Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Yesterday in Showtime, judges Vice Ganda and Tado got into an exchange. Apparently, Tado’s anti-gay jokes didn’t sit well with Vice Ganda, and the latter reacted accordingly.

See the first part of the video for their heated exchange:

Later that night, I listened to portions of Tado’s show “The Brew-rats” on FM radio (I couldn’t finish it because I was listening in the car on my way to Greenbelt). There his co-hosts were explaining what happened. I was particularly struck by what Tado said. At the beginning, when he was still “answering” Vice Ganda’s challenges, he was just joking and thought that Vice Ganda was not going to take him seriously. But when Vice Ganda continued to insult him, that’s when Tado decided to keep his mouth shut.

I am of two minds with regards to this issue.

On the one hand, like Tony and Nimmy (who claims he’s a fan of Vice Ganda), I applaud the fact that there was an occasion—on a high-rating show national television, no less—to point out, especially to impressionable children watching the show, that mocking someone’s sexual orientation isn’t exactly funny stuff.

Or is it, really?

One philosophy on comedy states that comedy is suppose to shake, rattle and roll the status quo. It’s the comedian as gadfly—their comedy is purposefully biting, controversial even, often unnerving and decidedly un-PC. It’s a brand of comedy that’s supposed to make people uncomfortable.

So while there is comedy that is well within PC levels, I feel we should also allow for un-PC comedy. And comedians in general should be given more leeway for un-PC comedy. In fact, un-PC comedy is precisely Vice Ganda’ daily bread-and-butter.

I just watched on YouTube a portion of one of Vice Ganda’s live shows in the comedy bar Punchline, and there he was mocking a fellow comedian’s facial features, as in: “Pangit ka!” It’s classic laitan comedy that’s a staple in comedy bars and KTVs everywhere. (While we’re at it, what’s the difference between mocking someone’s looks and mocking someone’s sexual orientation? Is there a difference, given that one can say, “I’m proud to be gay!” but no one dares to publicly announce, “I’m proud to be ugly!”?)

I thought it was pretty obvious that Tado was mocking Vice Ganda by actually employing Vice Ganda’s comedic-weapon-of-choice: lait. What really bothered me is how offended Vice was with Tado’s comments—and how he reacted afterwards. That of all people a Vice Ganda failed to recognize the fact that it was a joke and instead took the bait is, to me, a classic case of pikon-talo. Dude, lighten up. If you can dish it, you ought to take it too, right?

I think it was the manner in which Vice Ganda corrected Tado that really rubbed me the wrong way. Putting someone to task for being bastos becomes a hollow act when Vice himself resorted to bastos tactics. For a moment there Vice Ganda sounded like Willie Revillame, but with more poise and eyeliner.

To cite a difference, let me illustrate by telling a short story featuring Jonas Bagas. (Sorry Jonas, your example was the first thing I could think of, hehehe.) While we were recording a podcast, someone cracked a joke that Jonas felt was a little too much. So what did he do? He immediately called attention to it by simply saying, “Uy, foul yan!” Simply said, with no drama and no condescending I’m-in-my-high-tower attitude. And the offending party immediately realized his mistake, apologized and retracted his statement. Granted, Jonas is not a comedian, and lait isn’t his sense of humor. Which I guess is precisely why he was more effective.

Of course, I acknowledge that a stage show is different from a televised show, and clearly Vice Ganda was conscious of the difference. In fact, at the start he actually said that he was correcting Tado precisely because there were a lot of kids watching the show and Vice wanted those kids to know that it’s wrong to make fun of someone just on the basis of his sexual orientation.

But if we really think about it, Vice Ganda’s statement (that he is thinking only of the welfare and moral education of the children) is merely an emotional ploy—a faux-appeal to higher authority—that is designed to blur the argument. Tado’s t-shirt states: “Di bale na ang magnakaw keysa sa mamakla.” Really now, do we honestly believe that a t-shirt copy will lead to an increase in juvenile theft? And even if they did, the deterrents against crime (the parents, the police, the threat of punishment when caught) are enough so that these kids, as they grow older, will realize that one of Vice Ganda’s statements is actually truer than Tado’s t-shirt copy: “Walang nakukulong sa pamamakla.” This is a lesson that numerous macho dancers, male masseurs and callboys have learned and embraced. This is a lesson A the security guard definitely uses to his financial advantage.

In other words, those who are adult enough to pause and think should realize what’s so glaringly obvious: Tado’s t-shirt statement is a joke, and mature adults shouldn’t even take it seriously.

Maybe it would be asking too much from comedians to act more maturely. And I of all people should know how difficult that is.

* * * * *

Someone tweeted this morning that Tado’s “Di bale na ang magnakaw keysa sa mamakla” t-shirts are selling like hotcakes after the incident. Tado should really thank Vice Ganda.


somelostboy said...

I super agree with you. For someone who uses mockery, at some point misogyny in his shows, he acted pathetic. After that scene, i immediately switched channel.

Btw, the Brewrats the other night

imsonotconio said...

i agree

im not a fan of vica ganda anyway

~Carrie~ said...

Super nod talaga ako sa power points mo, McVie. A strong and solid argument. Nagmukha ngang pikon talo si VG.

Guyrony said...

I don't have any idea what transpired but you are correct (as of this moment). This is a case of the winner and sore loser scenario. Well, you win some you lose :)

daredevilry said...

i believe that jokes need to be in the proper context so that we will know that they're jokes and not meant to be taken seriously.

i have not taken any of vice ganda's jokes out of context because I KNOW he is joking. The problem with Tado's t shirt is that it could be taken out of context and i believe i know some people who would really think that it's better na magnakaw than mamakla (because a lot of adults don't really think like adults at all).

with that said, i agree with your title. it's damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Dave said...

"what’s the difference between mocking someone’s looks and mocking someone’s sexual orientation?"

Nothing much for both are equally painful.

I feel guilty as I sometimes make fun of other people's looks when I'm with my friends. While at the same time, I would be very defensive if someone would insult my sexuality.

What an eye-opener!

Thad said...

Adults may be entitled to their own interpretation to Tado's statement- they may or may not find humor there. However, sexual orientation IS a touchy issue.

I consider myself having a sense of humor, and to some degree I think I'd tolerate a "gay joke" or a "lait" but only only two occasions: 1) I'm friends with the one who made the joke, and 2) I know the person bears no malice.

I was once up on a podium when a female friend said "Bayot maiha ka pa dida?" (Bakla matagal ka pa dyan?), which I took in a stride. But imagine if a stranger blurted that out, it would really have offend me.

Kumbaga its ok between fellow african-americans to playfully refer to each other using the "n word", but have a white man say it and its murder.

Mahirap, you really need to know your audience because comedic license won't always get you off the hook. In this case, Tado really was treading on dangerous territory knowing that a gay man, someone who was with the the show for sometime, was beside him when he uttered the joke. He should have foreseen VG would strike back, yun pa e ma-pride hahaha

the barefoot baklesa said...

finally... thank you joel... trust the McVie to put to words such an intelligent analysis, waxing with it, the philosophical.

my thoughts exactly when I posted something about it last night -Vice Ganda can't take a dose of his own medicine... then again, I never cared for overly-gay theatrics to begin with... and i work in the theater already...

i think the public apology this morning was contrived...

Lance said...

Here's my two-cents worth. I haven’t watched the video clip since its blocked here in the office and I am neither a fan nor a hater of any of the personalities involved so this is my objective optinion:
- Since Vice Ganda became a TV-personality and has since then increased his fan-base, he took it upon himself to represent the entire gaydom. That said, he must've felt it his responsibility to defend what he stands for since the joke was a generalization. If the joke was directed to him and him alone, he might have ignored it or at least responded to it more subtly.
- Yes, there are differences between a stage show and a televised show. Particularly if the stage show is a stand-up comedy show and the televised show is a talent show. The former is really intent on making the audience laugh (since they are paying for that) and the Filipino people in general gravitate towards toilet humor. But a talent show is unlike a comedy show bar in the sense that it is there to awe and even inspire the audience. Derogatory jokes and toilet humor are not required in a Talent show and definitely uncalled for.

So given the points above, I personally admire Vice Ganda for what he did. Do I commend the manner by which he did it or over-did it? I would still need to find out.

Tony said...

Are insults all the same or are there differing levels though?

There are two important things here:
Context and Scope

I think there is a difference when the insults comes from within a group (in this example, comedy bar comedians) and when the insults come from an outsider. As Thad posted in his comment, is it comes from someone you know you are sure there is no malice. Additionally, may 'bawi' rin sila usually ginagaw even a simple 'joke lang' at the end.

Example: Filipinos like making fun of our own shortcomings and idiosyncrasies, we don't enjoy it all that much when it comes from a foreigner. In fact most of us get livid.

The scope is really sweeping in this case. Insulting a group of people and generalizing is a big difference from insulting one person for his looks. Yes, both are hurtful but it is directed rather than blindly shooting at everything that moves. At the least we have to be careful of generalizations that people make about the community.

Having said this, I do think Vice went off a little too much. I mean flailing arms and high pitched voices are a part of the community. It was right to chastise him but it went a little bit too far to almost like picking on a cripple (not to insult cripples :P). Which you just don't do.

Tony said...

and I apparently can't spell or proof read before I post a comment. Haha.

"....if it comes from someone you know, you are sure there is no malice." Additionally may 'bawi' ri sila usually ginagawa even a simple 'joke lang' at the end."

didinskee said...

It's a rare thing to be able to discuss gay issues on prime time tv, and I don't blame her at all for seizing those few seconds to berate--though an admonishment could have worked just as well. What I take from the crossfire aside from the demand for respect of PLUs, was Vice Ganda saying between quip after quip, "Fags got fangs."

Vice Ganda's comment on the possibility of kids watching also set the tone for me. Imagine being the awkward effeminate kid coming to grips with his own sexuality, and trying to overcome all the classic bullying a gay kid comes to expect nowadays. Through those badly eyeliner-ed eyes, this would have been awesome.

closet case said...

comedy based on lait will always have blurred lines of taste, of appropriateness, etc. this is laughter at the expense of someone's attribute.

i laud vice's initial statements but not the histrionics after. he would have made more impact if he was brief about it.

i put this in context too. the intensity of vice's defense comes from a personal and cultural history of persecution for being gay. which is not something i could say for being ugly.