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The all-consuming comedy

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Sometimes we need to laugh, and laugh hard, because, as one wise woman–my labandera– once put it succinctly, life is essentially comedy, despite the drama that seems to be its disguise. “Laughter is the sound of genius, too!” she also said in gleeful pahabol, which made perfectly clear the reason for the cheerful airiness about Manang Biday that I had always found enchanting. There she was, bundling my clothes, her pregnant belly like a balloon

“Manang Biday,” I said once, “you’re pregnant again?”

“What can I say, my husband is gwapo,” she said.

“’Nong Fidel looks like Cachupoy on good days,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” she said, pausing for a bit, and then punctuating it all with an abundance of laughter. “What can I say? We make mistakes all the time. Better to make mistakes with so much pleasure.”

I don’t know what she meant by that. But she laughed, and so I laughed, too. I guess that’s how we exorcise the mistakes we make, with much introspection in some gesture of learning, and to end such exercise with mirth. Because what else can one do really? And life–and the maturity that eventually becomes its measure–is graded by our ability to look at ourselves and laugh.

All these are clichés, of course, but that’s how we know we are this serious about the place of laughter in our lives, especially in lives that demand it, or else we teeter on the brink of insanity.

As author Alain De Botton recently put in a tweet: “With age, you realize certain things just can’t be fixed–and so you start to take frivolity more seriously.”

I am looking for unscripted frivolity soon, right before I turn 35.

There is the Silly People’s Improv Theater, of course, to look forward to. SPIT, as it is more known as, is the premiere improvisational theater group in the Philippines, and it is set to conquer Dumaguete today, August 15, in an unscripted comedy showcase titled “SPIT Live in Dumaguete!” This is, of course, part of the 48th cultural season of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee.

What SPIT does is nothing short of amazing. They do comedy on the spot–its improvisational, after all–taking note of the most general guidelines for a comprehensible story arc, doing humor with the instinct of a drop of a hat. Whenever I see shows like this, I always think: can I do the same? make jokes out of thin air? See something or someone in the audience, and make that the material for sustained laughter. And my answer is “no.” I have the comedian’s instinct the way hippopotamuses make the most graceful ballerinas. And so to watch this laughing magicmen do their instant wonder on stage–I seethe with envy, and I go home, always, with a belly full of laughter.

SPIT was founded in 2002 by entertainer Gabe “Okay Ka Ba Tyan?” Mercado and a group of friends after Gabe trained with legendary Second City founder Paul Sills, the acknowledged Father of Modern Improv, at the Wisconsin Theater Games Center. Since then, SPIT went on to organize Spontaneous Combustion: The First Philippine Improv Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and participated in the 3rd National Theater Festival where they premiered Sarskwela: Ang Sarswelang Kwela, a completely improvised twist on the traditional Filipino sarswela.

In 2009, they premiered two works at the CCP, including Cambiar!, an improvised educational environment themed show for the Earth Day Celebration, and Dingdong! Death is at the Door, an improvised long- form murder-mystery show for the 5th Virgin Labfest. SPIT also represented the Philippines in the prestigious Los Angeles Comedy Festival in Los Angeles in 2004.

SPIT is composed of thespians, teachers, and other professionals from varied fields, and does regular shows to packed audiences in some of the best entertainment spots throughout Manila. With close to five hundred performances to date, SPIT has delighted local and international audiences with their unscripted unrehearsed and totally spontaneous shows.

And that is what I’m looking for now. Unscripted, spontaneous comedy. The way life really works.

The show is a co-production of Little Boy Productions. Tickets are available at P200 and P300 for both the matinee and gala shows. For inquiries, please call (035) 422-6002 loc. 520 or loc. 250, or 09173235953.

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