The son also rises
THE OUTSIDER - Erwin T. Romulo () - October 22, 2010 - 12:00am

Jako de Leon has a pretty good idea of how to make people laugh. After all, not only is he the son of Joey de Leon, but he’s also the producer of Front Act, a 30-minute comedy show in its fourth season now. Hosted by veteran stand-up comics Mike Unson and Stanley Chi along with LC de Leon of the “complaint rock” band Reklamo and cosplayer Benedict Bartolome, the show is touted as being at the forefront of alternative comedy on mainstream television. (The new episodes also feature other alt-comics, the Brewrats.) Though he’s preferred to stay behind the camera, the younger de Leon is very much his father’s son — down-to-earth, tireless, easygoing.

YOUNG STAR How did the show come about?

 JAKO DE LEON: Well, I met Stan (Chi) two years ago at a Christmas Party through his cousin. They were planning a show and I had just gotten back from the States, where I studied. I was looking to venture in production and as fate would have it, Stan was too. At first, we had different ideas, I wanted to do a 30-minute comedy show online and they wanted to produce a talk show à la Chelsea Lately. We blended ideas and out came Front Act, a 30-minute comedy talk show. It’s called Front Act because Stan is the front act for Mike Unson and Mike (Unson) was the front act for veteran comic Rex Navarette when he performed here in the country. We ran two seasons as Front Act with Mike and Stanley on Channel 5 before Wow Mali. Then we decided to move to Solar TV right before the Saturday PBA games. We’re now in our fourth season.

 Mike and Stanley are stand-up comedians while LC and Benedict come from other backgrounds. How does that work?

 It just does, I think. It’s not your typical barkada of people but it still works. That’s what makes us different. In fact, the current tagline of the show is “Front Act. Non-traditional. Untraditional.” Besides, Mike and Stan are veteran point-of-view stand-up comedians, LC Reklamo is a rocker and Ben is a cosplayer slash comic book geek, I can’t imagine how that couldn’t work!

 What’s your definition of “alternative comedy”?

 In a perfect world, comedy is universal. What makes me laugh should make you laugh. But of course, we all know that isn’t entirely true. Comedy isn’t the same for every one, at least for the most part. It differs from individual to individual. Here in the Philippines, the traditional means usually consists of slapstick, “insult theater” and sometimes, direct spoofing.

 Alternative comedy is simply all the other ways of delivering comedy to audiences. Point-of view stand-up (a.k.a the American stand-up) or even “improv” are rare forms but they do exist here in the country.

 There are other means of eliciting laughter, it is just that we are so accustomed to the traditional ways that we fail to try out new things even if its equally good. Our show thrives on breaking new comic ground and introducing new forms of comedy to the Filipino audiences.

 Most memorable stuff so far on the show, both on-cam and off?

Star-son: Jako with Ungga Ayala and Rene Requiestas.

 Ang dami na! To me, parang baby ko ‘to eh. Every single thing, good or bad, is memorable. Show-wise, on-cam, in no particular order: events and features, especially on Cosplay, because that’s pretty much how and where we rediscovered our brand of comedy; all the interesting guests such as Bossing Vic Sotto, Ryan Agoncillo, Ex-Chairman LaGuardia and Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro; and finally, our numerous segments: Home TV Shopping, Celebrity Torture, Turo-Turo, The Front Act News, and my current favorite, Bogart the Explorer from Davao City.

 Off-cam? I’d have to say the fact that I get to work with the most awesome crew ever assembled is memorable enough. We’ve gotten through everything as a unit and together we’ve created something special.

You’re having the Brewrats as guests on the show now. Any reason why?

 Because they’re the nothing short of a riot. We’ve had Ramon (Bautista) and Tado guest numerous times before and they’ve always given us brilliant comic material to work with. They share a similar humor and our fan bases are also alike. Other than that, they’re simply good people and are always a pleasure to work with.

 As a producer, what’re the most important things to know when handling comedians or just running a show like this?

 As a producer, I’ve learned that to create the best comedy, you must have a relaxed environment. I think it’s just common sense to think that comics work best when they are in a good mood. Besides, an unhappy comedian could be an oxymoron. (Laughs) Sorry, that was horrible.

Your job is pretty much like Liz Lemon from 30 Rock or Kermit on the Muppet Show. (Many say it’s the same character, actually.)

(Laughs) More Liz Lemon, I think. Things can get crazy in a hurry but that’s what makes it awesome.

 What do you do when something just isn’t working?

 With this kind of show, we’ve practically learned to perfect the art of “winging it.” Life is just too short to plan every single thing. Always expect that not everything will ever turn out exactly the way we want it to. That shouldn’t hinder us from thinking that it cannot be as great. Many times, we go to events or interviews where things aren’t as funny, and that’s okay. It’s a bigger challenge for us but those are the moments we live for — to make the unfunny, funny. If you can do that, making the funny funnier is a piece of cake.

 Of course, being your dad’s son (including doing some acting in his movies) it’s safe to say you’ve learned from the best.

I was quite young then but watching him operate in his element has always been a priceless learning experience. All Dad needed was a yellow pad and you’ve got your scene — on the spot. From Starzan to Elvis & James to Alyas Batman and Robin, it was “winging it” at its finest. Just pure genius. And when you see a genius at work, you can’t help but feel inspired… or relatively insecure (depending on how much self-esteem you have, of course).

 Apart from Front Act, what else are you working on?

 A lot, actually. Right now, I’m currently working on a special project for TAPE, Inc./Eat Bulaga, which is going to blow everyone’s socks off. My siblings and I, along with our dad, are also thinking of new design concepts for our Joey de Leon’s Tease Shirt line. And other than Front Act, we also have the geekiest and most awesome radio show called The Robo Rock Radio Show every Thursday 9 to 11 p.m. on UR 105.9 with the entire Front Act barkada where we talk about everything from comics to movies to cartoons to ‘80s nostalgia, and of course, giant Japanese robots. We’re practically the radio cousins of The Big Bang Theory on steroids.

* * *

The Front Act Show airs Saturdays, 4:30 p.m. on Solar TV Ch. 9 (14 on Cable) 

ACT COMEDY FRONT FRONT ACT MIKE AND STANLEY SHOW
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