James Caraan and Jeannie Lacay represent the promising future of Philippine comedy

On Hoy! Bibig Mo, the first Filipino original series on streaming platform iflix, viewers are given a taste of what the local standup comedy scene has to offer. Hosted by Ramon Bautista, the uncensored and edgy eight-episode series features 24 comedians ushering in a new era for Philippine comedy. The talents, newcomers and familiar faces perform original routines and even take part in some improv. It’s the crazy comedy club you’ve always wanted, right in your pocket and at your fingertips.

Young STAR recently hit the iflix offices and met two of the comedians on Hoy! Bibig Mo, who both had us cracking up in no time. We might have just found your new favorite wisecracks — but we’ll let you be the judge. Read on below.

James Caraan

When he was younger, James Caraan’s mother would go around the house, declaring that certain appliances — the TV, the computer — needed to be turned off because they were hot to the touch. “Lahat ng mainit, pinapatay,” says the comedian. “Kaya natakot ako sa nanay ko nung nilagnat ako, eh.”

It’s his penchant for riffing on tales from his childhood that won him third place on It’s Showtime’s “Funny One” competition, where he was known as “Ang Batang ’90s.” As a teen, he would host events around his town, but had to battle a major case of stage fright. After discovering standup, he started seeking it out locally, and found, to his delight, a collective called Comedy Manila that was dedicated to it specifically. At 23, he started participating at open mics.

Among his influences are Rene Requiestas, Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor, but it was Russell Peters who first opened his eyes to standup. “Naengganyo ako (sa kanya) kasi maganda ’yung ginagawa niya, hindi nang-ookray, hindi nanlalait,” he recalls.

He remembers early shows with Comedy Manila, where they would still have to explain what standup was and how it was different from the styles of, say, Vice Ganda. “Merong mga time na wala talagang umuupo sa harap, lahat nasa likod,” he says. Now, he notices an increase in awareness and interest — people want more.

Ang term nila sa ginagawa namin, ‘real talk,’” says James. “May touch of reality doon sa material.” The audience no longer wants slapstick. “Gusto nila ’yung may mapapaisip sila. ’Yung, ‘Oo nga, ’no. Relatable.”

His own style is conversational: stream-of- consciousness spiels full of wry observations. Aside from childhood, he touches on the topics of singlehood, dating and how ridiculous it gets living in the age of social media. And he gets the laughs, because people get it.

James is particularly grateful for the platform provided by Hoy! Bibig Mo. “Ang ganda na napro-promote nila ang Philippine standup comedy.” The edge of Pinoy standup, he says, is its use of brief setups and Armalite-like delivery of punchlines — a blessing in disguise, thanks to impatient audiences. “Kapag hindi ka pa nagbibitiw ng punchline in 20 seconds, mag-uusap na sila,” he explains.

When I ask him what makes him laugh, he sheepishly shares that it’s his own humor. “Kapag gumagawa ako ng mga jokes ko, dapat ang unang tatawa, ako,” he says. “Kasi ’pag hindi ako natawa, wala akong push para i-perform pa siya.”

Jeannie Lacay

Jeannie Lacay had been a long-time fan of Comedy Manila before she mustered the nerve to try performing herself. “Habang pinapanood ko sila, sabi ko, ‘Kaya ko ’to,’” she remembers. “Halos wala silang babae puro d*ck jokes.”

Clutching her newborn son Kirby to her chest, she adds: “Noong una kasi, akala ko, kayang-kaya ko, na parang, ‘Ang dali-dali naman nito.’” But onstage it was different. Jeannie began to question herself; she would cry after the show when nobody laughed. “Hindi siya madali, actually,” she says.

It’s especially difficult, she adds, to make it as a woman in the Philippine comedy landscape, where the audience expects her to be prim and proper and they are irked as soon as something vulgar comes out of her mouth. “Parang, ‘Uy, ano ba naman ’tong babaeng ’to,’” Jeannie says. “Nahihirapan akong magsabi ng mga (explicit jokes).”

But she insists she never wavers. “Kailangan you commit sa jokes mo.”

Shooting Hoy! Bibig Mo was both a challenge and a learning experience for her, having to get up in front of a camera in full makeup. “It’s not my usual self,” she says.

So how does Jeannie stay true to herself in such an unpredictable and exciting business? Through her humor, of course. “Nawawala ’yung consciousness ko ‘pag nasa harapan ako ng stage.” In her anecdotes about her children and her relationship with her significant other — things that are most important to her — she gets to relive her experiences and remember who she is.

These days, she still has doubts before every show. “Iniisip ko, ‘Bakit ko ’to ginagawa?’” she says of her “hobby.” “‘Bakit ko pinapahirapan ’yung sarili ko?’” But after every set, whether she gets people going or she bombs, she only becomes more determined to make them laugh harder. “I want more,” she says.

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