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He told us our faults through comedy

Manuel Urbano Jr. sounded excited as always when he phoned on June 8th, his 84th birthday. I thought he would ask me like before to help tackle a hot issue on his hit YouTube channel “Mr. Shooli.” Then my jaw dropped when he said from out of the blue, “Mr. Shooli is losing steam.”

“It can’t be po,” I replied about his show that metamorphosed from mainstream television’s “Mongolian Barbeque” in the 1980s to “Mr. Shooli” in film and online. “It’s a YouTube sensation. Episodes go viral. Audiences mimic the gags, the intonation, even production styles. And it has many sponsors.”

Manong Jun hushed me: “I don’t mean Mr. Shooli the show, I mean me as Mr. Shooli.”

Fans knew it’s the inimitable Jun Urbano behind the comedic Mr. Shooli. But he always differentiated between himself as creator-director and Mr. Shooli as character. Program guests in the past three decades realized that. He’d tell them for example, “After Mr. Shooli introduces you and the subject matter, go right in as you wish.”

But on that morning he referred to Jun Urbano and Mr. Shooli as one. Odd.

Manong Jun expounded: “Todo ganado pa rin ako. But it’s becoming harder and harder to get up from bed, research the material, write the script, put on costume and make up and set up lights, audio-video and gear.” Naka-alalay pa ng husto niyan si Banots (one of his four sons).

He ended the call with a wish, “Panahon na ng mga bata, sana sila naman.”

Manong Jun had undergone quintuple heart bypass in 2012. He was later diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But that never seemed to bother his hectic work. Before and after his heart surgery, he produced more than a thousand television commercials.

He appeared weekly as Mr. Shooli in the TV satire “Mongolian Barbeque.” Viewers became familiar with his bright red regal attire, fu manchu moustache on the side of his lips and supposedly chinoy accent. They laughed as he told them their faults through comedy.

He also produced and starred in two movies. The titles hinted at the satirical content. “Juan Tamad at Mr. Shooli sa Mongolian Barbeque” was about the fabled indolent Pinoy who lay down under the guava tree and waited for the fruit to ripen and drop