The funny accidents in the life of Michael V
10 THINGS - Bianca Gonzalez () - March 25, 2012 - 12:00am

Every single colleague of Michael V’s that I asked described him as “brilliant.” He is not only a leading star and master of disguises, but also the creative director of the longest-running gag show in the country, Bubble Gang. He landed on the cover of Reader’s Digest Asia’s (being only the second Filipino, next to the late President Cory Aquino) “Humor Special” after having won the Best Comedy Performance Award at the Asian Television Awards for three consecutive years. He is a certified household name, endorsing all things wholesome from dishwashing liquid to donuts to milk. Here are 10 things you should know about Michael V. (Or is his name really “Michael V.”?)

1. The name Michael V came from Michael Jackson and Gary V, and his real name is Beethoven.

His father who was working in a construction company saw an album cover in the office that read “Beethoven.” Without realizing it was a surname, he swore that if he had a son, that would be his name. And that son happened to be Michael V. He quips, “I found it weird na pano niya naisip na idikit yung Beethoven sa Bunagan?” Michael V was born Beethoven del Valle Bunagan, and he recalls being called “Beth” as a kid, if not “Bet-ho-ben,” as people pronounced his name. It was in high school when he was given the nickname “Bitoy,” after he kept mimicking the kiddie character Bitoy that the late comedian Bentot played in the sitcom Iskul Bukol. When he entered show business, he and his manager Orly Ilacad had to think of a catchy screen name for his career as a rapper, and back then, Francis M. and Andrew E. were the biggest names. Orly asked him who his favorite artists were, and he answered that, internationally, it was Michael Jackson, and locally it was Gary V. “So they merged that, and I became Michael V.,” he says matter of factly.

2. He accidentally discovered his talent to impersonate people when he first tried using a cassette recorder.

“Na discover nung cousin ko na yung cassette tape niya pala yung pinatungan ko, nagalit siya sa kin,” he fondly recalls. He often watched comedians Gary Bautista and Willie Nepomuceno and was fascinated with how they created and impersonated voices and looks. He discovered the tape recorder, found out he could listen to his voice and keep tweaking it until he got it right. His favorite voice to do was that of an old man. “There was this time in grade school that we had a school play and I was cast as an old man. I did that, and masaya yung mga tao. Na-realize ko na ah, pwede pala ito pagkakitaan eventually.”

He joined many contests like a Boy George sing-alike contest in Student Canteen, a Menudo sing-alike contest on Big Bold Channel, and many other contests, but he says, “laging talo, wala yata akong napanalunan eh!”

3. Ogie Alcasid is one of his best friends, but they first met decades ago when Ogie was a judge in a rap contest who gave contestant Michael V. the lowest score, making him lose.

What makes a hit: “It’s a certain feel, hindi ko alam paano ie-explain. But something with big potential like the way a person looks or speaks.”

It was a contest in Eat Bulaga with fellow rapper Lady Dianne that paved the started his career. When they lost the grand finals, he recalls, “Sabi ko I will never rap again!” Lady Dianne was given a contract by Octo Arts despite losing the contest and he wasn’t. However, it was when she heard Maganda ang Piliin (which was Michael V.’s answer to Andrew E.’s Humanap ka ng Pangit) that she asked him for his demo tape, and by lucky accident, it was put into her pile of demo tapes given to Octo Arts. They heard Michael V.’s song, and signed him up shortly after.

Years later, they met again when they had to work together in a movie, and that’s where he reminded Ogie about the contest. They later laughed about it, came to be the best of friends (they’re even godparents to each other’s kids), and are now one of the best comedic tandems in the industry. He shares that “give and take” is the key to their successful partnership. “Kapag hyper siya, ako mababa, at kapag most of the time ako ang hyper, ang galing niya mag-complement.”

4. He was able to avoid being bullied back in school because he was the class clown. And all the bullies wanted to hang out with the funny guy.

“I’ve always been the class clown and parang walang nagto-top sa akin pagdating sa kalokohan,” he shares with a naughty grin as if back in school. He says that it was a good thing because there are many bullies in high school, and since they all liked being entertained, he became a part of their barkada. He attended high school at Manila Science and says that his early years were okay, but his junior year was pasang awa. He went to Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila for college and finished with a degree in mass communications.

5. Michael V. in numbers:

200-plus: Estimated number of characters he has portrayed and impersonated in his career. “I did this show before, Bitoy’s World, wherein I play all the characters. There are times that on one screen I play 13 characters sabay sabay.”

24: Number of years he has been doing gag and variety shows. Six years on Ready Get Set Go, two years on Tropang Trumpo, and 16 years (and counting) on Bubble Gang.

Family man: With his wife Carol and their children: Milo, 17, a gadget enthusiast; Yani, 14, who is into music; Migo, 8, who is showing comedic tendencies; and May Paul, 3, their little princess.

25: Age that he got married to his wife Carol. Michael V. is now 42.

15: Hours on average it takes to tape an episode of Bubble Gang

3,056,150: Number of views of the video Pickup Line Battle at Bubble Gang on YouTube. “Kahit corny yung joke o walang sense, minsan nasa delivery.”

6. On his first date with his wife Carol, he thinks he was able to impress her when he accidentally locked the keys inside his car, and he tinkered around until he managed to open the door.

They met in college through common friends but nothing special happened back then. It was years after when Carol called Michael V. to ask for a number of a certain classmate that they reconnected and hit it off. He says their first date was very memorable because during the previews, he recalls, “Pinakita yung trailer ng Medicine Man, at sabi ni Sean Connery, ‘It’s not as easy as losing your keys inside your car.’” At that moment, he realized his keys weren’t in his pocket and were probably inside the car! Without finishing the movie, they went back to the car, he got a piece of wire from the PVC pipe and skillfully unlocked the door. He also recalls another date at Star City where he invited her to ride the roller coaster, thinking that she’d get scared and hold on to him. “I forgot, flight stewardness nga pala siya,” he laughs.

Carol and Michael V. have four children: Milo, 17, a gadget enthusiast like him; Yani, 14, who is into music; Migo, 8, who is showing comedic tendencies; and May Paul, 3, their little princess.

6. Favorite characters played:

Impersonations:

1. GMA: “She would have to be the most popular.”

With best buds Ogie Alcasid and Francis Magalona

2. Ely Buendia: “Pag gumagawa ako ng spoof ng kanta nila, I make sure na pinapaalam muna.”

3. Mahal: “There was so much room for comedy. Yung challenge was paano namin maa-achieve yung look.”

Characters:

1. Junie Lee, the awkward reporter: “Parang siya yung other side of who I am. Kasi hindi ako kagaya ng mga kaibigan ko na sociable or mahilig chumika, pagka celebrity wala na, nahihiya na ako,” he reveals.

2. Mr. Assimo, the sarcastic, irritable man: “Yung punchline niya is ‘Hiyang hiya naman ako sa yo!’”

3. Angelina and Yaya, a bratty kid (played by Ogie) with her Visayan yaya (played by Michael V.): “Awareness lang dapat for the parents, eh nag-hit, tapos nagtuluy-tuloy na, at naging movie.”

7. His performance, he says, come 50 percent from the writers and 50 percent from him. “If you are going to be on cam to say it, might as well be part of it.”

He says that usually, the concept comes from him, and then the writers come in with their own ideas. Unlike other actors who act out the material given to them, he says that in his case, since it’s his concept, it has to be done a certain way. Sometimes he does an adlib while the cameras are rolling, to make the skit work. 

When he is having a bad day, he says that if it is a problem concerning the family, he asks to be excused from work. “Siyempre family comes first. Unahin mo muna ayusin yun at pag natapos na yung problema, that’s the time you can work,” he reveals. When it’s a minor problem, he says that he just shrugs it off and “dun pumapasok yung pagiging artista.”

He has been with GMA Network for close to two decades now but has never signed an exclusive contract with them. “Ayoko lang yung pressure of being owned by someone. Over the years I’ve earned their trust and I am dedicated to my work.” He signs a contract per show. He shares that it would be nice to work with Mang Dolphy if given the opportunity, perhaps a movie with Joey de Leon, and says that at this point maybe a project with Vice Ganda. Michael V. looks up to Dolphy, Tito Vic and Joey, and the cast of Bad Bananas as comedians, but says that it’s his kids who make him laugh the most.

8. On what makes a hit: “It’s a certain feel, hindi ko alam paano ie-explain. But something with big potential like the way a person looks or speaks.”

When it comes to mimicking a personality or creating a character, he says that the key lies in the voice, the look, or the things that person does. He shares how they start from an idea, create a look for that certain character, create the voice, then the scene, then a whole sketch. “Pag sinulat mo, alam mo na kung papatok o hindi. And we have our staff and crew, pag natawa sila, alam mo nang maghi-hit.” He says that they try to avoid sensitive issues like politics and religion, and once had a really funny sketch on Bubble Gang that did not air because it was rated “X” by the MTRCB. (It was released on the show’s DVD version though.)

One of the most popular segments are the TV commercial spoofs, and advertising agencies consider it something of an honor when their ad is chosen to be parodied. Michael V. and Ogie are creatively behind this cult hit. How can he tell that an ad will make a good parody? “If it’s not being funny, it’s probably spoof-able.”

9. When his best friend Francis Magalona passed away, he got a tattoo. “It worked to my advantage kasi yung pain inside, hindi ko na ma-control.”

When he found out Francis was sick, he jokingly said that should anything bad happen, he would get a tattoo. When Francis passed away, he had a bittersweet dilemma of whether to get a tattoo or not. At the wake, randomly and out of nowhere, a man named Pido introduced himself to Michael V. and said that he was the tattoo artist of Francis. “Sabi ko, aling tattoo? He said, ‘yung three stars and a sun.’ That was it, I took it as a sign,” Michael V. reveals. He had his tattoo done in the Eat Bulaga studio that week itself. “From time to time I would burst into tears. Whenever I saw something that reminded me of Francis, I would lose my mind. Yung pain sa loob, na-transfer on the outside, which really helped a lot.” He says they were similar in so many ways, and he considered him like a brother. “Di ko nga ma-imagine kung anong gagawin ko kung hindi ko naging barkada si Francis. Ang laki ng impact niya in my personal life and career. Kaso wala na eh, everyone has to move on.”

10. For Michael V., a good life boils down to five things:

1. “If you love your God, you’re not gonna do anything stupid na kagagalitan niya.”

2. “If you love your wife, why would you want to hurt her?”

3. “If you love your kids, why would you wanna be someone na kaiinisan nila?”

4. “If you love your career or your job, you wouldn’t wanna mess it up.”

5. “If you love yourself, di mo gustong mag suffer ka eventually.”

On being known as a family man: “I take pride in that. There’s no secret, you just do the right thing. Ganun lang ka-simple.”

I arrive at his home for this interview and find him in his home’s lanai editing a video of him and Ogie on his laptop. In the middle of the interview, we hear a voice shouting, “Oy! Pare ko!” Only to find Ogie himself and friend Dingdong Avanzado walking and waving from the golf course right outside Michael V’s yard. (All that was left was the “Awwww” sound effect and it would’ve been a scene straight out of a sitcom!) Michael V., or Bitoy, or Beethoven, or Beth, or whatever you may want to call him, may not have the grandest, most epic life story to share. He may not have the most tear-jerking struggles to look back on. But he is awesome proof that even without all that drama, you can make a huge impact on other people’s lives. In his case, with comedy. He is a simple man, enjoys simple things, is simple in his wants. He has this great talent to make people laugh, and according to him, as long as the audience wants it, he’ll be around to give it.

* * *

E-mail me at askiamsuperbianca@yahoo.com or follow me on twitter @iamsuperbianca.

BITOY BUBBLE GANG MICHAEL MICHAEL V OGIE YUNG
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