Jojo Alejar


By Jon Verzosa

Alright, when Jon Stewart said, “I’m too short to host a late-night talk show. It’s like the bar at an amusement-park ride. You have to be six foot two or over,” I am almost sure that Jojo Alejar would’ve gladly given him the finger for being politically inexact of small men and knowing Jojo A’s full sense of irony, he would’ve have also agreed with him and said, “Or otherwise, dance to Michael Jackson’s PYT (Pretty Young Thing) because if only that can segue your incapacity to host, then at least there is dancing!”

And yes, Jojo Alejar, otherwise known in this generation as Jojo A can in fact throw a vigorous dance number (ideally with his group The Tigers of Penthouse Live fame) but can talk more sense than anyone above his height about anything under the desolate sun.  As he said, “There are two things I hear people say when they see me in person; 1. He talks so much and 2. Ang liit nitong taong ito!”

Jojo Alejar’s showbiz journey is one for the books. He was a dancer, singer, TV host and actor all in one.
The former teen hearthrob got serious and also tried working for a politician

In my experience, however, it all began with Sheryl Cruz.

I did not know what to ask Jojo Alejar when I met him at the Music Museum last Friday for a charity concert calledMusikaibigan (a benefit concert to our missionaries worldwide who are spreading the good news of the Lord as we all douse on our petty pleasures in a land called ‘this’), so I barged in his dressing room saying, no, yelling, “Kumusta naman si Sheryl Cruz?” later on telling him that Sheryl is my dream interview and was half-hoping he’d give me her number.

Jojo A laughed to his heart’s delight, somehow amused with my uncouth salutation.  It was a (very loud) laugh that orbited around a sense of belongingness so poles apart from celebrities that I interviewed who were mostly nervous and conscious of what and how they will say things.  Here was an articulate man who can play a nondescript hardball with anyone and who was full buoyancy to top it all off.  I sat back and relaxed almost immediately as if I was talking to an old friend that I haven’t seen in years.

In 1983, Jojo Alejar joined showbiz when he was just a high school student at Marist High School. Alongside two other friends, they formed the dance trio called The Tigers and was introduced in a musical/variety show calledPenthouse Live on Channel 7 which proved that he was a dancer even before he became a host or an actor for that matter.

After that, he joined German Moreno’s That’s Entertainment, a show that made stars out of teeny boppers in Manilyn Reynes, Lea Salonga, Janno Gibbs, Billy Joe Crawford, Romnick Sarmenta and my teen idol, Sheryl Cruz. During that period, he already proved to be competent at hosting and that was how he stood out among the other young stars of that generation.  Simultaneously, Jojo Alejar attended college at the University of Santo Tomas.

There was a brief hiatus soon after that as Jojo ventured in marketing and consultancy, engaging in activities far from the limelight of the entertainment industry. His working experience led Alejar to a post in public office as a chief-of-staff in Parañaque. The position, however, proved to be too stressful for Jojo so he chose to leave the world of politics.

And then he came back, in his late 30s, this time with a certainty in his heart that he will be doing something that he really likes.  In a way, the gap between his adolescent career and his rightful comeback as a matured family man was worth the wait because by 2006, he was already attesting to audiences that he is now among one of local entertainment’s supreme talk show hosts via ABC-5’s Medyo Late Nite Show with Jojo A All The Way.

“Why are we in this charity event?” I asked him, so sure that he will fling back a fireball response.

“I know the producer!” he quipped as if assuming I was mocking his presence in a much sanctified Christian event where the guest of honour was, in fact, Father Jerry Orbos.

“No, honestly, it is good that we are here and being one in giving out help and participating in an affair that will bring places to our hardworking missionaries around the world.” he began, “To the least, I am going to do a monologue in the middle of the show and bring laughter to the crowd.  Of course, I will dance for them as well.”

“How is your talk show doing?” I asked in between our wrestle on random topics that leaks out every now and then.

“We’ve been carrying on and after two channel transfers, we are finally doing well.  Remember, among all late night talk shows it is number one in the ratings.  Well, or course it is also the only late night talk show in Philippine television,” he tittered with his own joke.

“With all the interviews you’ve done, who are your favourites?” I rose, juggling my thoughts to my recorder because there have been more off-the-record rants being recorded than the real interview itself and I was already running out of disc space.  That’s how much of a blabbermouth Jogo A. was.

“I must say all of them are my favourites but I ‘specially’ liked the ones I did with my former colleagues from showbizness generally because of the comfort zone it impels. I know them as friends so interviewing them on TV is always a breeze.

I must say that with the variety of guests that we had on the show and from all walks of life – business, showbiz, politics – , I am particularly wax lyrical on the current events and what’s currently happening in the country.”

“Why?”

“Well, because, first of all, I get to vent!” he expelled, again laughing at this own clever remark, “and then I get to insinuate and declare a few jokes on it too.  Personally, I believe that there are a lot of pending questions and subjects about life, politics and issues about our artistas that needs to be laughed at.  I am saying that with comedic perception.  In more ways than one, we all need to laugh, ‘it is the best medicine!’ so instead of dwelling on more angles of a particular dilemma, why not twist it up with laughable reinforcement? This way we can increase our endorphins and (I must lecture) live longer.”

Jojo A. looked up to the late Johnny Carson, thus his own talk show (Jojo A. All The Way) is patterned after ‘The Tonight Show’

I simply had to agree on his happy disposition, not only because I am also a believer of positivity but also the validation it coincides with the way he looked because looking at Jojo Alejar last Friday was like looking at him some twenty years back.  The man did not age at all!  When I asked him his secret, he said that laughter is his fountain of youth.

“How far do you see yourself doing talk shows and entertaining people?”

“As long as they will have me. Period.  By hard work and perseverance, I have found myself in a place where I can be happy, spontaneous and contribute wealthily ‘for the good of all mankind’.  I like it.  I like it a lot.  There is nothing more that I can think of doing other than making audiences happy. I have been doing that for two decades now and the Pinoy audience have not changed since. If there was one thing that is consistent, it is the Filipinos’ ache for laughter because by choice, Pinoys simply love to laugh.  It is the best defence for stress and our country’s persistent economic struggle.”

“Jojo, how would you want to be remembered?” I asked my proverbial question looking directly into Jojo A’s eyes expecting for something comedic in recoil at any given time but surprisingly there wasn’t any.

He genuinely said, “Like I mentioned a while back, I have been doing this for almost two decades now and I absolutely have no regrets.  Giving people a reminder to laugh and forget about their problems even for a moment is a contribution that I am quite proud of.  That’s a basic good anyone would want to give his fellowman.  So, I guess, I want to be remembered as ‘Jojo A who entertained people in his departmentalized life in showbizness’.  First, during my days with The Tigers, then my That’s Entertainment stint and finally, as a talk show host because believe it or not, giving inspiration to people makes me feel good.  That’s entertainment the Jojo A ‘way’ which is ‘all the way’.”

With that, I remembered Jojo A’s idol Johnny Carson who said, “And so it has come to this. I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something that I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it,” and as I walked out of his dressing room last Friday, I realized that in laughter and tears, we can reconcile with our past and move on with our future, nonetheless, we can also curb our reality and apprehend that with humour along the way because our imaginations can strongly fall in with even the most impossible or unreachable of all dreams if only to inspire the people that we love.

After that night, I knew I will definitely see Jojo Alejar again.

The writer with Jojo Alejar
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