Kevin Camia
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Kevin Camia

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The best kept secret in music


"Saving lives – one laugh at a time"

by Carina Woudenberg, staff producer
February 28, 2008 1:07 PM

They say laughing benefits your health.

But at the Asian American Donor Program’s “Laugh for Lives,” a comedy show performed Feb. 22, which featured professional Asian American comics, including headliner Rex Navarette, audience members were actually helping to benefit the health of others by supporting a bone marrow and stem cell donor program.

Five hundred people attended the event — a full house for El Camino High School’s Little Theater. According to volunteers, tickets were sold out three days before the show, and those hoping to purchase tickets at the door were turned away.

The AADP reported receiving just under 100 new potential donors at the Laugh for Lives show — about half of what they were shooting for. However, Asia Blume, recruitment director for AADP, remained optimistic.

“We’re already putting suggestions together for next year’s show,” she said. “Overall it was a huge success.”

At least three of the event’s comedians are former SF State students, including Navarrete, Tessie Chua and Kevin Camia. SF State professor Dan Begonia, who said he remembered teaching Camia and Navarrete, required his Psyche and Behavior of Pilipinos class attend the event.

“I think it gives students an opportunity to actively participate in something that’s worthwhile, that has nobility and purpose to it,” Begonia said. “I’m sending 60; I wish I could send more.”

Members of SF State’s Asian Student Union and Chi Rho Omicron, a Filipino fraternity on campus, said they were aware of the influence Navarette had on SF State’s campus politics approximately 20 years before and both helped sponsor the event. The ASU has worked with the donor program in the past with bone marrow drives on campus.

“We’ve had a light history with them, helping them flyer out their events,” said Cory Wong, ASU internal public relations coordinator and sophomore at SF State. “But this is the first time we’ve co-sponsored the events.”

Wong noted that the show would be interesting to a lot of students on the university’s diverse campus because of many ethnically based jokes.

“I think it really inspires people who to go to the show to get involved with the Asian American Donor Program,” he said. “Not only that, but maybe inspired by the comedians to find ways to get involved with the community and at the same time put on a great show for people to see.”

Lawrence Hermano, a member of SF State’s Chi Rho Omicron chapter, said his fraternity helped sponsor Naverrete a few years ago, in a sold-out show in McKenna Theatre.

“He’s actually a really huge entity in the Filipino community,” Hermano said. “We’ve actually been waiting for him to do another big show.”

The Asian American Donor Program, based in Alameda, has been around since 1989. It was founded by Jonathan Leong after two of his Asian American friends developed leukemia. At the time there were about 120 Asian donors on the national registry. Now, Blume said they have more than 400,000, but that’s still not enough.

“About 60 percent of all Asian patients today will not find a matching donor in the registry,” Blume said. “Whereas Caucasian patients will, about 80 percent of the time, find a donor simply because there’s over 5 million Caucasians in the database. In trying to find a match, the program looks to match a donor’s tissue type with a patient’s. The tissue type is based on a set of genetic markers.

“Technically, you could find those same genetic markers in somebody of another race,” Blume said. “But the likelihood is small.”

The idea for Laugh for Lives started when Alan Maravilla approached the AADP during one of the program’s drives. Maravilla had a connection with Camia and after some discussions “it kind of just ballooned from there,” Blume said. “We contacted all these Asian comedians and they all said ‘yeah, we’ll do it.’ That’s how it came to be the first comedy show.”

“We definitely want to make this a yearly thing,” Blume said of the comedy show. “I really hope people will register to be donors because it can definitely save lives. I know we’ve saved over 130 so far.”

Before the show, Navarrete said that he’s “still a working comic at heart” and is very appreciative of his fan base. Navarrete, who is currently living in Hawaii, has a large following in the Philippines.

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years and it seems like the formula’s been working,” he said.

Navarrete grew up in San Francisco, attending South San Francisco High School and later, SF State. The cause behind the show he says is also something “close to heart.”

“I have a really close friend whose son passed away from leukemia just last year,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that I was here for this.”

For more information or to register as a donor go to - Golden Gate XPress


Still working on that hot first release.



Kevin Camia prides himself in being a part of the great tradition of stand up comedy. He has performed throughout the country and is quickly gaining national exposure after years of honing his craft at clubs and colleges. He has been featured on Comedy Central's "Live at Gotham", Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, AZN's Asia Street Comedy and the San Francisco Sketchfest. His comedy is a mix of dry wit, strange observations and social satire delivered in a "tell it like it is" performance. He constantly challenges himself in writing new and original material with enough twists and sharp turns to make any audience have a great time.

TV Credits
Comedy Central's Live at Gotham
AZN Street Comedy

Kevin has worked with...
Louis CK, Dave Chapelle, Bobby Slayton, Paul Mooney, David Alan Grier, Patrice O'Neal, Tom Rhodes, Craig Robingson, Arj Barker, Bobby Lee, Jimmy Pardo, Al Madrigal, John Heffron, Ty Barnett, Robert Hawkins, Josh Blue, Dat Phan, Jo Koy, Ralphie May