‘Red Ollero: Mabuhay Is A Lie’ Review – Genuinely Funny And Very Relevant Standup From A Filipino Comedian 

I had to Google the term “irreverent” before starting Red Ollero: Mabuhay is a Lie because of the Netflix description, which said Ollero is an irreverent comedian. Not that I’m unfamiliar with the term, but I felt it was my responsibility to know the exact meaning when I was supposed to dissect it. And yes, it does roughly translate to offensive—a kind of humor that is widely popular. Of course, whether it is working or not completely depends on how the comedian is doing it. In many ways, a one-hour stand-up is like cooking a difficult dish, which solely depends on the skill and spontaneity of the person who’s cooking. I’m only bringing the food reference because Ollero seems like a foodie, which I could gather from the way he speaks about Jollibee Fried Chicken. And from what I saw in Mabuhay is a Lie, Ollero’s humor is not offensive—I mean, it didn’t offend me, at least. This is not a criticism, by the way, just a statement based on observation. I thought his brand of humor was rather funny and very relatable, especially for people in their late twenties and early thirties.

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I’ve always felt the first joke is very important for a stand-up set. Sure, even if it falls flat, a skilled comedian can always stage a comeback, but it’s better if the first one lands right. Red Ollero gets full marks in this department by choosing to start with self-deprecating humor. And he makes his physique the subject of it. I don’t think it would be wrong of me to use the word “fat” since the comedian himself has done it. He kicks it off by talking about fat inventors, but here’s the catch: these are all made-up people, and all the stories are fictional, be it the elevator or wheelchair. After successfully doing a Fargo (I really hope you get this reference; my apologies if you don’t), he brings up the topic of being a fat celebrity and how the Filipino entertainment industry has only one slot for a famous fat person. This might actually be the harsh truth, and Ollero is probably the one right now.

Ollero soon moves on to the fried chicken bit and how he’s thankful for Jollibee coming up with a four-piece chicken bucket thing, which has brought an end to fat people ordering two or two-piece chicken meals. Many of you probably haven’t thought about the embarrassment and the extra utensils that come with it, but the comedian does make a lot of sense. I actually felt really bad when he pointed out the “extra” rice problem, another very common thing about which we probably don’t think about. The additional rice we get in fast food chains is never really adequate, so the term “extra” is actually insensitive for those who’re asking for it. It’s great to see someone actually speaking about things like these on a platform like Netflix.

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My only issue with Ollero is that he drags every single bit longer than he needs to. While the fat celebrity and Jollibee chicken were okay, the stomping on feces goes on forever, and that’s where “Mabuhay….” kind of loses its steam. Although Ollero starts the bit with another very relevant and very Filipino problem: facing trouble on the road when you least expect it. But watching him keep on going about the feces (and the removal of them) was rather tiresome.

Thankfully, this is the only part of the stand-up that doesn’t quite work out. Ollero soon bounces back with the explanation of the title of his stand-up: Mabuhay is a Lie. This is an unfamiliar term for non-Filipino people like me. It basically means “live long,”  a kind of phrase that Filipinos use for greetings. But here’s the hilarious thing: nobody actually says it other than the foreigners. Because when the foreigners eagerly want to learn something quick to impress the Filipino people, that’s what they get—mabuhay. You wouldn’t obviously utter “live long” or “greetings” randomly to people unless you don’t exactly understand the meaning of these terms. Ollero’s joke is both funny and informative for people who are planning to visit the Philippines—just saying.

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The best and possibly most relatable bit of Ollero’s standup has to be the one where he starts speaking about singlehood and then moves on to well-meaning friends trying hard to find a “suitable match” for their single buddies—something that is both ludicrous and irritating. Ollero then takes the erotic route, where he starts talking about stranger kinks (sorry, I had to) with a hilarious personal story. In this story, he hits it off with someone; everything is absolutely wonderful until the girl asks him for a golden shower, and that’s not his thing. It gets better as Ollero tries hard not to be rude so he doesn’t directly refuse and says he doesn’t really need to for the time being, but the sad thing is he actually does. The story is genuinely funny, especially because of how the comedian presents it, but he also subtly explains the importance of sexual compatibility, something a lot of people ignore because of societal fear and then suffer for life. 

One of the most important aspects of a stand-up has to be how the performer presents themselves on the stage. Showing your true self is always better than pretending to be someone else. I liked how Ollero takes a pause in the middle to drink water, and he even manages to get jokes out of that bit. He maintains a fine balance between funny and relevant, which makes the stand-up worth your time. And it is genuinely admirable how he caps off by bringing up the topic of Filipino culture and the importance of supporting comedians from your country at a time when everything global is extremely accessible and just a button away. Well, supporting someone like Red Ollero should not be a problem for anyone. If he ever comes to my country, I will try my best to be a part of his live audience.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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