When I told my siblings that I was going to go to a comedy bar, I immediately saw the blood rush from their faces. Not just from the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go with them in our weekly sibling bonding activities, but because they saw comedy bars as a very trashy place that was only for those who loved toilet humor. I felt their expression of disgust and worry, and as soon as I was able to explain the details of the trip, they began to give advice in a really worried and somewhat angry tone. “Dun ka sa likod! ‘di mo kakayanin ‘yung mga joke nila!” “’Pag inasar ka, tumawa ka na lang! bayaan mo na!” I was curious of course, because why would my sisters who never expressed this much worry for me suddenly talk about my well-being and my “fragile mind” being corrupted and stained. Are comedy bars really that bad and uncultured? Would I really be pissed off at how crass the humor of the talents are? It got me all the more excited.
I never really knew a lot about comedy bars up until the moment that the class was asked to go and experience it for ourselves. All I remember from the few times that my parents brought me to these places when I was a child was that there was a guy on stage who talked and talked while everyone else was rolling on the floor laughing (figuratively of course). It was therefore so surprising for me when I arrived there and the first thing that greeted me was someone who was talking about how hairy his balls were and how he just had a blowjob given to him by the dad of the audience member. And though I wasn’t too sensitive towards this kind of language, I prepared myself for a night that I thought would be dragging and repetitive if this was what was going to be presented by everyone.
Surely enough as the night went on, the humor was usually the same. A private part over here, a sexual position over there, and a little bit of gay lingo sprinkled on top. It was funny at some parts, but it really got me wondering why people would pay good money to stay in a place like that. A lot of the customers there were actually Balikbayans who looked pretty rich to me and in fact they were – giving tips of a hundred pesos or more, and talking about where they worked as part of this company back in Saudi or Dubai. Everyone was buying a lot of expensive food and beer, and if you go outside, you’ll even see that there were a lot of nice cars parked. Before going there I thought that comedy bars were for those considered to be part of the lower class. But seeing the people, all of whom were well-dressed and considering all of the things mentioned earlier, made me come to the conlcusion that comedy bars were actually places that were for those who could afford to throw away maybe a thousand or two on humor that I wasn’t even sure was fit or bagay to them.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the comedy bar even though it was very vulgar but there was one turning point in the night wherein I understood perfectly why many of these people whom I just described as those who are typically cultured or well-off would spend a night in it. At one point, the talents found out that there were a lot of Ateneans in the building and a few minutes later, you would see a radical shift in the kind of humor that they displayed and presented. From the usual banters about oral sex and pubic hair, it actually became a very educated and witty exchange that involved grammar and so many pop culture references. It was a very amazing experience to be able to see that these people weren’t just restricted to toilet humor rather they were able to completely revamp their act in order to suit the background of majority of the audience. And I guess this is the reason why the people there were willing to pay – to see quick witted individuals adapt and make do with the situations presented to them. To the presenters and talents on stage, it was obvious that this was more than just a job, but more of an art form that I suppose would take years of practice and hard work.
Apart from the Balikbayans I mentioned, there were even a few Koreans, and at the back some foreigners as well. Even towards them the talents would be able to throw out puns and jokes that were up their alley. There was no one there who didn’t laugh because of how snappy the comics thought of their next jokes.
We were asked to take in as much as possible to understand the interactions and the types of people in the comedy bar. For me though, what was most striking was how as I was observing the talents, they in turn were also observing everyone else in the room, including me, and at a much more precise and fast rate than anyone I know. I believe that they were actually excellent examples of sociologists and anthropologists themselves. They who were well-versed in different kinds of cultures and sub-cultures of people and surprisingly being able to change themselves and their act in order to entertain the kind of people present. It is important for them to keep being updated and in the know with everything that’s happening in the world in order to stay funny, and in order to stay relevant. If only for this amazing ability of theirs, then I would gladly visit that comedy bar again.
Juan Senga 103491