A Priest, a Director, and the Problem with Conyo…Humor

A Rumination on Other People’s Ruminations

(An Essay of Reflection by Alice Sarmiento)

A priest, a film director, and a vagina walk into a bar. The film director goes up to the jukebox to pick a song from, but the jukebox is one of those new things that charges you piso per song, so he’s like “Can anyone spare a buck?” and the priest goes, “We can spare a slot!” And the film director just stares at them blankly and goes, “I don’t speak English.” And the vagina goes “What’s a slot?” And no one laughs, because even the priest had no idea what the joke was.

If it won’t fly with the noontime show crowds, chances are it goes both ways. I can’t understand what’s so funny about Eat Bulaga the same way that How I Met Your Mother freaks the proverbial shit of anyone who can’t follow a non-linear narrative. When the gap between two audiences is so vast, trying to make both parties laugh at the same thing is akin to whispering a secret from someone else’s backyard. But these are only nuances in a system that understands me with my pretentious droll and the “general public” genuflecting at the feet of Vic Sotto as anonymous components of a market segment. To the network, the bigger slice: that’s your audience, it’s them–and not the shareholders or the producers–who get to decide what “culture” is.

What bothers me is that the choice to be true to the culture of this third world backwater has sunk to the level of pie-throwing, clowning around, and paying people to laugh, as if they will not get the difference between simple and simplistic. Noontime variety shows in all their incarnations only pour the salt on the open wound created by the rift between privilege and deprivation. As if to tell the general public at whom network TV is directed, “You’re Filipino, you can’t think.”

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