Finding Unexpected Humor During A Pandemic: A Conversation with Macoy Dubs
“When you connect humor to reality, people will get you, they will understand you”
There are very few things in my life, which have been a source of joy—and strength—in an economic and health crises: the ability to create, the unwavering love of my family, reconnecting with friends and Macoy Dubs.
You may have chanced upon Macoy Averilla’s TikTok videos, short-form content, which can go from 15 seconds to a few minutes—however long it takes to get to the punchline. “Auntie Julie,” clad in chunky pearl earrings, a signature bag and a Uniqlo polo, is one of their many personas beloved by Filipinos everywhere. We all have *that* shala Tita who shamelessly overshares, but Macoy makes her, in many ways, tolerable—even lovable, if we’re being honest.
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Impersonating different types of people has always been part of their life. In their videos, Macoy covers a spectrum of personalities. They share, “I guess the hugot of the humor [in the videos] is based from observation and experience. Kasi ang hirap na gumawa ka ng content and wala kang idea what’s happening in real life. (It’s difficult to create content when you have no idea what’s happening in real life.) Kaya kapag ganun ‘yung videos ko, mabilis siya kumalat, marami siyang likes, because karamihan ng Pilipino, na-experience ‘yun. (That’s why when my videos are in that format, it spreads quickly, it receives a lot of likes, because a lot of Filipinos experience that.)”
Creating witty videos is their reprieve from their day to day responsibilities. With a full-time job as a social media manager at one of the top advertising agencies in the country and a special lecturer in their alma mater, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, they have a lot going on. In an hour-long chikahan (while I try to keep the fangirling at a minimum) we did a deep-dive into their (elusive) personal life, their struggles with mental health and their advocacy towards creating a safer internet realm and how they make use of humor to make sense of everything.
Wonder: I feel like this has been a long time coming because you’re tasked to plan and execute digital content for work and now, you’re a viral content creator. Is this surprising to you?
Macoy: Hindi ko siya inexpect. (I didn’t expect it.) After working in a creative agency in Qatar as a content producer for almost a year, I really [wanted to] work in the ad industry. Pag-uwi ko (when I went home) here, I worked in a creative agency as a senior account manager.
The story of the content creation bit started in August 2017 when I took screenshots of The Devil Wears Prada kasi it’s my favorite film of all time, [I’m a] super big fan of Meryl Streep talaga. After that, I put Tagalog subtitles. Parang at the back of my mind, what if The Devil Wears Prada [was] made in the Philippines? I uploaded it on my personal Facebook account, and it went viral the next day—as in lots of shares and comments and reactions. And people were saying, “Macoy, do more.” I released the content in trenches until nagkaro’n na rin ng Mean Girls screenshots also…then I decided to put my own voice. Du’n siya nag-start.
W: But lately, you’ve gone viral because of the TikTok videos?
M: With [my content creation path], it’s gradual. It started with memes, with dub videos and then [it came] to a point wherein I also ventured into creating vlogs. And then the pandemic [came], ito na siya. I guess, not to romanticize the lockdown or the pandemic, but I must say that it opened a lot of doors [for me]. It helped me because I have more time to create content during this time when I am inside the house, [as] compared to working in the office. In all fairness, even the pandemic or lockdown isn’t at all negative; it caused positive effects on my side.
W: Do you think you’re funny?
M: I think I’m funny because ever since I was a child, I’m the life of the party. I was bullied in elementary; I never had a good elementary experience. Sabi ko ‘pag ako nag-high school, I will be an achiever. (I told myself, once I enter high school, I will be an achiever.) It happened, naging top ako, kasama ako sa honor roll sa school. (It happened, I was on top, I became part of the honor roll in school.) Du’n dumating ‘yung pagiging funny ko, ‘dun ko siya na-explore. (That’s where I got my humor, that’s how I explored it.) In high school, I could do stand-up comedy, comic skits… I’m fond of it. Kapag nakakapag-impersonate ako, natatawa sila. (When I get to impersonate, they laugh.)
I guess the funny side came from there. Even in conversations with friends, I banter jokes [effortlessly]. I think I’m funny naman.
W: Given the surplus of agitating headlines as of late, how are you coping? How are you taking care of your mental health? Is creating videos a part of that?
M: To be honest, quarantine has been very challenging for all of us. On my part where I work in an ad agency, all the work doubled, sometimes tripled pa. Mahirap to the point na kapag may sumasabay na terrible headlines, may time na hindi na aka nagbabasa ng news. (It’s hard to a point that when terrible headlines coincide [with work], I no longer read the news.)
Number one I do [to cope] is I distract myself. I watch TikTok videos to get inspiration. Tapos, I revisit old videos from my page, I [reminisce]. Kumbaga, my content has evolved also. Sometimes, I find it corny pa nga. But I realize, people are laughing, people are making fun of it, and they seem to be happy about it. So sabi ko, let’s continue this.
In terms of mental health, I’m in charge of my mental health. I’m very open about this: I was diagnosed with dysthymia (or persistent depressive disorder) before I left for Qatar, February of 2016. I was taking meds during that time. I’m healed, magaling na ako. I disconnect sometimes; sometimes, I take mental health breaks, personal time off sa work, kasi ang hirap ma-burn out (it’s hard to get burnt-out.)
Bad news is everywhere. I guess we should also be taking care of our mental health wherein we consume content that makes us happy and content at the same time. Kasi ang hirap kung may pandemic na (it’s hard when there’s a pandemic), bad news everywhere, tapos you consume negative content or you watch rant videos on YouTube…that’s difficult. Let’s choose to be on the lighter, brighter side of things.
W: Where do you get ideas for your videos?
M: Like ‘yung sa mga Zoom calls, team calls, that’s real. Nangyayari talaga. ‘Yung humor, kadikit siya ng reality. When you connect humor to reality, people will get you. They will understand you.
Observance is really important. I’ve been very observant ever since I was a kid. Like, to the point na siguro kaya ko naiimpersonate ‘yung mga Tita ko, mga tiyuhin ko nung maliit ako, is because I’m very observant. (I impersonated my aunts and uncles when I was small because I’m very observant.)
Yung government employee na masungit. Choz pic.twitter.com/TdquPOV5bS
— Macoy Dubs (@macoydubs1) July 7, 2020
And the inspiration of creating these videos—the BIR lady, the mercury drug cashier, the immigration officer in NAIA—‘yung inspiration is firsthand experience. Na-experience ko masungitan ng BIR kasi ako mismo nag-asikaso ng RDO transfer ko. (I experienced being mistreated in the BIR because I sorted out my RDO transfer.) Habang kumakain sila ng pancit, inoobserve ko sila. (While they were eating pancit, I observed them.) Not stereotyping, pero ganun kasi eh, the typical scenario in a government office.
W: You’ve been lauded recently for advocating the dismissal of the controversial Anti-Terror Bill. How did you find the courage to publicly show your opposition?
M: My friend Tonyo Cruz works as a columnist and an editor at The Manila Bulletin. Officemate ko siya before. When he approached me if I wanted to file a petition against the Anti-Terror Law, I asked him why…why me? He said na this time, the petition is gonna be different because we will cover the social media landscape, the internet world… With our petition, it’s more focused on the use of social media and the internet.
That’s the hugot, that’s the gist: we want to protect internet freedom. We want all of you who use Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, all the social media platforms… we want you to be protected against the Anti-Terror Law, that you should be exempted from the provisions—meaning we want you to be protected in a way that you have the freedom still to voice out your concerns.
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There’s a reason why I wore heels and a dress, na pambabae (for women) [when I filed a petition]. I wanted to represent the LSI’s (locally stranded individuals) in Rizal Coliseum nung nandun sila kasi jampacked. Hindi siya comfortable (It isn’t comfortable)—to represent their pain.
W: What’s your greatest takeaway from the recently concluded “Quarantine University” with Atty. Chel Diokno?
M: It’s been very helpful to the youth, ah. Ang daming natuwa sa talk na ‘yun. (A lot of people enjoyed the talk.) Takeaway ko du’n is [to] follow the right public servants who serve the people talaga, ‘yung genuine.
W: And lastly, your message to the youth especially in these trying times?
M: [I have] so much gratitude to the fans and followers. ‘Di ko naman pinangarap na mag-viral ng ganito, gusto ko lang talaga magpasaya. (I didn’t dream to become viral, I just want to make people happy.) I just want to make people laugh. I really don’t call myself [an] influencer, siguro let’s call it creator.
I know that we aren’t the same with our philosophies and ideologies, most especially in politics, but again, what’s most important is as long as we respect each other and accept our differences…then we can move forward.
Art Matthew Fetalver