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The Comedic Voice Of Michael V. Cuts Through All The Noise

The genius behind his brand of entertainment is that it's loud, proud, and always has something to say

by Lamar Roque | Apr 13, 2018

He's the King of Comedic Satire for a reason

These days, it seems like everyone is trying to be funny. A quick virtual stroll through your social media boulevards couldn’t drive this reality home hard enough.

Within a few swipes and scrolls, you’re instantly bombarded with all sorts of silliness that can make you either chuckle, cringe, or both. From GIFs and memes to Snaps and Stories, you slide along the spectrum of mindless and mirthful within a matter of moments.

So then, you quickly tag your loved ones and closest mates and excitedly kick off a powwow pertaining to a post that’s pleased your proclivities. Serve a witty comment here, drop a zinger there, make the material more than what it already is, and even receive some laudatory haha’s. You would jumpstart a whole new conversation and do it all over again as soon as the next big thing comes up. Undeniably, the comedic opportunities for the everyman have become overwhelmingly vast and abundant.

Unsurprisingly, that’s why everybody thinks they could be a comedian, now so more than ever—and there’s really nothing wrong with that. After all, who doesn’t love a good laugh? In fact, some of the best of them would say there’s nothing it can’t fix.

“What I love about comedy is that it makes people laugh," Michael V., the country’s pound-for-pound consummate funnyman says. "Kasi pag tumatawa ka, sumasaya ka. Kahit papano, nakakalimutan mo ang mga problema." This is especially true in the context of the Philippines, a country plagued by traffic, dirty politics, and poverty.  

The Filipino condition has always and forever been a muse for Michael V.’s brand of entertainment in a show business career that spans close to three decades. But, just how did he get started in the business of getting giggles out of an audience? Well, it transpired way before he was doing it in front of the cameras and under the Michael V.-persona, that’s for sure. “Grade 5, sa isang school play. I was supposed to play an old man. Yun palang eh,” he quips, almost how like a seasoned musician would discuss tempo and timing. “Humihingi na ng opportunity para magpatawa.” Born Beethoven Bunagan, that same boy would bring the house down and—in that very second—be bitten by a bug born from the bliss of boisterous belly-laughs. This is the seismic event that would spark his life’s ambition: to put a smile on people’s faces.

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His day-one fans can remember how he busted through the scene with the 1991 breakthrough hit, “Maganda Ang Piliin” (Ayoko ng Panget)—his twist on Andrew E.’s classic “Humanap Ka Ng Panget”. Even at the earliest stages of his foray into the limelight, Michael V. displayed that he had a special knack for putting a comical spin on things—and he has been running with it ever since. Aside from being an original cast member, he is the compass that has been guiding the solidly-sailing, satire-serving ship that is Bubble Gang, the longest-running sketch comedy show in the land, now on its 23rd year. With a ton of accolades accompanied by a share of controversies in the past, the show has managed to keep the inherently fun-loving Filipino audience entertained and, more importantly, engaged.

“Slapstick natatawa pa rin ang tao," he explains. "There is a certain portion of the society na tawang tawa sa mga green jokes. May mga tao na gusto magpa-intelehente na natutuwa sa mga satire. Lahat ng mga bagay na iyon, hindi naming ini-inisang tabi. Lagi naming iniisip na, itong mga elements na ito ang kailangan for the show, so we have a little bit of this and that para naman kahit papaano maitaas naming iyong standard nung comedy dito sa Philippines." And, they have been doing so, exhibiting the bravado, irreverence, and outright foolishness needed for a comedy cocktail that goes down as smoothly as a serving of hilarious yet truthful social commentary.

In his words, Michael V stresses that Bubble Gang is “the reflection of society.” However, sometimes, not all of us appreciate it when we’re placed in front of a mirror and straightforwardly told a joke about ourselves. We become uncomfortable and call foul—or worse: attack the messenger. When he is under fire himself, Bitoy—as everyone this side of the planet so fondly regards him—takes it all in stride. “Ang dami kasi ngayon, may masabi lang, minsan wala naman point of argument. Block, delete—that’s how you handle [negative] criticism.” Harsh words certainly haven’t hampered his disposition and drive to keep us laughing, as evidenced by the company of characters, treasure trove of tongue-in-cheek tunes, and mountain of music video spoofs that his wild imagination has whipped up through the years.

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Now, putting down a list of Michael V.’s greatest hits is no easy task. We know we’ve done a couple of iterations of it in the past, but every time we do, we know we’ve left out some gems in the process. Fact is, there are just too many memorable skits and bits to choose from. Of course, there are your undisputed knee-slappers: the easily-annoyed and overly-outspoken Mr. Aris Assimo, the rhyme-remitting hermit Tata Lino, the fast-talking yet ever-clueless grade school orator Cecilio Sasuman. You also have sketches like “Ikaw Ang Ina,” which depicts most mother-and-daughter relationships, only fueled by tougher-than-hide kind of love and out-of-left-field comments, which many of us can instantly relate to. Or who can forget about Gagang Lady’s Bathroom Dance (Bitoy’s interpretation of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”) or Rey Bolero’s Kung Kailangan Mong Bato (fathom the plight of an addict through a Rey Valera-type ballad)? We could go on all day, really, because to admire his body of work is to realize that the man’s comedy engine has been clicking on all its cylinders for an unbelievably long period of time. And through this stretch, a singular truth prevails: we remain eager to hear what Michael V. has to say through his army of alter-egos.

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One of his more recent parodies, “Gayahin Mo Sila” by Class B, is a rendition of “Hayaan Mo Sila” from one of the country’s hottest hip-hop ensembles, Ex Battalion. From an anthem that urges heartbroken men to hold their chins up when it comes to their woes with the fairer sex, Michael V. flipped it in true Bitoy fashion: he broke it down and schooled us on this generation’s predilection to rip off without remorse. Copycats have been around longer than anyone cares to remember, but they haven’t been called out like this before—himself included.

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You’ve maybe already heard it at this point. If not, you’d most likely have the same reaction (chuckles and high-fives) as Ex B’s when they first listened to it, caught on camera in #BitoyStory 007, an episode from Michael V.’s video blog. It’s been a little over a month since its release on GMA Network’s YouTube channel and the video has already collected more than 4.9 million views. However, for the chameleon of a comedian, humor shouldn’t be the sole takeaway from all of this.

Tungkol sa lahat ng aspeto yan ng buhay, na wag ka mang-gaya as much as you can," he jests. "Be original. At kung manggagaya ka, sana mas maganda kaysa doon sa kinopyahan mo. It applies to anything that you do in your life, hindi lang sa music, hindi lang sa comedy. Sa maliliit na bagay na ginagawa mo, halimbawa naglilinis ka lang ng bahay, nagwawalis ka, kung kaya mong magwalis ng mas magaling sa kasambahay niyo, sige, magwalis ka ng mas magaling. Kung hindi mo siya kaya lagpasan, magbunot ka nalang ng sahig.” 

At a time when the indecisive dictate trends and our sensibilities have grown grossly-Westernized unlike ever before, his comedic voice still cuts through all the noise, it is one that resonates and reminds us of our roots. To be Pinoy is to inject humor into a situation—any and every kind of. Why wouldn’t we? When you connect with a joke, you ride a cathartic merry-go-round that just keeps on giving, free of admission. After all, the reward is too hard to resist: feel good and make others feel the same way—even when most of us bomb more than we would like to admit. Many of us laugh at the same things and Michael V.—a legend in his own right who we should mention in the same breath as pioneers Dolphy and Tito, Vic, and Joey along with many other greats—would be the first to say that it really doesn’t take much for him to snicker.

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Maliliit na bagay," he muses, a grimace plastering his face when asked about the stuff that generates laughter in his own life. "Yung mga tipong nauuntog or nadadapa. Ang babaw no? Akala mo kung anong meaningful iyong sasabihin ko eh no? Appreciation of life—napapangiti rin ako nito. Every day na nagigising ako na buhay tapos, you get to live another day and do something good, iyon, napapasaya at napapangiti ako.” 

Though, a word of caution: you can try your very best to be funny, but in no certain terms, can you even dare to copy Michael V.—it just can’t be done.


Photography Artu Nepomuceno Styling Debra Bernales Assisted Chin Obiedo Grooming Mario Bernardino

 

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