“One needs a sense of timing, a knack for listening, a talent for getting audience rapport,” observes Andrew, the eternal mentor.
This, he develops in the array of hopefuls who line up outside his door everyday to take a crack at stand-up comedy. Andrew screens them and makes them pass through the eye of a needle before they even qualify to hold a show at The Library.
“My workshops run from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. the next day, and they don’t focus on stand-up comedy alone. They go away, way beyond that. They also tackle scriptwriting and character analysis,” says Andrew.
Lesser mortals will find their cup of jokes running dry. But the really good ones fight it out and make it to their baptism of fire: a full-length show at The Library.
Here, you know in an instant if you’re doing well. The audience rewards you with paroxysms of laughter. If you’re that good, as one performer at The Library was, a customer will even have a heart attack from all that laughing right in front of you. It did happen, more than once. Andrew’s late father had his first stroke (he lived to enjoy more shows after, though) at The Library. Same thing happened to another customer, who has since recovered.
But, if your jokes fall flat, you have no time to wait until the lights are out to lick your wounds. The person right in front of you will talk to his seatmate, who will answer right back and act as if you don’t exist at all. Worse, he will let out a big, loud yawn! Any performer will tell you this is embarrassment of the first order.
Fortunately, this is hardly the case at The Library where the first rule is you’ve got to love what you do. You’ve got to love it enough to go beyond the money factor and focus on the sheer joy of bringing laughter alone.
The long-running Si Nura at Si Velma, which went around the country for 11 straight years, is proof of that. Now, Andrew is thinking of putting up the second Nura-Velma generation, the better to duplicate the success of the original.
It wasn’t a bed of roses at the start. Opening a comedy bar at a time when the term was not even coined, and when people had to wait for a Tessie Tomas show to get a good dose of stand-up comedy, was a big risk.
But Andrew took it anyway. He remembered how the college librarian scolded him and his friends for making noise in The Library. So his first concept was a restaurant where people can read at their own pace while waiting for their orders. Thus, the name The Library.
Then, this former theatre performer figured, why not place where people can put up shows and chase the blues away?
At first, the shows were on a weekly basis. The audience, made up of namedroppables like Ben Farrales, Pitoy Moreno and Ethel Timbol, started coming, and returning.
The press came and gave the shows glowing reviews. Soon, The Library overcame its for-gay-only image. Straight men and women were no longer ashamed to go for a look-see.
Time Magazine Asia ran a story on The Library, and before he knew it, Andrew was brushing doubts aside and negotiating for a US branch.
Now two years old, the branch, where Bernardo Bernardo and Leonard Obal reign supreme, is bringing news about the Philippines to overseas Filipinos in its inimitable tongue-in-cheek style.
“Overseas Filipinos are curious about what’s happening here be it in politics, showbiz, etc., “Andrew explains the success of his US-based venture. “And this, we give them.”
Elsewhere, Andrew’s Library- trained talents are changing the comedy landscape. Phillip Lazaro managed to lift taboos on jokes about religion and sex in Singapore when he performed at Boom Boom Room, the only comedy club in that country.
Phillip returned to the Philippines despite an offer to perform in Singapore, upon Andrew’s advice. “ I told him the comedy scene here has lots to offer someone like him.”
And so, the laughter continues, with no sign of ever dying down, everyday, 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. at the library. In fact, it will grow even louder, more persistent in this month, as the comedy place marks its 18th anniversary.
Andrew has just formed the guardings, its own version of the Masculados and the Sex Bomb Dancers. The song- and-dance-act takes centerstage tonight.
On June 18, the Sex Bomb-shells of the Library- Ruffa Girl, Nikki, Ador, Waby, Peter and Gie will hold a show, while Teri Onor takes centerstage in Tery –Tory on June 19.
It will be a grand homecoming on June 20 and 21, as Ai- Ai and Arnell return to their roots and perform with the Sex Bomb Dancers.
The annual Golden Book Awards caps the celebration, as honors will be given out in such categories at Best in Showcase, Show of the year, Producer of the year, Gintong tinig and the highly-prized Entertainer of the year.
After the anniversary party is over, Andrews and company will roll up their sleeves once more for their on going projects. One is a training school for stand-up comics where students will learn, not only how to perform, but how to write scripts and direct a show as well. Andrew plans to put up the school with Arnell Ignacio
Andrew, Ai Ai, Allan K, and Arnell Ignacio,- kindred spirits in the art of making people laugh- plan to put up branch of Klownz in araneta ave. Then, there’s the library foundation, a public service group that counsel those in need of advice on such things as AIDS and other ailments.
The library success story is another version of the old saw that says yes, laughter is indeed the best medicine.
THE PHILIPPINE STAR
Monday, June 16, 2003