Comedy Manila revolutionizes Pinoy comedy one show at a time

Text by: Kimmy Baraoidan
Photos by: Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan

(L-R) Nonong Ballinan, Red Ollero, James Caraan, and Victor Anastacio of Comedy Manila outside the NCAS building inside the UPLB Campus before their show starts. (Photo by: Chris Quintana)

(L-R) Nonong Ballinan, Red Ollero, James Caraan, and Victor Anastacio of Comedy Manila outside the NCAS building inside the UPLB campus before their show starts. (Photo by: Chris Quintana)

The multipurpose hall at the CAS Annex 2 building in UPLB quickly filled up, as students poured in, eager to watch Comedy Manila Goes to Elbi, the first ever Comedy Manila show in the campus. Some professors also came to watch—they were easily noticeable because their graying hair stood out from a sea of black-haired students. The back-row seats were filled up first, but the front-row seats remained empty. Perhaps audience members thought they would be roasted by the comedians if they sat in front—still a common practice in local stand-up comedy shows. I, too, fear the roasting that oftentimes occurs in most comedy bars—a living nightmare for people like me who have introverted tendencies. Imagine being called out by the stand-up comedian and hearing a litany of exaggerated physical flaws that he or she sees in you, and then drowning in the deafening laughter of the audience—it must be mortifying. That’s why I don’t go to shows like that. I just opt to watch them on my laptop, from the comfort of my own home where the only ones who could judge me are my cats.

GB Labrador (Photo by: Chris Quintana)

GB Labrador (Photo by: Chris Quintana)

GB Labrador, the host and one of the performers that night, noticed this. So before the show started, he oriented the audience on what Comedy Manila shows were all about. He assured the audience that they would not make fun of anybody’s physical appearances. GB, who was first runner-up in the Hong Kong International Comedy Festival, said that their brand of comedy is the point-of-view, observational type: humorous musings about their own experiences and about their own personal observations of people, of fads and trends, of current events, of society—similar to what internationally renowned veteran Filipino stand-up comedian Rex Navarrete does in his shows. GB then encouraged the audience to fill up the front seats for optimal entertainment, and they hesitantly obliged. They didn’t regret transferring to the front-row seats. Not one bit.

Comedy Manila Goes to Elbi featured six comedians from Comedy Manila—Victor Anastacio, Nonong Ballinan, Alex Calleja, James Caraan, GB Labrador, and Red Ollero. Each had their own style of stand-up comedy unique to their personalities, complemented by their own quirks and own humorous ways of seeing the world. It didn’t feel like a two-hour show at all, as the audience roared with laughter all throughout and applauded every now and then. Even the professors who were at the show were grinning and laughing their hearts out—proof that Comedy Manila’s brand of humor transcends all ages.

Comedy Manila is a local production house that started in 2013. “We felt that our local comedians needed a stage to showcase their humor,” said one of its founders, GB, in an interview with The Alternative. He added that there is a need for more open-mic shows where aspiring and seasoned comedians can work on their jokes. “Our main goal is to promote stand-up comedy, where you will see comedians perform their original jokes—to showcase Filipino humor at its finest, through observational stand-up comedy.”

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