Laughter Is Her Bread And Butter


Laughter Is Her Bread And Butter

Funny girl bares her more serious side

By Marissa Sanchez as told to Maan D’Asis Pamaran

Music is really my first love. I started singing professionally at the age of 11 at the old Bodega City. There I met a lot of entertainers and performers along the way, and they convinced me to give comedy a try. I was very hesitant at first, because I am actually a very shy person. But when I got the hang of it, I found that I enjoyed it.

Instead of simply singing and getting off the stage after my set is done, I get to connect with the audience. There’s something so fulfilling about touching base with those who are watching. So I started injecting comedy in my gigs – the topic was usually myself. Since I was so insecure about my weight, I started to make jokes about it. It’s like, okay, you sing, so magaling ka. And then what? Comedy then became the staple in my acts.

But believe me, it is not easy making people laugh. Well, actually, it is harder to make the masa laugh. The class A crowd can get a joke, a pun, a reference to current events. Ang bilis nila makuha yung joke! With the masa, unless you do slapstick, they won’t get it. But generally, the Filipino crowd is easier to please than audiences from other Asian countries. With the foreigners, tawang tawa na sila, pero hindi pa sila bumibigay.

Doing comedy is one of my struggles as a Christian. I have to inject toilet jokes, or even cuss words in my routine, to make the masa laugh. I am not happy doing that. But I draw the line at doing comedy at the expense of others. There are those who make fun of people in the audience to elicit laughter. I’d rather poke fun at myself. You may not believe it, but I actually don’t have scripts for my performances. I also get my jokes from everyday experiences. I just play it by ear and make my skit up as I go along. That works out for me just fine, even though I would admit that I still get anxious before a show.

Reinventing herself

I guess that is partly the reason why I am going back to my roots, which is singing. Because of my stage acts, I have been branded as a comedienne, but I would rather be known as a performer who is a total package, who is everything rolled into one. I am happy that I am starting to be recognized as a singer. One milestone for me was being invited recently to sing at the TV program Wowowee. There, I sang alongside world-class singers like Bituin Escalante.

I am also doing some acting, as I now appear at the ABS-CBN soap Eva Fonda, where I play a jealous wife – something that I admit I really am in real life. These guest appearances on TV don’t really pay much, but they do give me mileage. What I really get a big part of my income from is hosting jobs at corporate events. In fact, I was fully booked last December, all the way down to the 23rd, doing hosting jobs and gigs in Manila and even at out of town sorties. Strike while the iron is hot, I always say. Then I save naman for the rainy days.

I also get invited to go out of the country for shows. I would consider this as one of the perks of my profession. I get to go to different places and bring my husband Ian with me. It is in my contract – the promoters pay for airfare and accommodations for me and a companion, who, naturally, would be my husband.

I don’t have a manager. I have a personal assistant, who does jobs like helping me wrap my Christmas presents, but I handle my own schedule. I do have a booking manager who gets a percentage when he gets me jobs, but if I get the job on my own, I get my whole fee for myself.

This is one reason why I do not like getting tied down to a manager or a regular TV show for now. Bookings come unexpectedly, and I would not want to turn down a higher paying gig because I have a scheduled taping for a TV show. Besides, it is actually the network who decides which stars to build up. You would think that it is the viewers who give celebrities their big break, when in fact it is the network. That is why sometimes you would be surprised that one actor or actress is getting so much exposure even if there are many others who are more talented than him or her.

Also, celebrity does not become me. I am not comfortable being fawned upon or mobbed by fans. People see me at the mall or down the street, and they know me, and that is okay. But I did experience having a fan use up all 36 shots of her camera film on me. Hindi ako show biz na tao. It is like I always have to be “on” or people will say that I am suplada.

There are also those in the industry who would say that I am hard to deal with. But the truth is, my main requirement for any show is that the sound system has to be good. I believe that I only sound good if the sound system is good.

Aiming for longevity

As hectic as December is for me, there are months where jobs or gigs are hard to come by. I use this time to unwind. The holidays get so stressful for me. In fact, I had to perform with swollen lymph nodes last month. So when I have less work, I really relax. I play badminton with my husband. I also go to the gym and watch TV.

My earnings for my work go to the bank, and my savings are what tide me over during the lean months. I also believe that the Lord is good, that He provides. There are times when I do not have enough to pay for my Meralco bill, for example, then I get a phone call asking me if I can host an event. I have not considered putting up a business, because I feel that I don’t have the personality for it. So, I spend my time honing my craft. In this business, you have to evolve. You always have to give your 100% in every performance, like you are making your last show.

My goal in the long run is not to be famous, but to be known. My target is longevity. There are so many artistas who have come and gone, and I don’t want to end up like them. That is why I look up to artists like Jean Garcia, Eula Valdez, Jacklyn Jose, Ana Capri, Eugene Domingo, and Cherry Pie Picache. They are not sikat, in the strict sense of the word, but they are always there. In 10 years, I would also like to be known as an actress who does comedy and who can sing.

No Laughing Matter

Singer comedienne Marissa Sanchez shares her advice in managing a career in a cut-throat industry

1. Keep it clean. Although she has to put a little edge to her comedy routines, Marissa refuses to make fun of people in the audience, which is what a lot of stand up comics do. Mostly, she makes fun of herself. Getting ahead at the expense of others is always a bad idea.

2. Accept lesser paying gigs for exposure. Don’t always look at what a job or customer pays – if working for free or low pay can open doors for you, go for it.  Marissa gets guest acting stints that don’t pay much but gives her mileage, leading to more lucrative corporate hosting jobs.

3. Go for career longevity. Marissa is not a huge star, and that’s not what she wants. She wants a long career in the industry, not to be a flash in the pan. Likewise, forget about being the superstar in your field or your company

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