I’ve always been okay with being average-looking, because I knew that I was funny. Funny, to me, was the superior trait (a delusion, maybe) and I valued making a room laugh over dropping jaws because of my looks. Granted, I’ve never had jaws drop over my looks, so the feeling could be underrated to me.
Comedy became an important fixture of my life, then, mostly because of my self-proclaimed funny gene and also because I grew up with a lot of it. My dad’s favorite show has and always will be The Simpsons, and I felt real smug knowing that I was allowed to watch it when kids my age weren’t even allowed to see Tom and Jerry “because of the violence.” In the consumption of the animated Simpson family’s stories, to my graduation to romantic-comedy, dirty slapsticks, the Tagalog farces that our helpers loved watching, and even stand-up specials, I became more and more aware of how hard it is to actually be funny. Sure, you can be funny, but to make jokes that are truly hilarious means having to explore your bad side, your darkness, your farts, and even the parts that only your gynecologist gets to see. To be funny, is to be curious and intelligent.
This is something I find lacking in our local comedy scene here, especially when we consider the state of stand-up. It’s almost like operating a robot and expecting it to be sentient — sure, you can tell it to hug you but only because it knows how, not because it wants to show you affection. We have the appreciation for what is funny, but hardly any intention to turn it into something productive. Smart comedy is one that can make us realize that something is wrong and needs to be changed. When you think of how comedy is here, there is hardly any introspection and simply a desire to tickle your funny bone.
The problem is that comedy here is almost entirely homogenized. Ever heard of a truly successful Pinay comic yet?
I believe that the problem is that comedy here is almost entirely homogenized. Number one, it’s saturated with men — ever heard of a truly successful Pinay comic yet? Comedy bars like Zirkoh usually have gay comedians who are actually funny, but it turns stale quickly when the agenda turns into roasting the audience. We don’t have enough female comedians who don’t play into stereotypical funny-looking characters, who use their humor as a platform to push forward important issues. Where are the jokes about what a farce our Reproductive Health Law is? When are we gonna talk about how ironic it is that our public officials are the first to make sexual harassment jokes? All of these are sadly absent in our popular culture.
Second, there is a serious lack of variety when it comes to the kind of humor we consume. We enjoy funny movies starring Vice Ganda (because well, he is funny sometimes), but we have very little appreciation for satirical work. In fact, the idiots in any comments section in the Philippines have successfully twisted the real meaning to “satire.” We have no strong political comedy here — most criticism is often delivered straightforward, sometimes angry, and always met with equally vitriolic sentiment. There is no subtlety, no art to it, even. Perhaps the greatest satirist we have now is comedian Ethel Booba, via her Twitter account, where she takes no prisoners when it comes to her 140-character takedowns. This includes everyone by the way, from President Duterte, Senator Pacquiao, Tito Sotto, and Mocha Uson. Save us, Ethel. Charot!
When it comes to comedy here, there’s certainly a lot of work to do. So where do we start? By making them, of course. I talk a lot of smack about things not being funny enough here, but am I doing anything? I’d certainly like to try. And I wish that more people would too, because that would just create a whole new ball game for the losers who keep getting benched. There are pockets of humor here and there, and we should keep supporting it. Comedy Cartel and Spit Manila are just a few groups that do improv comedy. (It gets a little awkward sometimes, but there’s always an audience for it.) Patronizing the kind comedy that not only makes jokes but tells real stories (take Die Beautiful at the Metro Manila Film Festival last year, for example) is also a start. If you’re looking for a particular brand of funny, then showing interest is a good place to start.