Cheekily irreverent and painfully honest comedian and self-appointed social critic and debunker Vice Ganda usually gets away with “murder,” but it turns out that he bit off more than he could chew when he made Jessica Soho one of the targets of his uncivil tongue in his recent show at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Why didn’t he get away with his ostensibly hilarious jibes this time around? Because Soho happens to be a broadcast icon, one of the “most trusted” people on the TV screen, in fact. And because she was spoofed and derided within the context of an imaginary “gang rape” scenario, which many women didn’t find funny, at all.
In time, the heat and flak that the comedian got became so intense that he was obliged to apologize, but his “sorry” struck some people as, well, “not very.”
The dastardly deed has been done, but can we learn any lessons from this latest show biz snaffu? A lot: As MTRCB chair Eugenio “Toto” Villareal has so helpfully summarized it, the problem partly stems from the fact that “Vice” comes from the world of gay “sing-along bar” comedy, where flaming comics specialize in what its original American practitioner, Don Rickles, describes as the Comedy of Insult.
They just love to excoriate and vilify their bar patrons’ looks—or lack of them (as in “Ikaw ay ang Pambansang Gilagid ng Pilipinas!” sarcastically aimed at a hapless member of the audience with underachieving teeth—and overachieving gums)!
The weird thing is, the insults have become so popular that some of the targets feel “flattered” that they have been singled out for such stellar public humiliation!
That may be the implied contract at gay bars, but when the syndrome is transplanted to TV or the concert stage, it’s no longer A-OK—and the trouble with some “migrated” talents is that they aren’t able to tell the all-important difference.
It shouldn’t take rocket science to understand that a much more public venue—with a General Patronage audience, at that—requires some adjustments to be made in terms of topic, target, style and viciousness of attack.
It also makes a key difference when the targets are respected celebrities known more for their achievements than for their looks—in fact, the looks factor becomes irrelevant, and the spoofer who cluelessly or insensitively stays at that level comes off as shallow.
But, the most relevant issue here is the “gang rape humor” factor. Vice’s critics want him and other insensitive “jokers” to understand that rape is so painfully and even traumatically violative that it shouldn’t be made the subject and object of “humor”—at all!
Other related issues that rear their pointy heads in this unpretty mess include the belief that celebrities are “public property,” so they’re “fair game” for any and all cute or mean attempts at humor—at their expense.
Celebrities themselves contribute to this wildly wrong-headed view, so they should stop “cooperating” forthwith and insist on their right to privacy when they aren’t performing.
If these and other lessons are sincerely learned, the messy and contentious ordeal could be worth it. However, if the proponents of the comedy of insult are incapable of self-education, more official limits will have to be set, to protect us and the celebrity targets—and the vicious spoofers from themselves!