The enduring success of the country's longest-running gag show Bubble Gang is the result of a collective effort coming from the production team all the way to the cast members.
Lasting for 15 years is certainly not a walk in the park, and the program's longtime original mainstay Michael V knows by heart that even a comedy show entails a lot of serious hard work to be successful.
"You have to be observant, especially 'yong audience ninyo, you have to know what audience you cater to. Tapos, we do personal researches, mingle kami with the audience...
"'Yong research namin, and lahat kami, we do that personally—mga writers, myself as a creative director, even the talents. 'Yong mga artista namin, pag may mga experiences sila, ikinukuwento nila sa amin and out of that comes a germ of an idea, it grows into a sketch or a set of gags," explained Michael V to PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an interview yesterday, October 21, at the GMA Network Center in Quezon City.
The press engagement was staged to announce Bubble Gang's horror-comedy special on October 29, as well as to officially introduce the new additions to the show composed of Jackie Rice, Gwen Zamora, Ellen Adarna, and Sam Pinto—collectively known as the Bubblets.
MENTOR ROLE. Only Ogie Alcasid and Michael V are the remaining holdovers from the original cast that was assembled in 1995. Cast members have come and gone throughout the years, but the show's objective to make the viewers laugh remains consistent to this very day.
Some of the former cast members of the show include Assunta de Rossi, Amanda Page, Maricar de Mesa, Eric Fructuoso, Aiko Melendez, Sunshine Cruz, Shirley Fuentes, Toni Gonzaga, Isko Salvador, Sherilyn Reyes, Ara Mina, Diana Zubiri, and Francine Prieto.
Training new cast members automatically falls on the lap of both Michael V and Ogie.
"We do it in a very informal manner," said Michael V. "Hindi naman 'yong talagang, 'O, ganito ang gagawin mo.'
"Kasi having been there na ginawa na namin 'yong show for the longest time, more or less alam na namin how to attack a certain sketch and that's what we impart to the new ones."
"Well, nung start, medyo mahirap. But as we jell together, dumaan 'yong ilang taon, naging mas comfortable kami and we know exactly what we wanted. 'Yong gusto sabihin ng isang writer, we know exactly how to execute it.
"So, 'yong position ko, being part of the creative group and at the same time cast, ginagamit ko to my full advantage. I tell my co-stars na ito 'yong idea and ganito dapat 'yong execution. So, minsan kahit hindi nakakarating 'yong mga writers, nandun ako to guide the others."
Most of the ex-cast members, we observed, stayed with the show for a long period, which says a lot about the chemistry and camaraderie shared by everyone in the team.
"'Yong chemistry, hindi lang nangyayari sa cast. Even the cameramen, you have to be comfortable with them, the director, the writers. Hindi naiiwan sa talents lang, e," mentioned the talented comedian.
Bubble Gang is credited for introducing a lot of memorable sketches and characters for more than a decade now. But even Michael V himself admitted that there are moments when the jokes come out flat during the final edit.
"There are times, hindi naman 100 percent, pero it doesn't just come out flat na ganun lang dahil kasalanan ng direktor or kasalanan ni ganito. Mostly na-convolute na 'yong proseso kaya nagkakaroon ng ganun. Hindi naman most of the time, ang nangyayari is mga one out of ten, so still a good batting average."
EYE CANDIES AND CENSORSHIP. Aside from the jokes and wacky sketches dished out every week, the program is also well known for having beautiful, sexy ladies on board as co-stars.
Is this part of the requirements for a female cast to be included in the show?
"Yes!" laughed Michael V. "But not necessarily shapely. Kasi when you define sexy, maraming definition 'yan. Hindi porke't shapely, e, sexy na.
"Minsan dahil matalino at magaling magpatawa, sexy na sa 'kin. So I would say, yes, sexy, but from a different perspective."
Earning the rage of certain organizations is also commonplace, brought about by the parodies and sketches presented by the cast members. The show has been criticized in the past by some viewers for allegedly dishing out "homophobic" jokes every week.
"The last one na we've heard parang mga handicapped yata 'yon," recalled the comedian. "'Yon yung huling complaint na naaalala ko na nilapit sa akin."
Continued Michael V, "The reason why I am concerned about that is because the network is concerned about it. But as far as the creative team is concerned, we'd want to do jokes for the sake of making people laugh lang and not necessarily to hurt anyone or to offend anybody.
"Minsan lang nagiging sobrang ingat, so kami, nagkakaroon ng self-censorship even if we know it's going to be funny and it's not really going to offend anyone. Hindi na lang namin gagawin kasi masasayang lang, hindi lang eere."
BIR ROLE MODEL. Michael V has been in the news lately after the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) published its list of the country's top individual taxpayers covering the year 2008.
Sitting on top of the list are boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, actor Piolo Pascual, and actress-host Kris Aquino. Occupying the tenth spot is Beethoven Bunagan, who is no other than comedian Michael V.
Many of those who made it to the final list expressed concern that releasing the names publicly inadvertently jeopardizes their safety.
"Dapat nga talaga hindi na nilabas," Michael V agreed. "Although according to my lawyer, public document naman daw talaga 'yon, which anybody can find out if they have the means.
"Pero nakakatakot minsan kasi kahit ako personally, hindi ko alam 'yong binabayaran ko. Kasi my wife is taking care of it, my accountant is taking care of it. So, kahit ako nagugulat."
The comedian made fun of the fact that the list only prompted some people to think that the boobtube character of the poor guy turned millionaire Pepito Manaloto is one and the same with the actor portraying the role.
"Kahit saan na lang, pagdating sa usaping pera, akala nila ako si Pepito Manaloto... Lilinawin ko lang po, si Pepito 'tsaka si Michael V, magkaibang entity po 'yon!" laughed Michael V.