31 May 2013

Soho Joke Forces Vice-Ganda Rethink

So... I was somewhere in the middle of Pangasinan traveling to Baguio when the conductor turned the television on and tuned in to ‘It’s Showtime!’ I was close enough to the front to be interested. Besides, I do watch the opening segment ‘Sine Mo ‘To’ which, if not just a bit pedestrian, can also be quite, quite hilarious. It has its moments.

The surprise of the day was, instead of the noontime show’s cast going straight into its daily high-energy interaction with the audience, Vice Ganda instead taking centre stage to begin a soliloquy on what else but the recent rash of criticisms he had been receiving mostly on social media.

For those not in the know, a fortnight after Vice’s successful concert at the Araneta Coliseum, articles started to be shared on social media about an alleged foul joke delivered during the concert about a rival network’s news anchor as well as an alleged in-bad-taste joke about rape.

The ‘speech’ was delivered with uncharacteristic seriousness and ended with an apology from Vice. I cannot say how contrite Vice Ganda really was – if at all – or if the apology was dictated by superiors anxious to avoid confrontation with a rival network.


For the record, while Vice’s acid tongue can thoughtlessly criticise people for their appearances, he can also be remarkably kind to the little people. There was this one episode of Showtime when he went out of his way to be friendly to two kasambahays onstage and even bade the director to award them more prize money.
But the sudden backlash on social media suddenly brought into question some aspects of Vice Ganda’s brand of comedy that one can say had been begging for some attention for sometime.

Don’t anyone get me wrong. Vice Ganda makes me laugh. I will be the first to say that on days when he goes missing from Showtime, the show does not quite have the same oomph. The other hosts try; but none can match him for sheer wit.

That said, I do not call myself a fan. While his talent for comedy is unmistakable, on not just a few occasions, he errs on the side of vulgar.

Vulgar: lacking refinement or cultivation or taste. This is how one dictionary defines the word.

While my guffaws can be heard around the neighbourhood whenever he cracks one of his endless stream of quick-witted one-liners, I do also cringe when the object of his joke is a person with physical features not quite what societal standards dictate as pleasant to behold.

For instance, somebody lacking in physical stature. Or one with an unpleasant face. Or somebody overweight. He thoughtlessly cracks jokes about physical shortcomings all the time at Showtime.

But since that is the brand of humour that people who go to the studio to be part of the live audience come to expect, the jokes are laughed at or, at the very least tolerated. Even if the jokes are, when one pauses to think about it, really attacks on the person and the sort that can cause brawls in sleazy neighbourhoods.

To be fair, Vice does not think twice about turning the joke upon himself. God knows he has made a living from referring to himself as a horse or making fun of his sexual orientation.

In other words, any satirical references to Jessica Soho during his recent successful concert – to Vice Ganda’s thinking – are not to be taken seriously because these are simply part of the brand of comedy that has made him a household name. As he pointed out in his apology, it was a joke.

On the other hand, there is also this thing called the tasteless joke, especially if this is of the sort disrespectful to a person. When I watch Showtime, I often wonder when Vice will come across a member of the audience who will not take too kindly to an attack – because that is what the ‘jokes’ essentially are – and actually cause an embarrassment.

On national television.

The young will probably not fully comprehend where I am coming from. I grew up in an era when comedians made fun of themselves and each other and could draw gleeful laughter from situations without being offensive to anyone. Yes, clean fun can be had from jokes that do not make fun of short, fat, thin or toothless people.

In a way, ad libbing by making fun of people’s physical shortcomings is the comedy of the untalented; the failure to dig deep into the ironies of life to find bits of situations that one can laugh at without being disrespectful to anybody.

At the end of the day, it is not okay to attack people for what they are. It is also not okay for somebody as talented as Vice Ganda to descend to the level of the untalented.

Vice has spoken in subsequent interviews of his willingness to learn from the negative press he has found himself in of late. I hope he does. It is the occasional tendency to become disrespectful that prevents me from calling myself a fan.

The time has come for him to rethink his comedy.

Talent wise there is no question. I think he has the potential to become an even greater comedian than Dolphy ever was. I hope he achieves this potential and is fondly remembered as Dolphy continues to be; instead of being the comedian who drew wild laughter by being insenstive.

For the record, while Vice’s acid tongue can thoughtlessly criticise people for their appearances, he can also be remarkably kind to the little people. There was this one episode of Showtime when he went out of his way to be friendly to two kasambahays onstage and even bade the director to award them more prize money.

While he made fun of the two as he does with just about everybody brave enough to volunteer to act onstage, at no point was he ever disrespectful to the two. If only he can always be like that...











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