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The secret to being happy? Ask a comedian!

By BEA TRINIDAD, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 27, 2022 5:00 am Updated Mar 29, 2022 9:00 am

Why so serious? We've heard this line before from the Joker in the movie The Dark Knight.

I asked myself a similar question when I attended a standup comedy gig in Cubao X long ago after a grueling workday. The veteran comedian Mike Unson was performing live when I arrived late and entered the door beside the stage.

Naturally, he spotted me and joked about how I appeared to be one of those students from an all-girls Catholic school. I was late, embarrassed, and squirmed in my seat. But, in my head, I was asking myself, Why so serious? And: Why couldn't I laugh at being made fun of?

After a few minutes, I got over that awkward moment. And, I found myself laughing with the crowd, the kind of laughter that makes your belly hurt. In that moment, I learned to let loose, leave the work stress outside the bar, and just have a fun night out.

The end outcome is to entertain people through laughter. In addition, they teach us how to make fun of ourselves and not take everything too seriously.

Looking back on that night, I think about how our mental states have changed since working from home became the norm. A licensed therapist told me that one of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 is on our mental health. More celebrities have become more outspoken about this issue, from Kylie Verzosa, Isabelle Daza, and Kiana Vee to Maine Mendoza and Nadine Lustre.

Many of us are burnt out, feeling loss, overthinking, and unhappy. So, how can we change this mindset? How can we be happier?

I think about that night out and how perhaps our local comedians can teach us about happiness, enjoyment, and contentment. In their profession, they constantly create material from real-life truths. Then, they get onstage with confidence, sharing their comedy with the audience with no filter.

The end outcome is to entertain people through laughter. In addition, they teach us how to make fun of ourselves and not take everything too seriously.

In conversations with some of our young and local comedians, I discovered 10 happiness hacks that they've learned on and off stage:

Victor Anastacio (Instagram: @victoranastacio)
Standup comedian, host, actor, podcaster of “Sabayan with Victor”

Convert negative energy to positive. A big part of happiness is staying inspired. When I asked Victor how he stays inspired, he shared that he draws inspiration from real-life problems. He said, “Like, in science, matter or energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be converted.” He added, “Kahit gaano ka unique ang problema, makakahanap ka ng karamay.”

Study your heroes’ paths. Victor has had a diverse career in comedy, acting, hosting, podcasting, and more. He studies many of his heroes, like American comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Kevin Hart, to stay motivated. He said, “Matagal na ako nakikinig ng podcasts kasi kahit anong country, same yung experiences nila (other comedians) sa stage, TV and writing.”

His favorite piece of advice is from Kevin Hart on never leaving standup comedy, no matter how big the projects are. For Victor, this is true as comedy is natural to him, and this is also where his lifelong friends are.

Red Ollero (Instagram: @comedybyred)
Standup comedian, host, actor, producer, writer, podcaster, pro wrestler

Freedom is priceless. Red Ollero was once a copywriter in an advertising agency. He decided one day to quit and pursue his love of comedy. It was tough for the first few years, and he was also still figuring out his type of comedy.

There's a moment it changed for him. He said, "I started expressing myself when I decided to talk about my weight as a big boy. I'm still a big boy. I was worried about being typecast. Then, I started to learn to write about actual feelings."

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He now shares what it's like when women reject him or when an elevator starts buzzing as he enters or when friends tease him about his body. But, he said, "It opened the world to the style that I wanted to pursue. It's just about digging deep. Being insightful. And also being genuine." In some sense, he accepts the world from his point of view.

Write down motivating messages or watch a winner's speech. Red's happiest moments are when he is performing on stage. So I asked him what happens when you don't have that high? How does one hack the mind to be happier if it's just a regular day? He said, "Consume content that helps you."

For Red, he writes motivating words in front of his desk. He has lines from comedians, wrestlers and boxing films. He also said, "I like watching people winning the Oscars. It's like the best time of their lives. And then it makes you think, what are they going to say at the peak of their lives? Lalo na first-time winners." In a world where down-talking people is prevalent, Red believes practicing the opposite will make people happier.

Ryan Puno (Instagram: @solidoktv)
Standup comedian, video director, head writer at Solid OK TV

Hone your skill and use it to further your purpose. Ryan Puno has been doing standup comedy since his days at Ateneo De Manila. He practiced his skill at Jack TV, Comedy Cartel and Comedy Manila. He also went to New York in 2014 to go to comedy school, where he learned sketch writing and SNL-style comedy. He shared that his goal has always been to learn and apply it using Pinoy culture as the subject.

He said, "The confidence gained through experience teaches you that you have a great idea. Trust it and trust that your taste is good and you know what you're doing." He continued, "I've been learning to stick to my guns more. Everything we do should be done with purpose and intent."

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Watch local comedy, as they understand what you're going through. For the miserable, Ryan suggested, "Watch your local comedians. We're here to sympathize with you and make fun of the things we're all going through together. We're talking about what you're feeling." Comedy shows you that you are not alone and that someone out there can relate.

Chi Estrada (Instagram: @sariandchi)
Comedian, One Half of Sari & Chi

Lean on your friends. People can be self-critical, and it can affect your self-esteem. But, this is where your support group plays a crucial role. For example, Chi has been making comedy videos with her sister, her comedy ally Sari, since 2009. But they were only posting it on Facebook for family and friends.

On their first comedy show, they sang an original song, Sexy Panties, which went viral with millions of hits for their expression of women's sexuality, the pressure to get married and have children. Chi said, "The happiest day in my life was when my sister and I became friends because it wouldn't be this way with us making comedy right now if we didn't become friends.”

Divert your focus on what you do right and celebrate the good. Chi admits, in the beginning, it was challenging for her, "Right after every performance or every video was posted, I cried to them (Ryan and Sari) and just pinpointed all the things that I hated from what I did. They made me realize that it's okay to feel what I am feeling. But they also tried to divert my focus into what I did right. And, you know, try to change my mindset."

***

Going back to that night, I think about my embarrassment. Perhaps, at that moment, I was taking myself too seriously.

I asked Red why he thinks people are unhappy. He said, "I like being free. And I think there are many people that, when you see them, their unhappiness comes from a place where someone or something is stopping them from being happy. There are restrictions, shackles, tethers from society and reality. So that's what's keeping them from being happy."

More than a laugh or a good night from comedians, we can learn much about ourselves in their sketches. Life indeed becomes easier with a sense of humor.