They're also better if half-true.
Watched a "Comedy Cartel" show the other day at mag:net Highstreet. The show was divided in two: the first half headlined by Tim Tayag, the other by Mike Unson. And while the headliners delivered the goods, the others were just so-so.
Which is understandable, the stand-up comedy scene here isn't developed yet. We need to have brave souls who will polish their material in front of live audiences while taking potshots from hecklers like myself.
The first few acts were terrible. The jokes just weren't funny. Or they would've been if delivered properly. As it was there were too many words and too few actual punchlines. An audience member (trying to entertain himself) kept shouting "tama na yan, mag-joke ka na."*
I think it's a matter of trying too hard to do a setup-punchline thing. It works if you're Letterman (with a team of writers) or Conan (whose apologies for his bad jokes are even funnier) or Mitch Hedberg (a master of paraprosdokian.), but not if you're a starting Pinoy stand-up affecting an American accent.
If I wanted to see an American-style comedian I'd watch the late night shows or pull up my Comedy Central downloads. What we need are people who will talk about the Filipino experience, the funny stuff that happens. Don't talk about a singles scene (picking up chicks at a bar, etc.) unless your crowd can relate to it. It just makes you look like you're copying Dane Cook.
Example: the comedian talks about a girl giving him the wrong phone number. He calls it and Jollibee answers. A heckler** (who is not amused) comments "di ka ba nagtaka nung ang ibinigay niyang number 8-7000?" The joke is lame because it's a variation of early 90s US jokes. What makes it more so is that nobody asks for a landline nowadays. Sheesh.
What went well with the audience (and that heckler) are the ones that could've been true. Jokes that are based on personal experiences that the audience is familiar with, too.
Alex Calleja was great. Speaking in Tagalog he went on a long rant about taxi drivers' antics. He had everyone in stitches because everyone in the crowd has experienced something similar. Mike Unson's spiel on how the MRT is superior to Hongkong's MTR (they can't even get the name right) was another belly buster. His impression of the bilingual MTR announcements and the MRT drivers was spot on. And his story about philandering friends is funny even without said friend in the audience (although that was a hoot).
So, will I watch them again? Probably. It can only get better.
* Oo, ako yun.
** Ako ulit.