Political Humor and the Creation of Joke Work
Who has not heard of at least one GloriaGarci joke? Or has not laughed at [if not downloaded and made a mobile phone ring tone of] the “Hello Garci” opening of the continuing political debacle that is now termed Gloriagate? It is, on the one hand, a testament to this situation’s gravity that a whole joke work cycle is devoted to it, as culture memorializes that which leaves the deepest cut to its psyche. However, it is also ironic that such a popular cultural artifact, while manifesting national concerns, is deemed too trivial for actual study, read only in the context of ephemeral entertainment. This is adjudged even more so in the light of these jokes current provenance the internet, and the mobile phone/ texting culture. In 2005, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism came out with the book Hello, Garci?: Political Humor in the Cellphone Age, following the much celebrated Joke Ni Erap in 2000, which are written texts that not only compile the existing joke work and joke cycles of the mêlée of Philippine politics, but indeed, chronicle a more powerful delineation of how Filipino humor is deployed not only to “poke fun” at [illicit] holders of power, but to counter hegemonic states in this nation, by the powerless in Philippine society. Sheila Coronel, in her preface to the book, avers that “jokes are not just a commentary on our politics and politicians… [but] are a form of political participation… by joking, Filipinos show that they are watching, commenting, and taking part in what is going on” (xi). I contend that this “participation” of which Coronel speaks can be seen in a number of ways. The deployment of political humor places Filipinos as external observers of volatile political situations in which they are peripheralized, politics in the Philippines mainly open to the elite or moneyed classes, undermining, if not totally abrogating, the overt constitutional democratic role ascribed to the citizenry. The relegation of Filipinos as members of a “muted” group (cf. Ardener) in terms of the diminution of his political significance, seen in the absent or negligible role he has in engendering political communicative exchange, renders him/her powerless, and this discourse of the joke allows them to enter this turbulent space of exchange as subversive bearers of power. More than this, I posit that in reading these jokes, we see the Filipinos’ attempt not only to comment of this/their condition by way of this joke work, their participation becomes crucial and more intrinsic in that these jokes are a matrix of the 9th Philippine Linguistics Congress (2527 January 2006) Organized by the Department of Linguistics, University of the Philippines
Ancheta/Reading GloriaGarci Jokes
bases of their political and cultural identity. For the purposes of this paper presentation’s time, I chose six jokes which I think are more representative of the collection’s thrust. While the different kinds of humor linguistic and visual in the PCIJ compilation could be read more extensively, I particularly chose jokes which I thought are more representative of those that could be transmitted by way of texting, and are more likely to be repeated and echoed in workplaces, homes, as communal discourse, in keeping with collection’s title, and in reference to the verbal quality required by the SSTH/ GTVH. I have to note here that the PCIJ collection has a section on humorously annotated comics depicting the Garci fallout, and a section of comical film plots, conjectures on “Garci”, etc., which I did not examine as they could not qualify as actual joke work. ...