Last February 18, a couple of us went to Laffline Comedy Bar, located at the Tomas Morato – Timog area. This area is known for its nightlife, so some of the adjacent buildings were still alive with bright lights. At 9 PM, Kristine Fulgencio, Ali Garcia, Pau Miranda and I came in a bit too early. Most of the major eating establishments were about to close, save for those 24-hour convenience stores and eateries. So we waited for Sir and our company to arrive at the next door Burger King joint.
This was the first time I have delved into the nightlife scene, since I’m not really a night owl. I wondered why comedy bars have to open at night. Also, upon entering Laffline, I had to wonder why the entrance fee cost 300 pesos. I had pre-conceived notions of what a comedy bar was like: it may have a lot of gay performers, drinks, smokers and pintasan from the performers themselves.
The first thing I noted down was the Php300 entrance fee. At first I thought it would cost about a half of what we paid for. I thought the 300 pesos had drinks included, but apparently, we had to order drinks ourselves. Honestly, that night, I wanted to drink and laugh a lot since it had been a stressful week. So I had to wonder why the 300-peso fee? Didn’t they have student discounts?
I also noted down the prices of the food and drinks sold in Laffline. Compared to the suggested retail prices in stores, a bottle of Tanduay Ice or San Miguel Light cost about 60-100 pesos. The food cost about 100-200 pesos. The food was reasonable in price, but I think the Laffline management raised prices for the alcoholic drinks because they probably they knew that they could earn a lot through the drinks.
When the performance started at around 9:30 PM, the bar wasn’t filled yet. There were a number of groups in the bar, but you could still distinguish the groups of people since there weren’t a lot of customers yet. At around 11 PM, Laffline was a full house. The whole bar started to become alive with the performers on stage; cigarette smoke flying in the air; the blinding strobe lights on the stage and groups of people laughing, eating, and drinking.
I also noticed that there were a lot of balikbayans in the comedy bar. We may have this notion that balikbayans have a lot of money with them since they work outside the country. The higher the exchange rate of the currency of the country of work versus the Philippine pesos, the more pesos you have with you. I think the reason why the entrance fee and the drinks on the menu were kind of high was because the comedy bar’s usual patrons are balikbayans.
When we came in at around 9:30 PM, the gay performers on stage were only doing slapstick comedy, and were saying hello to everyone. At around 10 PM, three performers, two gays and a transgender female, were on the stage, making fun of people and telling mildly lewd jokes. By this time, they had pulled on to the stage one of the audience members, a balikbayangirl who was in her early 20s. The girl grew up from British, and she seemed like she’s picked up conservative British attitudes. So when she was put on the stage with the three performers, she looked like she wanted to leave. But those three performers were teasing her, all the while hyping up the crowd to order more food and drinks. They were making lewd jokes and suggestive action towards the girl. But after, they made her sing her favorite song. I was shocked to learn that the one that looked like a woman was actually a transgender woman. I thought that she was just a babaeng bakla.
Then, the next set of performers came into stage. One reminded me of Ogie Diaz, that gay gossip host, and the other was a large gay dressed up in an eye-catching rainbow dress. If the last three performers were lewd, these two were just full-blown vulgar. The performer in the rainbow dress looked and seemed respectable in that he moved lady-like and in one of their spiels, he mentioned that he graduated in Ateneo with a degree in Communication. That fact seemed feasible since he knew about the Journalism track in Ateneo and not a lot knew about the track system that we have in Communication.
The two were story-telling about the performer in the rainbow dress’s escapades with his Arabian lover. To me, it was funny in a vulgar way, but some of the jokes they said embarrassed me a bit. I looked at my company, and saw that they were laughing with embarrassment. When the performer in the rainbow dress bent down while re-enacting something from the other performer’s spiel, everyone saw his underwear, and it was really embarrassing for me.
It was my first time in a comedy bar, and I’m glad that I picked it over the gay bar. I’ve been really curious as to how these bars operate. I learned that most of the customers are balikbayan, and that their aim is to make their customers laugh. After months or years abroad, I think these balikbayans really miss the Filipino humor – the one where we don’t take ourselves too seriously. At the end of a long day, the comedy bar over bottles of ice-cold beer were things that could make these balikbayans feel right at home again. The performers were game enough to do anything. And since they were all gay, I think their being gay boosted the fact that gays are game enough to do anything, even if they are the butt of the jokes. I guess that since they were gay, they knew not to take themselves too seriously. I think the humor and the game-ness hides their insecurities of not being born a woman, so since they’re gay, they don’t really want to take things too seriously.
Gett P. Baladad