customers are also trying Filipino cuisine for the first time. Even Toledano has reconnected with it.

“I hated all of this food growing up because my parents forced me to eat it,” admits Toledano, a self-described “ ’90s kid eating garbage” who grew up in Erie, Pa. “Jun knows I’m pretty Americanized. My parents ate Filipino food for every dinner, and I was eating bagel bites.”

Consider that comedy club food is typically similarly monotonous — a domain ruled by washed-out nachos, uninspired chicken tenders, Sysco-driven quesadillas and the stank of dirty fryer oil. But here at “Motherland,” all the starkly bright, funky and fatty flavors of Filipino food are as electric as the performances onstage.

A plate of pork chunks and cubed peppers, topped with jalapeno slices.

Pork sisig at Kusina Filipina restaurant in Eagle Rock.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Crispy sisig is made by deep-frying chopped pork belly until it’s golden brown, then tossing it in brightly acidic and fruity calamansi juice, diced onion, bell pepper, ginger and, for good measure, chicken liver spread. Dinakdakan, a combination of grilled and boiled pork belly, is mixed with onions, peppers — and mayonnaise. Although traditional dinakdakan recipes call to use pork brains, mayo can be used as a delicious substitute. It warmly resonates and is great for bringing along to a picnic. Sticky chicken Adobo is dark and bitey. It comes with quail egg, fried potatoes, and is usually served with quail egg. Tangy souring agents tame the fat-forward funk of Kusina’s homestyle Filipino menu, which is lengthy.

Halo-halo is a chaotic, sweetly layered dessert that looks great on a comedy show. It includes ube and flan, macapuno and coconut, fruit preserves and beans, and a thick base of condensed milk. There is something comical about halo halo with its perilous and outrageous structure. The comedians are also involved in the high-wire act, making new jokes as if they were a piece of flan on a Filipino sundae.

“I have no idea why I started a free weekly comedy show. I’m a new dad who has a paying job,” Toledano laughs. Like any comedian, he’s got a self-effacing defense mechanism. After a bit more probing, he finally reveals a more sentimental truth.

“I’m a Filipino guy who grew up in Pennsylvania. I didn’t have many Asian friends. So the show is really killing several birds with one stone — I’m in touch with a culture I was never close to. I’m seeing old friends. New comics. It’s exciting for me.”

For Toledano, “Motherland” is where he’s right at home.

“Motherland” comedy happens 9 p.m. Wednesdays at Kusina Filipina at 4157 Eagle Rock Blvd. Reserve tickets for the show are free motherland-comedy.eventbrite.com.

A man smiles as he talks into a microphone.

Ahmed Al-Kadri takes the mic during “Motherland,” the Wednesday night comedy show at Kusina Filipina.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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