Men Crushing it Monday: JR De Guzman
1) What is your name or nickname(s) you go by?
JR De Guzman
2) When did you start doing comedy and writing music?
I've been playing music since I was in catholic school choir all the way back in 3rd grade. My mom made me take piano lessons at an early age like most Filipino kids. Every family grew up with a keyboard, piano, or karaoke machine. I quit after a while because some kids made fun of the piano not being "manly" which I regret now because piano is an amazing instrument for understanding music theory and composition. I picked up drums at around 13 to impress the girls for a talent show, and then it just stuck with me. I eventually learned guitar in high school to impress my girlfriend at the time. Basically, most skills I've picked up in my life have been to impress some girl I was interested in. If there was a girl I liked right now who said she thought accountants were hot, I'd be learning accounting right now.
Comedy I've always been a fan of, but didn't start learning and performing until college. I started in theatre, then improv, then stand-up.
3) Who are the comedians who inspired you to pursue comedy?
I grew up loving Dave Chappelle and Zach Galifanakis. Of course, the musical comedy influences were Stephen Lynch, Flight of the Conchords, Bo Burnham, Reggie Watts, Nick Thune, Demetri Martin, Tim Minchin, the list is endless.
4) What are some obstacles you had to face while pursuing your career?
I had to face the family pressures and expectations. I come from a family of dentists. My Mom is a dentist, my dad is the office manager, my brothers and their wives are in school to be dentists. I realize now that it was all in my head though, at the end of the day my family just wants me to be happy.
I also had to figure out what my role as a filipino american comedian was onstage performing for mixed crowds. How do I represent my Filipino culture in a way that could empower Filipinos, but also in a way that non-Filipino audiences could understand and relate to?
5) Since it is Filipino American History Month, how do you incorporate Filipino culture in your comedy and music?
I just try to tell my personal story. I believe the power of honesty and vulnerability is what allows people to connect with your art. I talk about immigrating here, I make fun of stereotypes, both by breaking them down, but also acknowledging when they're true. I talk about my family a lot, especially my dad who is where a lot of my humor comes from I believe.
6) I know this is a difficult question but for those who are unfamiliar with Filipino culture, how would you describe it or what avenues would you recommend people take to learn more about our culture?
For those unfamiliar with Filipino culture, I would definitely recommend studying Filipino history and Filipino art. Quick breakdown if you're too lazy to do those things, it's helpful to understand the Philippines as a melting pot of cultures from indigenous culture to Western colonial cultures like Spanish and American influences, but beyond that other Asian influences like Chinese and Japanese influence. So, when people think Filipino culture we're really a culture that has been influenced 50/50 by western and indigenous worlds. For example, in the Philippines you could get a traditional halo-halo while also going to shopping malls and Catholic churches. One of my favorite cultural tours that I experienced in Manila was Carlos Celdran's walking tour. He has passed away in recent years, but he inspired and educated so many visitors.
7) What advice do you have for people who want to become a comedian, musician, or writer?
Create, hone your craft, study your heroes, and if you want to do it professionally--share your talents and study the business side of it. I feel like that's it in a nutshell. Nothing is guaranteed, but I feel like those are the bare minimums you need to do to at least have a chance to do what you love for a living.
8) Of all the jokes you've told which one is your favorite and why?
I don't think I have a favorite. It's so dependent on the current mood. My favorite song to do has been "Asian Guys Can Smash" because it came from a real place in my heart, but also what a name huh? It seemed to get a lot of love from people because it dealt with asian representation as well as the de-sexualizaiton of the asian man, and a lot of people probably resonated with that.
9) What are your social media platforms where people can follow your journey?
Facebook: facebook.com/JRDComedy or just search JR De Guzman
Youtube: JR De Guzman
10) What do you want people to take away from following your journey?
I just hope they connect and it brings some joy to their day or life.
11) Is there anything you would like to add?
Happy Filipino American History Month, stay connected, keep showing up for yourself and others, appreciate the little things!
Final Thoughts From Shenel
I first learned about JR De Guzman when clips of his standup were circulating within Filipino Facebook groups. People kept saying he was the next Jo Koy. I had to look him up to see more of his standup to find out if he was worth the hype. I watched his Netflix special not knowing what to expect. It was so nice to see a Filipino comedian embrace his background versus shy away from it. If you've never watched any of JR's comedy routines, he combines his ability to genuinely tell his story of being a Filipino immigrant with his ability to sing and play guitar in a unique way. You don't feel like you're watching a comedy routine. You feel like you're being taken through a journey from learning about his early days living in a storage unit when immigrating from the Philippines, to learning about his grandma, to learning about his views on hot button issues such as racism or politics.
When I read his answers to my questions, it made me love and respect him more as a comedian and a person. It seems that he has a willingness to try new things instead of dreaming or wishing that things will happen. His courage to tell his story and ability to understand the business side of growing his personal brand at a young age shows how intelligent he is. I see a really bright future for JR De Guzman and I am grateful to withness his growth in the comedy and music industries.
Make sure to follow JR on his social media platforms and watch his Netflix special.
(Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are that of the owner. No commission is made from featuring JR on my blog. Photos were used with permission from JR De Guzman).