With the era of Dolphy and vaudeville all but behind us, and with the TVJ era well past its prime, Philippine Comedy continues to thrive through its various forms, and is alive and well.
Wherever you turn, as long as you have a sense of humor, from the crassest to the most thought-provoking, there’s a kind of comedy out there just for you. And since the entry of observational standup comedy into the scene with the likes of Rex Navarette and Jo Koy entered the public consciousness in the early Aughts, Philippine comedy has evolved to accommodate so much more than the slapstick and insult comedy we have all come to know and have a love-hate relationship with.
While the Vice Ganda’s and the Bubble Gang’s continue their dominance in mainstream Philippine comedy, here now are the guys who offer something just a little different, yet are no less important to the still-blossoming Philippine comedy scene. There’s truly something for everybody here.
As the founder of Solid OK, Ryan Puno has turned the concept of sketch comedy on its head and repurposed it for the millennial Filipino. With his internet-friendly approach to comedy and his easygoing style when onstage, Ryan Puno has created waves because he dared to. He will be one of our representatives at the fourth season of Comedy Central’s Stand-up, Asia this year.
Where other finalists of Showtime’s “Funny One” have mostly shown an ability to diversify, the competition’s first grand champion, Ryan Rems, for better or worse, stuck to his guns. Where other people would be content with going full-on mainstream or even making dramatic turns, Ryan Rems decided that it was his unique brand of comedy or bust. And with that, Ryan Rems has made a name for himself because his brand of comedy, despite having won on national television, was never TV-friendly to begin with. He’s like Bob Saget minus the compromise, and that’s the way he wants it, woo!
Hailing straight from the Filipino-American kind of sophisticated observational comedy, Tim Tayag is the one pioneer of the modern scene who stayed in the country. Best known for his observation of cultural touchstones and doing it long before Mikey Bustos and even Jo Koy did, Tim Tayag was a Rex Navarrete contemporary, and has been one of the go-to names for nearly two decades now.
Alex Calleja has brought Pinoy stand-up to the consciousness of the mainstream. You can’t be more influential than that. Being a writer in multiple ABS-CBN shows has given him the opportunity to take his brand of comedy and infuse it in programming, and give opportunities not just for himself but even for his contemporaries to really shine. That he is practically the gatekeeper to mainstream success for comedians of his ilk is a testament both to his clout and his individual skill as a comedian. It also doesn’t hurt that he placed second in the 2016 “Funniest Person In The World” competition.
Often regarded as the premiere standup comic in the country, Mike’s observations never fail to elicit laughs from his audience. With his longevity in the industry and the multiple times he has reinvented himself over the years, one wonders if Mike will ever run out of cards up his sleeve as each time people attempt to write him off, he comes back with a vengeance, better than ever.
One of the founders of Comedy Manila, the group that rose from the early ranks of Tim Tayag’s Comedy Cartel, GB is as good an ambassador as any of Philippine comedy to the rest of the world. With his ability to perform for all types of audiences, and his willingness to bring his unmistakably Pinoy flavor of comedy to everywhere he goes, GB has made waves all over Asia, and has even performed in the Melbourne Comedy Festival, putting himself in rarefied air.
The self-proclaimed internet action star has taken comedy straight into the internet age. Doing YouTube comedy before YouTube comedy was the norm, Ramon Bautista, along with Erning and the late Tado, has turned Strangebrew’s comedic stylings into a cult following that is always on the cusp of mainstream, all without ever losing its edge. From radio to TV to online, it’s Ramon’s sheer tenacity and commitment to being funny that has allowed him to help redefine the likes of Stanley Chi and other popular web-based comedians. He even made Luis Manzano sorta funny, so that’s a massive achievement..
Often known as the father of Philippine improv and more specifically, SPIT Manila, Gabe Mercado has been an ambassador for Philippine comedy on a scale that nobody else has ever accomplished. It’s one thing to be asked to perform in international festivals all over the world – it’s another thing to regularly be putting together these international festivals on home soil, as has been the case with the Manila Improv Festival for years. Not just that, with the establishment of Third World Improv, Gabe has managed to pass down Improv as an art form to the next generation of comedic hopefuls.
With practitioners like Funny One’s second season winner Donna Cariaga owing her victory to her ability to create laughs on the fly, it’s Gabe Mercado who has made a lot of that possible, thanks to taking Improv out of the theater and putting it into everyone’s hearts. The best thing about it is he would never, ever take credit for all this – no matter how much he deserves it.
Who else should be on this list? Share them with us below!