When I first met Victor Anastacio in 2009, I immediately asked him to tell me a joke. He won top prizes at Jack TV's 2007 Laffapalooza and was slowly building a reputation in the comedy circuit with Comedy Cartel, so I assumed that he came packing with funnies. He gave me a half smile. Victor can pick up the joke when the situation calls for it, but stand-up comedy—his genre—is a different vehicle from the usual barkada banter. It's structured, rehearsed. There's nothing to build on except the one you've already prepared.
Back then he told me that he intended to pursue stand-up as a sideline, admitting that it wasn't the most lucrative profession in show business or any other business. But times have changed. Some days you can spot Victor is Home Shopping infomercials; some nights he performs with Comedy Manila in Teatrino. Almost daily, he posts quips on social media and creates funny tidbits that he files under #VeryShortStories.
Now, he's all over the Internet for his stint in Manulife's latest commercial about finding just that one person to support you. We bugged the newly famous Victor about his trending status and the state of stand-up comedy in the Philippines.
How did this whole Manulife commercial come about?
My comedy husband, Red Ollero, came from an ad agency. Ad man Pao got in touch with me. Pao's team was the one who pitched the idea to Manulife. Luckily they as well as (the director) Lyle Sacris are stand-up fans! So we all sat down together.
Did you make jokes specifically for the commercial?
We made use of my existing jokes—about the story of me and my professional family. The agency and production guys wrote the story and the witty lines to complete it. But the roast joke at the end was something they let me do. Sorry, Dad!
Did you expect this viral response?
Of course I hoped that the ad would be viral. And I'm so glad that people liked the small story of my struggle. But at the back of my mind it was always, "Ok, where will I hide once they realize they've made a big mistake hiring me? Now I REALLY need insurance."
What's the state of stand-up comedy in the Philippines?
We at Comedy Manila are very excited about the state of stand-up comedy in the Philippines. The scene keeps growing, and we're so happy that we get to make more and more people laugh. Shows are only as great as their audiences. And Filipino audiences are great. We all love to laugh!
How has local stand-up changed since 2007-2009?
Stand-up comedy has become more mainstream since Laffapalooza. The team effort of Comedy Manila is really letting more and more people enjoy our jokes. Alex Calleja, Ryan Rems, Nonong Ballinan, these are stand-ups you regularly see on TV and/or hear on radio now. We love to joke. Pinoys love to laugh. It's a match made in heaven. It's the next big love team I tell you. Watch for our MMFF entry!
What's life like for you now?
Comedy is life for me now. All my current jobs, I got through doing comedy, And I'm so thankful, because it's a risky career, but it's very fulfilling. I just realized that I write and talk for a living. Wait, I'll just insure my hands and mouth...
What's your actual full-time job?
My time is filled with many part-time jobs. I write and host for TV, I host events, write for ad agencies. I'm also a bedspacer in my parents' house.
How different is the Manulife commercial from real life?
In real life my kuya is a doctor, a surgeon too like dad. My younger brother is a lawyer. And my younger sister is taking up Masters in Psychology, while teaching in school. All intellectual types. Just like me, an intellectual comedian. They passed their board exams; I try to not make audiences bored.
Watch Manulife's ad for yourself (if you haven't already):