What does one really imagine when they first try something they never have before? Of course there are the initial prejudices, especially if you are about to try something that you never imagined trying out. Last February 18, I had just that opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and enter a comedy bar called Laffline located along Timog Avenue. I have been to a comedy bar before, however, that one was more of a one-man show by John Santos which admittedly is of a higher class and a more sophisticated comedy with a bigger production budget than Laffline.
The experience began at around 9:30pm when we entered the comedy bar. Inside, I immediately noticed that the place was barely filled. I was disappointed at this fact because of the assumption “the more the merrier” and it was just sad for the performers to have a dismal audience. We were led to the “Non-smoking” area of the bar. “Non-smoking” is in quotation marks because there was never a clear divide between the smoking and non-smoking areas so much so that even if you were in the farthest part of the room you could still smell the cigarette smoke.
The room was generally dark as all bars are usually, and the only lights were on the small stage which was where all the seats were faced. Our group eventually decided to sit on the high chairs near the back which had a better view of the stage. The first act as we came in were two cross-dressing homosexuals and a woman. Actually I believe it was part of the act that they dress that way so as they look even more comedic. After they went around and made light fun of the audience and themselves, they went back to the stage and started to sing. They didn’t know the complete lyrics to the song so they sometimes had to look up to where a television flashing the lyrics was. After the song number, they introduced the next act which was composed of three cross-dressing homosexuals as well. Actually surprising was that one of them looked like a real female that I found myself doubting his actual nature. The other looked half female but when he spoke it was obvious he was male. And the third one looked like he was trying to be pretty amidst his companions. Together the three of them made fun of their English-speaking prowess, their attires and themselves. Before our group left our initial seats, I heard the DJ whisper to one of the talents “get the girl from UK”. But the three talents still searched the audience for OFWs who were in the bar and made fun of them.
At around 10:30pm, I noticed the bar was quickly filling up with more and more people. By this time, the three acts finally moved on to “the girl from UK” whom they brought up to the stage and made fun of a bit then asked her to sing. She was game for it so it seemed that she really could in fact sing. After her song number, each one of the previous homosexuals came out, no pun intended, and sang a song before moving on to do a one-person stand up act. Out of the approximately six acts I was able to catch that night I noticed these common occurrences between them:
1. They all had some level of audience participation. For example, they called out an audience member because of his unusual eyebrows. Generally however, the performers seemed to ask a lot if there were any foreigners or OFWs present. Maybe it was just easier to make fun of foreigners or because if they liked the show they could tell their friends abroad. Or probably because they tipped better.
2. The one-man stand-up acts were begun with a song number. Surprisingly, they were not completely horrible singers. Maybe deliberately so, but still not completely bad singers. One of them actually, who looked completely female and admitted that she had undergone a sex change, was able to sing both male and female versions of the song. It was an amazing rendition even if the lyrics were a bit disturbing on my part. She did sound better as a woman though.
3. They all at one point in their act made fun of themselves, whether on their body mass, faces, clothes, or English-speaking prowess. Which in truth is the essence of comedy bars and comedy but it may be a stab to their self-esteem. Yet they seemed confident nonetheless which is applaudable. So the comedic acts generate both a response of laughing at them and laughing with them.
4. They were all surprisingly open and honest about themselves. Some of them talked about their trials and tribulations of being a homosexual in the entertainment industry. For example, when the talked about how they have to get ready for work or even about their personal lives and experiences outside of the country such as in Japan. However, one can not be completely certain that everything that they are saying is accurate. They could just be making up events just to make the audience laugh at their expense.
5. Lastly, the acts always had to tell the audience to clap for them before the audience will actually applaud. This is actually sad because there was no initiation in showing some level of enthusiasm for the performer/s. Even when they asked for the applause not everyone applauded as if showing no appreciation or liking for the performance. There was if I am not mistaken only one time that the audience did not have to be told to applaud which was when “the girl from UK” finished her song number.
All in all Laffline was a typical leisure place for Filipinos. An escape really from the stress of the workplace or school as most of the audience was either in college or in their late 20’s. As bars go, the menu was definitely overpriced and when the trio were up on stage, they nearly forced the audience to buy food and drinks. Some people, it seemed, actually felt that they had no choice but to order. Generally, the place was an enjoyable experience, maybe in need of better ventilation, but it was mainly a place for people to really loosen up. A lot of the material is explicit and it is recommendable that people who enter have at least a background of Filipino culture and the Filipino language or else you will just be at a total disadvantage. Personally, this experience has made me a bit more open to gays. The fact that they can laugh at themselves and remain confident doing what they love while earning an honest living at the same time is admirable. These establishments and their performers affirm the light, fun and easy-going society which in essence is what Filipinos are, finding reasons to smile and laugh.