MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The advertising industry needs to laugh at itself some more. Like, seriously.
This is the main thrust behind Noted with Thanks, an ad industry-themed improv show produced by Housekeeping Improv, most recently held last October 26, 2023, at Commune Cafe, Poblacion, Makati City. The show is a riotous two-act improv performance by players who have all either worked in, or used to work in, advertising and marketing, with performers coming from the likes of Publicis, Leo Burnett Manila, DDB MNL, and BBDO Guerrero. Housekeeping Improv is the first official house team of Third World Improv, the Philippines’ first-ever improv school.
Noted with Thanks tackles all the eccentricities of ad industry culture, from the perennial urge to drop everything and pursue a quiet life in La Union, to the existential dread stemming from emails that open with the phrase “Gentle reminder.” There’s a lot to laugh about agency culture, especially when put through an absurdist lens.
For performer Baus Rufo, one of the funniest things about advertising is how it takes everything way too seriously. “I think it’s how we make every single problem as if it’s rocket science,” he said. “So whether you’re trying to win a pitch, or just trying to find the right shade of pink for the scarf of the talent in the TVC, you treat it like it’s rocket science or you’re trying to cure cancer.”
If you’ve ever watched an improv show – or Whose Line is It Anyway? – you’ll feel right at home at Noted with Thanks. The artists, known also collectively as Noted with Thanks, remixed a few familiar improv games to match the “agency life” theme, turning the guessing game “Party Quirks” into “Why Did You Resign?”; the frenetic “Quick Change” into “Revise”; and “Whose Line,” wherein actors pull lines of dialogue from their pockets, into “Taglines,” where those lines of dialogue are turned into ad taglines for some of the most ridiculous products you can think of.
Each game was deftly handled by the night’s performers: Karl Echaluse, Aih Mendoza (who also served as the night’s emcee), Aaron Pagdilao, Jin Ong, Sammy Pasamba, JC Calma, Zyla Quiambao, Lilit Reyes, Kara Flores, and Baus Rufo. Macoy Averilla, better known online as Macoydubs, is part of the troupe, but was unavailable on the show date this writer attended.
The adaptation of these improv games into the greater theme was a smart choice, as their familiarity ensured that people who aren’t entrenched in agency culture could still have a good laugh. Noted with Thanks did their best to make sure everyone was in on the joke, including this writer’s non-agency companion. In fact, the only moments where the humor felt a little cliquish came from the audience’s own suggestions.
This is, of course, understandable, as the show’s target market is one that is absolutely hungry for entertainment that pokes fun at their 9-to-5s. Its first run sold out in a matter of days, and the second one filled the room at nearly the same pace.
As to why Noted with Thanks found its audience so quickly, Aih believes it’s all about having that sense of representation.
“I think most – any audience – all they really want is to be seen, to relate, to be able to connect with what they’re watching,” she explained. “And to sit here and feel validated na, ‘Oh my gosh I feel that same way!,’ or ‘Nararanasan ko na ‘yan!’ or kind of like, having the avenue na tawanan mo nalang yung mga painful moments niyo is something I also think is something worth coming for.”
“And I think the catharsis can be incredibly healing,” Baus added. “Because when you see some of your stories depicted onstage, sometimes you feel that, ‘Oh, it really is as crazy as it is in my head, and other people share the same thing!’”
“May sense of community dito, and I know we felt that as players. There’s a sense of camaraderie, a sense of trauma bonding,” Aih said with a chuckle. “It makes the load lighter, to be able to laugh at it.”
And in the spirit of trauma bonding, Noted with Thanks and Housekeeping Improv will be having a third run of Noted with Thanks on November 23, 2023, 9:00 pm at Commune Cafe. The troupe promises a lot of laughs and – more importantly – a ton of catharsis over an industry with which so many have a love-hate relationship.
As of this writing, Noted with Thanks’ November 23 show is once again sold out. Get updates on the next run by following Housekeeping Improv on Facebook.