25 February 2016

Jon Santos FTW

Elsewhere — meaning in the UK and US — stand-up comedians can reach celebrity, even rockstar status and fill up theaters, music halls, and, if they’re truly great, stadiums. To elicit laughter is one thing, but to make an idea linger in the audience’ minds (and on the side, charm) is quite another. The best comedians do both.

In the Philippines, Jon Santos ranks high on the list of successful, not to mention enduring comedians, regularly holding live performances that draw a loyal crowd. He is appreciated for comedy with class and intelligence — far from the usual fare dished out at comedy clubs. Jon’s a master at impersonation, wordplay, and making connections where we didn’t find any.

His latest offering is the political comedy HuGot Your Vote! WTF: Wala Talagang Forever (Sa Malacañang), where the most controversial individuals vying for a seat at the government are put on the hot seat — that is, parodied by Jon.

He brings his act a little closer to the south, in a new venue: the Ceremonial Hall of Marriott Hotel Grand Ballroom at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, and he makes sure that there’s a joke about the posh establishment’s location. The Ceremonial Hall, while brand new, is not without flaws. WTF’s premiere experienced a few technical WTFs (faulty microphones, sound disturbances), which Jon, the pro that he was, managed and used as part of a routine.

As expected, relevant issues were brought to the fore. A show highlight was the Grace Poe interview in which Jon takes on the senator’s persona, answering questions about her birth, parents, and political ambitions. What we had to discover about her father was comedy gold. The current brouhaha over champion boxer and senatorial aspirant Manny Pacquiao’s anti-gay comments didn’t escape Jon’s attention as well. Even the Material Girl, who’s mounting her very first concert in the country next week, became material for WTF. Jon impersonated Madonna and used her to introduce the show’s theme: express yourself this elections season.

Still, it was Jon’s Miriam Defensor Santiago and Erap Estrada that brought the house down. Old jokes (classics now, it seems) with the two were repeated, though they remained as hilarious as ever. Who didn’t crack a smile at Miriam’s bad grammar horror story, or Erap’s conjugation lessons? You can bet those who’ve heard them before were pleased to have heard them again.

To wrap up the evening, he shed his other skins and stood up simply as Jon giving a literal A to Z of the nation’s problems, one of which is our obsession with Valentine’s Day: “Araw ng mga puso… Bakit walang araw ng mga utak?” He may be famous as a quick-change comedian, but Jon is as effective as himself delivering the goods — made out of bad news.

Though he called out the politicians’ BS through his jokes, Jon never hit below the belt (or maybe he did, it’s just that he did it so well that none cried foul). The political satire barely had traces of cynicism and was in fact charged with positive energy. If anything, there was only a tinge of melancholy towards the end, where he suggested that these politicians may not be the punchline after all but the voting public.

It’s true. Wala tagalagang forever, but is it too much to ask for a few more minutes of Jon Santos? An hour-and-a-half is not enough.

—Originally published on GIST

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