The Philippine Star

Two Pi­noys among 12 Asians in Stand-Up, Asia! Sea­son 4

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JR de Guz­man (left) and Ryan Puno will give Com­edy Cen­tral their brand of Filipino com­edy. Says JR, ‘I do a lot of mu­si­cal com­edy com­bined with silli­ness and some­times in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ness mixed with some soul­ful chords and melodies.’ And Ryan, ‘I am mababaw. It’s the hu­mor I grew up with. That’s what I love so much about Filipino hu­mor.’

Brace your­selves for belly-aching laugh­ter as 12 Asian co­me­di­ans show­case their stuff, two of them Filipinos, in sea­son four of Stand-Up, Asia! on Com­edy Cen­tral, pre­mier­ing next month.

Ryan Puno, founder/di­rec­tor of com­edy chan­nel SOLID OK and mem­ber of Com­edy Manila, wants to make peo­ple laugh by show­ing the dif­fer­ent facets of Pi­noy com­edy; while JR de Guz­man, win­ner of the 13th An­nual Stand-Up NBC Com­pe­ti­tion who hails from the Philip­pines but re­sides in the US, com­bines mu­sic and com­edy.

Hosted by Sin­ga­pore’s sketch duo Ben­jamin Kheng and Hirzi Zulk­i­flie (of the BenZi Pro­ject), the show also fea­tures Sam See and Qa­marul Haziq (Sin­ga­pore); Han­nan, youngest win­ner of the 2016 Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Com­pe­ti­tion, Kavin Jay and Nigel Ng (Malaysia); Brian Tseng (Tai­wan); Zainal Bosta­man (Brunei); Yumi Na­gashima (Ja­pan); Storm Xu (China); and Aaron Chen (Aus­tralia).

The STAR did an ex­clu­sive e-mail in­ter­view with Ryan and JR. What are the chal­lenges you will face vis-a-vis the 10 other co­me­di­ans from the re­gion?

Ryan: No chal­lenges at all. It’s more of a show­case than a com­pe­ti­tion. It’s been a plea­sure lis­ten­ing to ev­ery­one’s jokes and learn­ing more about them. This is all so much fun.

JR: Since it’s not a com­pe­ti­tion but more of a show­case, I don’t fore­see any chal­lenges vis-a-vis the other co­me­di­ans. Though I’d say the big­gest chal­lenge over­all is choos­ing ma­te­rial that you want to show­case to the Com­edy Cen­tral Asia and In­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

How were you cho­sen for the se­ries — were there any au­di­tions?

Ryan: Good ques­tion! I’m not en­tirely sure how Com­edy Cen­tral found out about me be­cause there weren’t any au­di­tions. Ha­ha­haha! I’m go­ing to guess, they saw my stand-up videos on YouTube and fol­lowed the Filipino com­edy chan­nel I started called SOLID OK. How­ever, way they found me, I’m thank­ful they did.

JR: They reached out to me via e-mail and we spoke on the phone a few times. I’m not ex­actly sure where they found my ma­te­rial. It’s ei­ther on YouTube, or on Com­edy Cen­tral US, but I’m thank­ful they did!

How would you de­scribe your comedic style against those of the other co­me­di­ans in the show?

Ryan: I’d say my stand-up fo­cuses on two things — be­ing a Filipino and silly ob­ser­va­tions. Those are the things I re­ally love to talk about. And it’s all kind of fun­neled and com­mu­ni­cated through my own ex­pe­ri­ences.

JR: I do a lot of mu­si­cal com­edy com­bined with silli­ness, and some­times, in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ness mixed with some soul­ful chords and melodies.

How, if you have, did you in­cor­po­rate Filipino hu­mor into your act?

Ryan: I am a very mababaw per­son. Ha­ha­haha! It’s the hu­mor I grew up with, it’s how I joke with my friends, and it’s what I love so much about Filipino hu­mor in gen­eral. I just like to add a bit of a think­ing com­po­nent to it so it’s not to­tally wala

lang… sort of a smart way of look­ing at stupid things I guess. My fa­vorite way to re­fer to it is “el­e­vated babaw.”

JR: I’d say I learned a lot of my sense of hu­mor from my dad. More or less, the spirit of Filipino hu­mor ex­ists within my com­edy whether con­sciously or un­con­sciously.

Ryan, tell us about Com­edy Manila. Ryan: Com­edy Manila is a col­lec­tive of Filipino stand-ups that sup­port each other and help each other grow as comics. The open mics and shows are set up in a way that al­lows ev­ery­one to de­velop their own unique style and con­fi­dence as co­me­di­ans. I would not be where I am as a standup comic with­out Com­edy Manila. What about you, JR?

JR: I was born in the Philip­pines and moved to the US when I was very young. My Filipino her­itage is some­thing I’m very proud of be­cause I’ve had to face cul­tural chal­lenges grow­ing up in Amer­ica. I strug­gled with the cul­tural clash in the US.

When and how did you dis­cover your knack/tal­ent for com­edy?

Ryan: I went to Ate­neo my en­tire school life. I watched a lot of stand-up in high school, but I’d say my knack for it re­ally started in col­lege. I loved jok­ing around with my barkada, and un­til this day, we’re all still so close. What bonds us is our sim­i­lar sense of hu­mor. Ev­ery time we hang out, it is al­ways one joke af­ter the other. I love it.

Those first few years of col­lege were when they started point­ing out how funny my ob­ser­va­tions were. Then I thought,

“Hmmm… I won­der if I could do this in front of strangers.”

Af­ter that, I went to an open mic with Vic­tor Anasta­cio for the first time. There were no com­edy open mics back then so we just went to the po­etry open mic of Heights, the Ate­neo lit­er­ary mag­a­zine. We did pretty well that day and haven’t looked back since.

JR: I started stand-up at 20 years old while in col­lege. I took a com­edy class, then did an open mic. Even­tu­ally, I saw that there could be a pos­si­ble fu­ture for me in it af­ter a set I did at Cobb’s Com­edy Club in San Fran­cisco, with my buddy and men­tor, Jimmy Earl. It was the big­gest show I had done at only a short time in com­edy. That show made me feel like I could re­ally do this.

Com­edy ac­tors you look up to as role mod­els?

Ryan: There are a lot, so I’m just go­ing to name as many as I can — Co­nan O’Brien, Dave Chap­pelle, Seth Ro­gen, Will Fer­rell, Kris­ten Wiig, Key & Peele, Demetri Martin, Mark Nor­mand, Jim Gaf­fi­gan, GB Labrador, Alex Calleja, Vic­tor Anasta­cio, Red Ollero, James Caraan, Nonong Bal­li­nan, just to name a few.

JR: Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis and Dave Chap

pelle. Not only do I like their com­edy, but I also like how they nav­i­gate their lives off stage. They both seem to not be too at­tached to the mo­ti­va­tions of fame and for­tune but fo­cused on their own in­tegrity and values, all while cre­at­ing great con­tent.

Any chance/pos­si­bil­ity of you do­ing a pro­ject (movie or TV se­ries, etc.) with Filipino co­me­di­ans?

Ryan: With JR? Ab­so­lutely! I’d love to work with him again. His comedic skill set is just through the roof, and he brings a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive to the Filipino ex­pe­ri­ence that’s just so fresh. I’m hop­ing to write and di­rect a full-length Filipino com­edy movie in 2020, so hope­fully, we can col­lab­o­rate on that pro­ject.

JR: Most def­i­nitely. I’m cur­rently in the works on a pro­ject with a very tal­ented Filipino co­me­dian, ac­tor and writer Rene Gube. Hope­fully, it gets picked up by a net­work. In gen­eral, I’m al­ways look­ing to col­lab­o­rate with other Filipino tal­ents of all kinds. When, if ever, will you have a show in Manila?

Ryan: You can usu­ally catch me at the open mics at Mow’s, Matal­ino St. (Que­zon City) ev­ery Tues­day. Com­edy Manila also books me for gigs here and there. I’d say just fol­low their page on Face­book for more in­for­ma­tion. Hope­fully, though, I can come up with my own hour-long spe­cial by next year.

You can also fol­low all my work on SOLID OK; it’s this Filipino com­edy chan­nel thing where I’m the head­writer and di­rec­tor. On top of up­load­ing stand-up bits, we also do sketches, satire and a bunch of other ran­dom stuff. Fol­low us on

Face­book, In­sta­gram, Twit­ter and YouTube! JR: Maybe af­ter Stand-up, Asia! Sea­son 4 pre­mieres on Com­edy Cen­tral Asia, so hope­fully soon!

Since the chan­nel was launched across South­east Asia in 2012, Com­edy Cen­tral has be­come one of the fastest-grow­ing brands for Vi­a­com In­ter­na­tional Me­dia Net­works (VIMN) which is avail­able 24/7 in 16 Asians mar­kets via 80 providers. Com­edy Cen­tral gives au­di­ences ac­cess to a world of su­per funny, per­son­ally re­lat­able, cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant and provoca­tive com­edy that tells the funny truths of life, ev­ery day and every­where. (For more up­dates, pho­tos and videos, visit

www.philstar.com/fun­fare or fol­low me on In­sta­gram @the­re­al­rick­ylo.)

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