Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Visayan humor

If it hasn't been done already, some crackerjack sociologist should tackle the nature of Visayan humor. I think it might go a long way in gaining an understanding of the Filipino psyche of which it is a large part of.

Now, before you think that I am going to explain Visayan humor to you, I am not. All I can do is make some generalizations based on some musty examples already lost in the memories of my childhood. Perhaps a pattern will emerge. Or perhaps not.

Anyway, what brought the subject to mind was my animation class. We've already hit the more advanced stages of animation production and now we're supposed to come out with a 10 sec. short. That's the idea, anyway. The instructor is a bit disorganized so we're really making things up as we go along.

So my teammates and I are bandying about some ideas and we're exchanging some old jokes. They were mostly lame: one was about two hunters trying to see who could shoot down the biggest bird; another one was about a less-than-bright kung-fu disciple; and what we finally decided on was a slightly R-rated skit involving a dirty old man on a treadmill in a gym.

I know, I know. In our defense, all I can say is that it's supposed to be a short cartoon so we can't go for subtlety.

What was more interesting to me was the nature of the jokes which we came up with, examples as given above.

Now, my generalizations:

1) A lot of our jokes seem to center on one-upmanship. You know, the kind which goes "your grandpa has nothing on my grandpa..." and usually has a very lame punchline. A very popular variation involves a Filipino and two other people of different nationalities. Granted, this is not unique to Visayan humor, or Filipino humor at large, but we seem to have more than our fair share of this.

2) Visayan humor has a very earthy quality, many times crossing over into the green. Again, not unique, but we seem to have more than our fair share.

3) Finally, we have a lot of self-deprecating jokes which make light of our own shortcomings, taking them for a virtue over the people who stand in the right (and are therefore perceived as uptight.)

4) Puns and wordplay are nonexistent.

On the whole, there's not a lot of subtlety in our jokes. These are the types which make for the life of the party. All flash and bluster and at the end we wonder what it was all about. That's the impression that comes to mind right now anyway.

What this all means I really don't know. There are fuzzy thoughts forming toward a conclusion but I can't articulate it just yet. Then again, I'm not a sociologist so I won't be bothered too much about it.

Agree with the observations? Or not? Let me know!


  1. I don't understand... I've always viewed the "your grandpa has nothing on my grandpa" setup as being pretty funny, and it's versatile enough to be used for a lot of different punchlines. It's a little like the "yo' mama" approach to jokes.

    I've just got to try this:

    "My grandpa's so good with a rifle that he can hit a beer bottle from 400 yards!"

    "Oh yeah? Well, my grandpa's so good with a rifle that he can hit a playing card from 500 yards!"

    "My grandpa's got you both beat. He's so good with a rifle that he can hit a beer bottle from a hundred yards!"

    "Huh? What makes that so good? Anybody can hit a bottle from a hundred yards."

    "Yeah, but my grandpa's blind."


  2. Oh, I think you've just made my point for me, Sean. Then again, de gustibus nil disputandem.

  3. I think I stole that from Pol Medina's early work, to be honest. He had a much better way of presenting it...