Comedy is not dead

A night of laughter with The KoolPals on their fifth anniversary

At a glance

  • The goal of our podcast was to help promote the standup scene in the country and a way for comedians to have a platform to share their humor with a new audience. — GB Labrador

“Political correctness has killed comedy!” You’ve likely heard this same quote from at least one of your favorite comedians. Recently though, a band of local comedians was not afraid to show that comedy is alive and well. Through a night of standup acts and music performances, the KoolPals comedy troupe celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Spotify podcast.

MEET THE KOOLPALS From top, clockwise: GB Labrador, James Caraan, Ryan Rems, Nonong Ballinan, and Muman Reyes (Photo KoolPals | Instagram)

It was a fun night that was filled with laughter thanks to comedic performances from each of the members and vibing to the musical prowess of folks like Eloisa, Lion and the Scouts, Johnoy Danao, Tanya Markova, and Dilaw. Social media star Kween Yasmin was also present to show off her dance moves and spoken word performance. Before the success of their sold-out fifth anniversary gig, we were able to have a quick chat with the members (GB Labrador, James Caraan, Nonong Ballinan, Ryan Rems, and Muman Reyes) to talk about their podcasting journey and the booming standup comedy scene in the Philippines.

What is the inspiration behind KoolPals? And the creative process that goes behind each of your episodes?

James: When we created the podcast, we only wanted to promote our live standup comedy shows around Metro Manila. We saw this medium as an effective way to reach out to comedy fans and let them see our different sides when we are not performing on stage. Later, when Spotify presented us with the potential of podcasting in the Philippines, we realized there was more to this platform. Unknowingly, through our natural interaction with our listeners, we created a strong community of comedy fans and an ecosystem of creative people that helped our podcast elevate and reach new heights. 

Despite our different comedic styles, our goal is the same, which is to be funny and to entertain. We're fans of each other's comedy and it's pretty easy to conceptualize a topic. Almost all topics are unplanned, we just decide minutes before the recording on the topic that we will be tackling. Our plan is just to ride each other's jokes until the laughter dies down.

GB: The goal of our podcast was to help promote the standup scene in the country and a way for comedians to have a platform to share their humor with a new audience. When we started, we made sure our podcast was not only funny but also relatable, like chatting with friends over drinks and diving into current events. We always try our best to innovate and do something new for our listeners.

Rems: Hunger and bills were my inspiration and I was not good enough for office work. This is my end game.

FULL HOUSE For their fifth anniversary, The KoolPals held a comedy festival that lined up several musicians and standup performers

KoolPals have been topping the charts on Spotify since December last year, how has the experience been since then?

James: Spotify has been a big help in enabling us, comedians, to reach a wider audience. Before podcasting, Comedy Manila was heavily reliant on mainstream media in promoting our comedy shows. When Spotify entered the podcast market, they made podcasting accessible to a lot of Filipinos, enabling us to reach those who are searching for alternative forms of entertainment, i.e. our brand of standup comedy.

Despite being a huge international company, Spotify has been very hands-on, even to us small content creators, in helping us elevate our content, through quarterly updates, creating events to collaborate with other podcasters, and of course, including us in their Spotify-Exclusive Program. Honestly, even if we are just a group of small content creators, we felt valued by Spotify.

GB: Podcasting and Spotify took us to another level of “funny.” Topping the charts is great, but the immense support and love we receive from our KoolPals listeners mean so much more to us. Spotify made our jokes resonate with more comedy fans, and when our listeners greet us in public and share jokes with us as good friends do, it gives us an amazing feeling of love and appreciation.

Rems: I am lazy and always looking for an easy way out. I found these guys and decided to go where they wanted to go.


FIVE STRONG YEARS The KoolPals podcast has been available for listening on Spotify since 2019 and remains one of the top comedy podcasts on the streaming platform

Why do you think your episodes have been vibing well with your audiences? Can you share some of your favorite episodes?

Muman: Siguro dahil relatable kami, walang palamuti, walang sugar coating. Ang setup kasi ng podcast eh parang isang long-table inuman where we talk about everything as we see and understand it, at ang isang upuan doon sa inuman ay inooccupy ng listener. (It must be because we’re relatable. Our podcast’s setup is like one long-table drinking session occupied by the listener). After 600+ episodes, it is very hard to say what my favorite is. Every episode is a genuine conversation among friends. What I love about our podcast is we have a live audience that adds to the comedy, and we make sure to listen to their reactions to help make our podcast more entertaining.

James: I think what resonates well with our audience is our relatability, transparency, and honesty. Whatever we feel during the recording session—frustrated, disappointed, excited, etc.—we voice it out, and we share it with our listeners. Whenever our jaws and cheeks hurt from laughing during the recording, those are the moments that stand out. 

One of the episodes that defined our podcast is Episode 88. This is when we got drunk and became a no-holds-barred episode. It solidified the theme of our show as a longtable inuman session. Until now, I'm still amazed by the wide audience we have, ranging from security guards to the military, riders to businessmen, atheists to priests. The KoolPals community has grown into something that breaks barriers and connects everyone through comedy. And all of these were possible through the help of Spotify. Aside from their platform, Spotify has also given us the necessary tools to check what episode was a hit, and what conversations were a miss, and from there, we were able to tweak our content to cater to almost everyone.

What goes into the thinking process for writing standup pieces or performing bits? And how is it doing comedy on a podcast?

Muman: Standup comedy is the freest form of expression, you can say anything as long na nakakatawa siya. Instant din ang validation, ‘pag ‘di ka nakakatawa, hindi sila tatawa, pero ‘pag nahanap mo yung kiliti nila, tatawa sila. And that’s the main reason kaya namin siya ginagawa. We will do everything in our power para makuha lamang ang tawa na iyon. Laughter ang currency namin (Standup comedy is the freest form of expression, you can say anything as long as it’s funny. The validation is instant, if you’re not funny, they won’t laugh, but once you find what hits their spot, they’ll laugh. And that’s the main reason why we do it. We will do everything in our power to get that laugh. Laughter is our currency). Standup comedy is nerve-racking and the fear does not go away. It is like having the fear of heights and you need to skydive to work everyday. Podcasting is easier because we are five comedians talking and I don't need to be funny all the time.

Rems: They are two different types of animals. One scratches your face and the other one devours you whole.

IT'S A WRAP After the success of the fifth anniversary show, The KoolPals hope to move the comedy scene forward by introducing it into the vlog format

How has comedy changed in the five years of performing?

GB: During the lockdown, more people tuned in and learned about standup. When the lockdown was lifted, people started watching the live standup shows. We still get a lot of first-timers watching standup in our shows and Red Ollero's special on Netflix just shows how far standup has grown in the Philippines. Comedy Manila has over 70 comedians rotating, giving a different lineup of comedians every week. We're very close to having our first homegrown international Filipino standup comedian represent Pinoy humor on the world stage.

Where do you see the local comedy scene going in the next five years?

GB: Standup comedy is continuously growing with the help of podcasts. 

Rems: Podcasting was the extra lift we needed for the Philippine standup scene. As long as none of us five get a massive heart attack soon, we will continue to improve.

You’re celebrating your fifth year this year, what else can we look forward to in future episodes?

Muman: Hindi rin namin talaga masabi. Kasi iyong nangyayari sa amin ngayon, hindi namin naisip na posible ‘to five years ago. Ang alam namin ay ‘di kami titigil sumubok gawin kung anumang ginagawa namin ngayon. To more guests, to more laughs, kakayanin hanggang susunod na tawanan (We can’t really say. Since what’s happening to us now, we never would’ve thought it was possible five years ago. All we know is that we won’t stop trying to do whatever we’re doing now. To more guests, to more laughs, we will persevere until the next laughter).We don’t know what will happen in the future but we will try our best to make each episode funnier and entertaining. We will never stop thinking of ways to make people laugh.

Rems: Expect laughter and tears rolled into one ball, mix it with fairy dust and that will be our show.

James: Our format will remain the same, a long-table inuman session. May uupong guest at makikipagkulitan sa amin, minsan kami-kami lang. Some of our listeners prefer episodes with no guests, and with that, we will try to balance things. Every week, we will be releasing two episodes with guests, and one episode without guests. Hindi pa din ako makapaniwala sa estado na narating ng podcast namin, marami akong nakakausap na mga influencers, celebrities, or personalities na nagtatanong kung kailan ba sila makakapag-guest sa The KoolPals. Katulad ng aming mga listeners, may mga pangarap din kaming mai-guest sa podcast, at sana mapagbigyan kami ni Michael V. Ang isa sa mga dapat abangan ng mga followers namin ay ang pagsubok namin sa vlog. Kung anuman ang mapag-usapan sa podcast episode, sinusubukan naming i-translate into vlog. Isa lang ito sa mga gusto naming gawin, siguradong mas magiging exciting ang mga susunod na taon para sa The KoolPals (I still can’t believe the state where our podcast has gone, I’ve spoken with many influencers, celebrities, or personalities that ask when will they be able to guest on The KoolPals. Just like our listeners, we have many hopes on who to invite on the podcast, and hopefully Michael V. will give in. One of the many things our followers can expect is our attempt to vlog. Whatever we talk about on a podcast episod, we will try to translate into a vlog. This is one of the things we want to do, we’re sure next year will be more exciting for The KoolPals).