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How SPIT Manila is Selling Out Shows in Seconds

How SPIT Manila is Selling Out Shows in Seconds

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SPIT (Silly People’s Improv Theater) Manila, founded by Gabe Mercado in 2002, has been experiencing an incredible surge in popularity, selling out theaters rapidly over the past few months. Whether in venues seating 65 or 450 audience members, their shows have been selling out within hours, sometimes even seconds!

What happened? To give a brief background, SPIT Manila is Asia’s premier improv group. The group celebrated its big 20th anniversary show in July 2022 and hosted the 6th year of the Manila Improv Festival, Asia’s biggest improv fest, last September 2023 at the Ayala Malls Circuit Makati. The festival featured 20 local acts, including SPIT (also the creators of the festival), A II Z, Housekeeping Improv, Memeprov, Looney Chups, among many others, and 44 international acts from countries like Korea, Australia, Israel, USA, India, Japan, Singapore, and more.

Apart from shows in the Philippines, the group has also performed to critical acclaim in improv festivals and independent shows in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Chicago, New York, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Bogota, and Amsterdam.

Spit also founded Third World Improv (TWI), the first school in the Philippines dedicated to teaching the art and craft of improvisational theater. Members of SPIT serve as the school’s instructors.

Amidst all their achievements, it still took a while for SPIT to gain the unprecedented traction that it enjoys today. “I joined the group in 2006 and back then, we were performing in a venue called Magnet Katipunan that sat maybe 20 people max,” shared SPIT member Aryn Cristobal in her TikTok video.


@arynkingking Its been quite a journey for us in @SPIT Manila ♬ original sound – Aryn of SPIT Manila ✨

She recalls times when the performers even outnumbered the audience members. “Maybe it was an audience of four people? But we still did the show! We sat in the audience when it wasn’t our turn and clapped and laughed because we really enjoyed what we were doing.”

She shares that for a long time, they didn’t think that doing improv was something they could earn money from. “This is just something that we really enjoy, so we continued doing it for years and years. And up until last year, we were still having a hard time getting people to watch us.”

Starting in December of last year, SPIT began posting clips of their performances online, something they only really explored for the first time. In an Instagram post on December 24, 2023, @spitmanila says, “In the past month, we have achieved… 3.93M Facebook reach, 1.3M TikTok views, 7,313 Instagram reach.”


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A post shared by Improv theater by SPIT (@spitmanila)

And things seemed to snowball from there. In the table below, you will see the trajectory of how quickly their shows started selling out, from a few days to mere seconds over the course of six months. Their social media following has also grown substantially, with their Facebook audience now at 339,000 followers, TikTok at 124,000 followers (up from 36 just last December, according to one of their TikTok videos), and Instagram at 19,800 followers.

* Interested buyers say that the Borrowed: Rent show was sold out in mere seconds, to which SPIT founding member Dingdong Rosales commented on Instagram, “naka add to cart pa lang kasi yun. But some people take a while to pay so if you keep refreshing, yung mga nag lapse na unpaid, nagiging available ulit. Took about an hour para ma ‘paid and checked out’ lahat.”


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A post shared by Improv theater by SPIT (@spitmanila)

For frustrated buyers who have been trying so hard to get tickets but have failed to do so, Cristobal assures everyone that they are not going anywhere.

“…we are fixing what needs to be fixed so that everything can be handled more smoothly, but again, you have to give us time. This is the first time people have been wanting to see our shows at this capacity.”

“SPIT is a group that sort of committed to do improv until the day where we don’t want to do improv anymore. As a group, we also take measures to keep our group bonded. Sabi nga ni [Spit member] Thea [Marabut], puhunan namin ang pagiging magkakaibigan.”

We talked to SPIT members Bibay Cordero de Larrazabal, Pappu de Leon, and Monica Cordero-Cruz to gain insight into their journey to becoming one of Manila’s most sought-after performing groups.


Before the pandemic, approximately how many shows would the group perform in a year?

BIBAY CORDERO DE LARRAZABAL: Pre-pandemic, we had shows once a week in-person shows on Thursdays.
MONICA CORDERO-CRUZ: When the group started in 2002, it was Tuesday nights at Comfort Room in Jupiter, Makati. When Bibay and I joined in 2006, along with the biggest “new recruit” group, that’s also around the time when SPIT would perform every Thursday. We’d have private shows every now and then, too, which would peak during November-December. Plus festival performances. Where is the data? In our hearts.

You’re also teaching many interested improvisers how to do improv every year through your school, Third World Improv. When did this start and how has the number of interested participants increased per year? What do you think was the reason for the increase in interest?


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A post shared by Improv theater by SPIT (@spitmanila)

MONICA: We started Third World Improv in 2015 with 2 classes. Our biggest batch was probably right before the lockdowns hit, which was the first quarter of 2020. I think we had about 12 simultaneous classes then. The increase is mostly recommendations from the students – about how life-changing the journey has been and fun the classes are. A lot of the students don’t/didn’t even know about SPIT. It’s really by word of mouth. Right now we have 6 face to face classes and 2 online classes.
BIBAY: Surprisingly, more than 40% (yes, we have data!) of our students don’t even come to us to become improvisers but to take our classes for self-improvement.
PAPPU DE LEON: There was also a significant increase of non-Metro Manila students when we started offering online classes. Aside from people from the province and Pinoys based abroad, our TWIGO program also welcomed foreign enrollees. 

What makes improv a very useful skill to have nowadays?

BIBAY: Improv is adulting… in style.
PAPPU: We wake up everyday not knowing what’s going to happen exactly but we deal with it anyway. Being an improviser allows me to accept this fact easily.
MONICA: Improv has a lot of enabling skills. It’s not The Skill. A lot of improv is built upon listening actively, building empathy, using what you know, being fully present – all possible in a safe space, which the group also actively, continuously creates. How it’s useful or what it is used for depends on the user. It’s improv upon improv. Very meta.

SPIT also had to transition to online avenues during the pandemic. How did the group manage this transition to online performances and how did audiences receive the shift on Facebook and the live streaming app Kumu?

BIBAY: When we realized that it was going to be quite some time before we could do live performances again, we started doing Facebook Live shows. That’s when we started the spoof reality improv series COVIDEO. Then other online shows followed including ticketed shows on Zoom then, eventually, shows on the streaming platform Kumu.
PAPPU: I constantly consumed online content from SPIT during the pandemic.
MONICA: SPIT was maybe one of the first groups to learn how to use Zoom, and use it well. So much so that we were tapped by Ticket2Me to launch Open House, which was a fundraiser for theater workers who were largely impacted by the loss of income brought about by the lockdown. It’s hard to tell what the feedback for the live shows is, but it should be positive if there is viewership still in a way. We’d still get booked for private events, too, during this time.


When SPIT had to shift from online to physical venues post-pandemic, was there a challenge or was it an easy shift for both the performers and the audience?

PAPPU: There were venue capacity restrictions at first but these were eventually lifted. We also shifted from selling tickets on the day of the show to a pre-sale model. This had its own set of challenges but overall it made mounting shows less of a gamble on our end.
MONICA: I’d say the challenge was more internal because, at this point, our own membership was kind of weird. We have new members, old members leaving, old members coming back – we didn’t have any form of normalcy to fall back on. While there will always be culture shifts every time membership changes, I’d say that this was the most interesting in terms of so many things happening at the same time. In terms of the audience, we’d have our usual audiences at our usual venues naman (Commune).
BIBAY: I agree with Monica on it being largely internal. Having said that, because we’re improvisers, I think we were letting the tide take us wherever post-pandemic. Afterall, that’s what we learned from the pandemic anyway.

SPIT has started posting clips of its live performances on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Since then, the group seems to have been selling out any venue, whether it’s in a bigger venue like Power Mac Center Spotlight or RCBC, or smaller venues like Commune, or in venues outside Metro Manila like Cebu in seconds.

How did the idea of posting clips on social media come about? Was there a strategy to it? How much has social media played a part in the group’s current success? Was it a direct correlation?

BIBAY: SPIT’s 10,000-Facebook following did not move for 10 years or so. It was Pappu’s pettiness that gave us that final push to do something. But I’m not sure if he wants to disclose the specifics of his pettiness.
MONICA: There was always a plan, but no executor. Pappu can explain the rest.
PAPPU: Hahahahahaha. No comment. But yes. My pettiness catalyzed our online growth. To be honest, there really was no strategy to it. We were all quite happy in our little bubble anyway. We just decided to put out stuff online. We never thought things would blow up to how they are now and we are still figuring it out as we speak.

What do you think makes improv performances so appealing to audiences?

BIBAY: A lot of those who watch our videos say that our work feels fresh and new. They say that they never imagined that comedy can be so inoffensive.
PAPPU: It feels safe.
MONICA: It’s all about lifting each other up. There’s no letting others down, there’s no making fun of each other, most especially the audience. It’s a show that everybody and every thing creates – it’s not just the people (actors and audience), but also the space, the lights, the sound pollution. Each SPIT show is not a performance, it’s an experience.

What can people expect from SPIT in the future?
BIBAY: We plan by the day. So who knows?
PAPPU: I would like to know as well. Hahaha.
MONICA: Stick around and find out!


About the Author /


Founder and Managing Director of TheaterFansManila.com. Thinks about the performing arts scene 2/3 of the day, everyday. A firm believer in the Filipino artist.