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TAKE FIVE

Brod Pete to raise the roof anew

By: - Reporter
/ 06:09 PM June 20, 2011

He turned up lugging a guitar. “Wala lang,” he replied, surprised, when asked why. “I’m always holding this.” And he wore very dark glasses that he would not take off for the whole length of the interview. We didn’t ask about those.

But we wondered about his nails— very long, and looking like turtle-shell… “Picks, guitar picks,” he said, reading our minds. “I always lose my picks, so I just grew some.”

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For many TV viewers back in the late ‘90s, Friday nights were not complete without seeing Herman “Isko” Salvador as Brod Pete in the “Bubble Gang” segment “Ang Dating Doon,” a parody of Eliseo Soriano’s tele-evangelist program. With the “Voltes V” theme in the background, “followers” chanted “Alien!” or “Raise the Roof!” while Isko did his thing as the cheeky faux pastor.

With two sidekicks—Brother Willie (Cesar Cosme) and Brother Jocel (Chito Francisco)—Brod Pete tickled the nation’s collective funny bone by answering random questions hurdled at him by the studio audience, dishing out clever word play, nursery rhymes and traditional folk songs as religious passages.

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“Ang Dating Daan” turned Isko, as Brod Pete, into a household name and paved the way for other roles in different sitcoms, gag shows and movies, among them, “Yes, Yes Show,” “Klasmeyts,” “Ka-Pete Na, Kalong Pa,” “Daboy En Da Girl,” “John En Shirley,” “Nobody, Nobody But Juan” and now, the ongoing “Pidol’s Wonderland” on TV5.

Soon, Isko may be bringing on the laughs again via a weekly program on Radyo Inquirer, and columns in both Bandera and Inquirer Libre.

“Pag-uusapan natin kahit ano, mapa—politics, social issues, music, sports, o kung ano man ang pwedeng mapagtawanan ngayon,” he told Inquirer. “No holds barred. Pero siyempre may humor.”

He gave the Entertainment staff a preview, sort of. Asked about ABS-CBN’s “The Biggest Loser: Pinoy Edition,” he quipped, “Diyan ako galing, ah! Ako ang first winner niyan!”

Asked about his stand on the RH Bill, Isko set the comedian aside, saying he sees the country’s booming population in a positive way. “The challenge for government is to mobilize the people and help make them productive,” he said. “There are a lot of great thinkers here. Why not call a summit for solutions?”

Music and gags

After that it was easier to believe that, away from the cameras, Isko is quite serious and reserved, and would rather stay home and spend all his time strumming his 13-year-old guitar, older than his son Yunique, 11, who had come along to the interview. Isko prefaced most of his replies with strains from favorite songs by the Beatles, Queen and Eraserheads.

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“Pinakamalaking parte ng buhay ko tumutugtog lang ako ng gitara,” he explained to no one in particular. “I cannot even write gags if I’m not fiddling with it.”

So how do you write gags?

When I was just starting, I would lift from English joke books and translate them into Filipino. Then I realized, “What happens when I run out of joke books?” So I began reading serious books about comedy. I studied the nuts and bolts of making punch lines. To practice, I would think of a gag and create expansions and variations.

How did you start writing for television shows?

This happened sometime in ’82 or ‘83. I mustered enough courage to accost the legendary sitcom director Ading Fernando while he was crossing a street in the old Broadcast City. I told him, “Mang Ading, idol ko po kayo! Struggling writer po ako, eh.” He took one look and me and told me to come back the next day. So I did, and I gave him some of my materials. My timing was perfect—he was about to do a daily gag show for BBC 2, “Mah-Ta-Tuh.”

Soon enough, I learned that the work was brutal; I had to write tons of gags every day. But it was a great opportunity, and I decided to tough it out. When I ran out of ideas, I just wrote fillers—old and corny gags—to make my output look impressive. Nakakatawa nga minsan, ’yun pang mga patapon kong jokes ang naa-approve!

I also used to submit materials for sitcoms such as “John En Marsha,” “Buddy En Sol,” “Champoy” and GMA-7’s “Sapak Talaga,” which paid me P50 for every gag that Tessie Tomas approved. My biggest break was becoming “Bubble Gang’s” head writer during the ‘90s.

How did “Ang Dating Doon” come about?

“Bubble Gang” was probably at its peak back in 1998. Sobrang taas ng ratings nun kaya iniisa-isa namin ang mga kainan sa Tomas Morato for brainstorming sessions. During a session, I told my co-workers that Brother Eli of “Ang Dating Daan” cracked me up whenever he went ballistic on TV. Sabi ko sa mga kasama ko, panoorin nila, hindi para sa religious messages, kundi para sa comedy!

Being a writer-comedian, I don’t laugh easily. Si Dolphy lang and nakakapagpatawa sa ‘kin. Biruin mo, si Brother Eli? So the idea of “Ang Dating Doon” kinda took off from there.

Have you ever considered doing anything else?
Gustuhin ko man, wala akong ibang alam, eh. I was once offered to run as councilor in Marikina. I refused because I’m a late riser. Local officials should be up at 8 a.m., for the flag ceremony, etc. Hindi pasok sa time table ko.

But if I could choose another profession, I’d be a guitarist, or any kind of musician.

Does music help you as a comedian?

Jokes are a lot like songs—they should be sweet and pleasant to the ears, with the proper tempo, timing and delivery. It also helps if the jokes have rhyme. And the simpler the joke, the better it is.

I also get to use music for my comedy routines; I really get a kick out of it. I fool around with my favorite songs to draw laughs. For example, I play what I think is the most delicious song ever written—“Come Together,” by the The Beatles. (Plays and sings) “Come together/ right now/ …ovary!”

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