Comedian Norman Mitchell has been away from local showbiz for years. Now he's making a comeback through the comedy-talent search in dzMM called Laugh Out Loud (LOL).
It may be recalled that Norman was first known in show business through his radio program Kumusta mga Bisaya. Then, he made people laugh in the afternoon variety show 'Sang Linggo nAPO Sila and the weekly sitcom Super Laff-In.
This native of Davao also had a few movies before his career in showbiz came to a halt. He worked with Eric Quizon and Redford White in Wanted Perfect Murder (1996); the late Babalu in Haba Baba Doo, Puti-Puti Poo (1998); and Vic Sotto and Rosanna Roces in Basta't Ikaw Nangingig Pa (1999).
Since he stopped appearing in radio and TV shows, Norman admitted that what he misses most was, "Facing the camera. Kinakabahan na ako kasi matagal na akong absent, e."
In a short interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) after the press conference of LOL, Norman gave us a little update about his life after his last appearance in television.
The comedian said that it had always been his dream to make people smile since he was a kid. "That's one of my dreams, kasi sabi ko, ‘I wanna make the whole world laugh.'"
Through his perseverance to achieve this dream, Norman was able to travel to different countries. "Medyo na-achieve ko rin," he said, "Not only here sa Pilipinas kasi pati Europe, Middle East, U.S, naka-tour din ako, nagsho-show din ako doon. So, naabot ko na rin ang aking pangarap."
How did he end up in show business?
Norman said that he was 24 years old when he started working as a folk singer here in Manila. "Aksidente. Parang aksidente. Kasi parang may isang party noon ang ABS-CBN na na-invite ako. 'Tapos nagustuhan ako ng the late Genny Lopez Sr. Nagustuhan niya ako, 'tapos ginamit-gamit na nila ako.
"Eventually, nakapasok ako sa radio, sa dzMM radio noong '95 or '96. Seven years ako nandoon. Then, nakuha ako sa Super Laff In and then, pumasok ako sa 'Sang Linggo nAPO Sila."
When he stopped appearing in television and movies, Norman went back to doing corporate shows, where his career really started. "Kahit wala pa ako sa TV noon, kahit sa radio,sa mga corporate shows talaga ako nabubuhay. So, kahit na wala ako sa TV o sa radio, corporate shows na lang ako. And abroad, doon ako tumitira [nagsho-show]," said Norman.
The Visayan comedian gave the credit to his exposure in television and movies for still being recognized by Filipinos abroad. "Nagulat nga ako 'yong mga bata kilala ako, 'yon pala dahil sa mga pelikula ko," he told PEP.
Norman said that because of his shows abroad, he now has to carefully choose the projects he would do. For instance, he accepted LOL because the episodes would be pre-taped.
He further explained, "Ayaw ko rin tumanggap ng mga maraming commitments sa TV at radio kasi once na mag-abroad ako maiiwan ko 'yon. Magagalit sila sa akin kasi madalas biglaan, biglaang alis."
NORMAN AS A COMEDIAN. Paradoxically, Norman is naturally shy in person. "Kasi sa totoong buhay, kapag off the stage ako, ano ako, e, silent type ako. Hindi ako nagsasalita, good listener lang ako, e," he described himself.
So, how does he shift to being a comedian when goes on stage?
"Ang comedy ko karamihan nasa audience, e. What you see, what you hear, bato mo na agad, parang ganun," answered Norman.
He said that he's more comfortable working on an impromptu piece than memorizing or practicing what he would perform on stage.
"Kasi minsan, tanong mo ako, ‘Magsho-show ka ngayon? Ano'ng gagawin mo?' [Sasagot ako], ‘Hindi ko pa alam.' ‘Ano'ng kakantahin mo? Isulat mo nga sa akin.' Okay, isusulat ko pero pagdating ko sa stage hindi ko rin masusunod iyon, e. Kung ano ang nasa isip ko, ano 'yong nasa utak ko, yun na. Bigla ko ring babaguhin 'yon, di rin masusunod."
He added, "Kailangan lang diyan timing, e. Timing lang kasi kahit na maganda ang material mo, kung hindi mo nai-timing masyado, 'yon ang problema. Nakukuha mo sila pero hilaw.'
"TAPOS NA AKO." The veteran comedian admitted that he felt sad when he no longer received movie and TV projects, but he has learned to accept this fate.
"Alam mo, showbiz kasi may malungkot na side, may lonely side. Ganun lang iyan. Kailangan kapag showbiz ka, habang kumikita, mag-ipon. Kasi once you're medyo ano na... Para kang laruan, e. Para kang manika, kapag sawa na sa'yo ang bata, throw away ka na, sideline ka muna.
"Okay lang naman ako kasi sa pelikula hindi ko talaga inaasahan. Hindi ko kine-cater talaga sa pelikula. Sa stage lang talaga ako. Sa ngayon, wala na akong live shows na ganito [sa mga comedy bars], karamihan ko mga private or special shows na talaga."
He does not mind that there are younger comedians who come to replace veteran comedians like him.
"They have their own time," he said. "Ako mayroon din naman akong sariling time. Tapos na ako. Mamaya, alam mo kasi kapag comedy kapag two, three years, kapag hindi mo narinig, parang bago na naman sa inyo. Kasi, halimbawa, 'yong nakinig sa 'yo noon ay five years old pa lang, pagdating niya ng ten, 'yon pa rin naman ang audience mo, e, kuha mo pa rin siya. Ang comedy kasi, regardless of age, walang problema iyan, e."
Norman was just glad that he had an opportunity to save money for himself while he was still active in showbiz. In fact, he was able to put up a grade school in Parañaque with his hard-earned money and with the help of his partners.
So, as we ended the interview, Norman left some advice for aspiring young comedians."Alam mo kapag sumikat ka, huwag lumaki ang ulo at huwag mag-drugs—that's the most important one. Kapag nag-drugs kayo, goodbye na 'yon. At saka mag-ipon, while it's raining! Kumuha ka ng balde, mag-ipon ka. Kapag wala nang ulan, wala na 'yan."