Tim Tayag: An Interview with the Pioneer of POV Comedy in the Philippines
Those who enjoy Point of View (POV) Comedy in the Philippines know that Tim Tayag is a household brand name. His sensational jokes echo conversations from all walks of life. Today, we’re fortunate to have been given the time by the comedic legend to share his insights on POV stand up comedy, and many other questions I can think about while having beer.
Before I begin my interview, I would like to note that I remember Tim Tayag from his performance with Comedy Cartel at Relik bar. This was my first time trying out in the Laugh and Stack competition. He was phenomenal, and he knows how to win the crowd every time. Tim Tayag has become my mentor and is a really cool, down-to-earth guy anyone can approach.
So, Tim, thanks for giving us the opportunity to interview you for WhenInManila.
Pleasure is all mine. It’s nice to share a beer with you even though I’m not a drinker.
Thanks. Anyway, to get the ball rolling, we’d like to get some basic idea about Tim Tayag the comedian. When did you start and where did you begin your comedy?
Ah, the old question. I started back in 1997 when I hit my first open mic in a hole-in-the-wall cafe in the Richmond district of San Francisco. From there, I started hitting a lot of open mics in the Bay Area. Luckily, after a couple of years into it, I got to host at the famous Punch Line. Spent a good 5 years of doing comedy almost every week while holding a day job in the US until I came back home to the Philippines in 2002.
How was the environment for comedy when you first performed in Manila? Where did you use to perform?
When I first performed in 2002 in Manila, there was no environment to speak of. Nobody was doing point of view or observational comedy. Nobody. A friend of mine, who watched me perform in the States, suggested I try out a Bohemian place called Sanctum, ran by the famous Aslie Aslanan. Surprisingly, my stuff worked. After that, Comfort Room, the first real standup comedy bar called me up and offered me a job. That same year, Rex Navarette blew up here so it was good for everyone to get educated on the style of standup that we do. Thanks to ETC, JackTV, and other channels who air Late Night Shows and standup specials, it is now easier for standup comedians like us to perform our craft without much explanation.
What were your most memorable places to perform? Any story you want to share on the most unforgettable gigs?
I did a show once in a mostly black room in Oakland/Berkeley area. The host, Lunelle, did 30 minutes in between comics, which is really something we don’t like. Then she brings me up with “I love Jackie Chan, give it up for Tim Tayag”. Yup, racism at its finest. I did so so then I left. Afterwards, I heard someone got shot in that same bar a week later. Poetic justice I guess.
Locally, I once did a show in Bulacan in a school. The organizers didn’t do their jobs and so there was no audience. So they decided to just invite the tricycle drivers outside of the school. To make the long story short, I bombed hard. But that taught me a lesson – write more tricycle jokes.
Hehehe, that is indeed hilarious. So, in all your experience in comedy, what got you inspired to try out comedy?
It was when I saw Arj Barker perform when I realized that I wanted to do it. He made comedy look cool. I was fortunate to host a show for Arj on my last show in the US before I moved back to the Philippines. Making people laugh really inspires me because it connects all of us. It’s like, “Ha ha ha! Man, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.” That’s what keeps me going.
Interesting. Now, as a legendary POV comedian, I hope to get some advice from you we can share to our fellow readers here. First off, where do you get inspiration for your jokes?
Please, I’m not legendary at all. I’m still alive. When I die, that’s when I become a legend… or a joke. My inspiration really comes from everyday things. When you have an insight that nobody has realized, that can be a great premise. You just have to see things from a different perspective. And if you really want to be good, don’t wait for inspiration. Just keep working at it. I think that pretty much applies to a lot of things in life.
True, true. But what does it take to be funny? I know this is a tricky question, but how do you put your jokes together?
Stage time. You got to hit that stage and get a feel for it. It’s like riding a bike. You can read about theories of how to ride it, but until you get on it, you won’t really know. The good thing is, once you have significant stage time under your belt, you get a feel for what will work and what won’t. Though you will still bomb from time to time. I know I do. I also read a lot of books on humor writing and performance. And I watch other comedians and learn from them.
Thanks for that advice, it does really make sense. Now, Tim, what is the differentiating factor between traditional comedy here in the Philippines and POV comedy?
I think the big difference is in originality. Traditional jokes are almost like joke book jokes, Anyone can tell them. For example, “Wala yan sa lolo ko.” Those kind of jokes are easy to tell. Observational or POV is really coming from the experience or perspective of the comedian. For example, “I had a tough time growing up coz of my big ears. This guy would call me dumbo everyday. So I said, ‘Shut up! Dad!'”. Traditional comedy also tends to rely on making fun of the audience or physical imperfections. That or singing.
Indeed, and I agree. Do you have a mentor who helped you with your career? Which comedians do you look up to?
The closest thing I had to a mentor was really Allan Manalo. I was also lucky enough to take a workshop with Judy Carter when I first started. She wrote the books Standup Comedy and The Comedy Bible. As far as comedians, I look up to a lot: Seinfeld, Arj Barker, Brian Regan, Ray Romano, and Louis CK.
Those are great comedians indeed. Lastly, before I end this brief interview because I know you have to go up and perform soon. What advice can you give to our readers who would perhaps want to give Stand Up comedy a shot?
Quit while you’re ahead. But seriously though, do it because you love it. Don’t do it for the fame or money because those are not guaranteed and might not ever happen. Look at me, nobody really knows me beyond my relatives. And I still need to keep my day job if I want to support myself and my family. But I enjoy performing and that’s why I still do it. When it’s no longer fun, that’s when I will quit. Or when I’m dead, whichever comes first.
Thanks for your time, Tim. Folks. There you have it. If you want to know more about our upcoming gigs, please like http://www.facebook.com/comedycartel