Wednesday ∗ 16 Jul 2008

romanticizing poverty and wowowee

The past couple of weeks, Randy Santiago has been pinch hitting for host Willie Revillame on noontime gameshow Wowowee. Suffice it to say that it has been a breath of fresh air, a relief and respite from the kind of hosting that Revillame has been allowed to do on nationwide (worldwide!) television.

Because where the latter is abrasive and disrespectful of the show’s contestants, Santiago maintains an amount of compassion when dealing with Wowowee’s mass audience. Where Revillame would imagine it entertaining to poke fun at his co-hosts, the show’s contestants and audience members, Santiago’s kind of funny doesn’t even brink on bastos.

Without a doubt, Santiago proves that Revillame’s kind of comedy and hosting isn’t the only way to do a show like Wowowee. In fact, there’s no reason to do it the way Revillame does.

Because although Santiago also jokes around with the female co-hosts of the show, as well as the dancers in skimpy clothes, he is able to maintain a certain distance that dispels whatever sexist undertones the show’s format maintains to begin with. With Revillame, everything seems inappropriate, from his body language to the words he spews out without thinking them insulting.

With his penchant for drama, Revillame also likes reducing his contestants to tears, as he forces them to tell the stories of their lives – sad as these are, if not downright horrible. And yet more often than not, Revillame will respond with a punchline that pokes fun at what the contestant has gone through, or at what she looks like, how she sounds. It is here that Revillame always seems to be taking advantage of the contestants’ class origins, using it to illicit tears – and maybe money – from the richer members of the audience, or maybe to get higher ratings (who knows?).

Santiago, forced to stay within the show’s format, also asks about the contestants’ lives but with more sincerity, and responds to their stories with more compassion. There are no punchlines to be made here, and Santiago seamlessly segues onto the game that the contestant is joining in the hope of making her life better, instead of trying to illicit laughter about the sad story he has just heard.

In the process, what shines through is Santiago’s breeding – his sense of propriety in terms of dealing with the contestants and mass audience of the show, his notion of what’s funny and when to use it, and a keen sense of where he stands relative to the rest of the show. More often than not, Santiago pokes fun at himself, using as premise his own silliness instead of other people’s deficiencies.

It would do Revillame well, and the makers of Wowowee, to see the light. Santiago proves there’s much that can be done within the show’s format; that there’s no excuse to be abrasive or disrespectful for the sake of comedy or entertainment. And definitely no reason to romanticize – and make money out of – their mass audience’s stories of poverty.

Posted in: kapitalista, komentaryo, kultura, review, TV

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