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Iflix launches NSFW Pinoy comedy show

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THIS YEAR might be ending in a few weeks but it seems that its end harkens the dawn of the age of stand-up comedy as the latter half of the year saw a number of comic shows produced in the country, from small productions like Laugh It Off at Solaire’s Eclipse lounge, to larger ones like Jo Koy in Manila in Solaire’s The Theater and Waterfront Cebu. Now iflix, the Kuala Lumpur-based video-on-demand service, is taking a stab at this genre with Hoy! Bibig Mo, the company’s first original Philippine production featuring some of the top comics in the country.

The eight-episode series, which premiered on Dec. 1 and is hosted by Ramon Bautista, saw stand-up comics like Alex Calleja, GB Labrador, Tim Tayag, and Mike Unson “tackling taboo subjects you’ve never seen them joke about before,” said a company press release, leading credence to the title, Hoy! Bibig Mo which roughly translates to “Hey, watch your mouth!”

“These are not specials per se, but are designed with the intention of being a returnable series. Moreover, the idea is to build traction for ‘watch your mouth’ and establish it as a franchise so we have the option of spin-offs (such as solo act specials) where opportunities arise, all under the same comedy brand or umbrella,” Mark Francis, iflix global director of original programming, told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview.

The show is the Filipino version of the Malaysian iflix original called Oi! Jaga Mulut — the company decided to create a Filipino version after “the success of [the show] in Malaysia.”

The Malaysian version was shot in May while the Philippine version was shot in July.

“We’re excited to bring the same boundary-pushing, hilarious stand-up comedy concept to the Philippines and to establish iflix as the destination for the region’s most talented funnymen and women,” Mr. Francis said in a press release, adding “delivering hyperlocal, high-impact content is at the crux of our original programming strategy.”

Iflix also produced an Indonesian version called Oi! Jaga Lambe which was shot in September.

“Stand-up comedy is still nascent in these parts, meaning the community is small. We selected a mix of established, high profile names, but also took pains to introduce raw, less heard of talent. The longevity of this content depends on keeping the talent pipeline fresh,” Mr. Francis said in the e-mail interview.

And if it becomes a hit, Mr. Francis said they are looking at making it a multi-season series.

But iflix is not the only service leveraging on the power of comedy as Netflix, the California-based streaming video service, has already produced comedy specials featuring comics like Amy Schumer and Jo Koy alongside a series called The Standups — six half-hour specials starring Nate Bargatze, Fortune Feimster, and Deon Cole — all the while premiering stand-up specials from Comedy Central, HBO, and Showtime.

“Netflix has a lot of great stand-up but the reality in our region is entirely different, especially since we are targeting local comics and local language over English. For instance, not many comics in our region have an hour of fresh material in their back pockets, and most have a day job to put food on the table,” said Mr. Francis in the interview, noting they started the push towards stand-up comedy in December 2016.

“The industry in Asia is not as mature, but the headroom is very much there for us to grow the scene together. There simply are not enough platforms besides the occasional stand-up club night for these comics to shine and improve their craft, while free to air is heavily censored and regional pay TV focuses on established, English-speaking comics. We believe this is a gap we can serve, but we have to take a longer view and grow it together with the talent, from the ground up,” he added.

Aside from its comedy series, iflix, announced several more original series which are in the pipeline including “a very big, very sexy feature-length film” starring Kris Aquino for the Philippines, and a spin-off of a hit movie drama, Magic Hour, for Indonesia, while Malaysia will soon announce its “first original drama series in collaboration with the country’s leading independent studio, Skop Productions Group,” said Mr. Francis. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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