by Julienne Joven and Betina Nacionales
For most people, the pursuit of happiness can be addictive.
And why not, in a world where murders fill the nightly news and capitalism dreams prevail during the day? Laughter, then, becomes a form of escapism for many, especially for those who feel the burdens of life are weighing down on them.
It is ironic, however, that one has to deliberately seek this happiness today. While children can laugh away their days, the average adult, in order to experience almost the same feelings, has to pay P300 for a taste of the comedy bar scene.
This is the punchline.
As cliche as it sounds, people come and go but not in this establishment. Being early in the venue gave us more chances of seeing the kinds of people who patronize the bar. The very first thing we looked at is the age range. Considering this is a bar and it runs only in the later hours of the day, we expected to see “aged” customers. If it weren’t for the people from our school on a field trip, the age range of the people in the bar would start from late 20’s up to, but not older than 40 years old (unless some people’s looks can be quite deceiving).
Besides the age range, demographics show that majority of the people are males and there are quite a few women. We probably noticed this because most, if not all of the employees were men who wore the same uniform: a black shirt, pants, and their nameplates. The people are also grouped together and we weren’t able to see anyone who was sitting alone. The smallest number of people together is 2 which are usually couples who are probably out on a date or in our case, friends who decided to have a night out for laughs. The biggest group that we have observed can fill up more than 5 tables and they’d sit in very long rows. These large groups can be seen seated on the elevated VIP part of the bar which is located at the back or in front, the area closest to the stage.
The line-up of comedians that night were Le Chazz, Ace, Fudge, Ethel Booba, Hans Mortel, Jett Vasquez, and Whacky Kiray; but we only saw five of them. The first segment of the night was a medley. There seems to be no strict schedule for the comedians; they came out one by one, at their own pace and time. Although the whole arrangement is all routine for them, the comedians still displayed skill and had apparently studied voicing of the songs.
After the opening songs, they tried to get to know the audience. Knowing that the usual crowd consists of groups of friends, they asked if anyone was there to celebrate a birthday or the homecoming of a relative from abroad. As expected from comedy bars, they also pulled people onstage to interview and poke fun of. That night, they interviewed a Atenean they found handsome, an indie actor celebrating his birthday, and a balikbayan single mother from Kuwait.
Sometimes, they had a hard time relating to unresponsive interviewees. They resort to insulting the interviewees but they give out a disclaimer now and then to the audience that this is usually how they do it in a comedy bar. And true enough, the audience enjoys more when the interviewee plays along with the comedians’ taunts and responds back cattily.
There were also a lot of green jokes directed at the interviewees. The audience laughs when they can relate to the awkwardness the interviewees felt. If the audience were in the interviewees’ position, it would have become nervous laughter at the blatant advances of the comedians on them. However, as passive observers only of the exchange, they are able to laugh their hearts out.
The comedians also encourage more audience participation by opening the stage to any willing singer. Those people celebrating something are required to perform, and most of the time, are simply forced to by the egging on of their party. This is where the comedians display their professionalism: they coach the singers onstage also to ensure a good performance the audience will still enjoy.
Comedy is a subtle art form, too, and requires a lot of skill in hosting and knowing what makes the audience tick. Stalling is not obvious (we did not realize that they while they were joking, the crew was actually attempting to load a song on karaoke) because they use the time for jokes. Jokes also usually stem from the discussion onstage and requires very quick-thinking. One can see their mind-gears working! One tactic they employ is asking participants/co-comedians to repeat questions so that they have more time to think of a comeback.
To joke successfully, the top five sure-hit topics are:
- Work/Occupation, and
And what could be more foolproof than that? These top 5 are obviously topics that anyone around the globe can relate to. They are basic and ever-present; life will always have them. Nobody ever talks about politics or religion in this establishment. The comedians can, without fail, make a joke about women being the number one enemy of gays or about being pretentiously smart, and be sure to have an appreciative audience.
We don’t know which was louder: the ruckus caused by the green jokes or the thoughts in our head screaming, “Gosh. How much more shallow can it get?” Just kidding. After all, jokes are half-meant, as they say. There’s something more to them. Underneath the superficiality of it all, the jokes reflect a patch of reality.
That said patch comes off as something untouched in real life. We don’t speak out loud about ugliness or faults in other people. We don’t openly talk about people’s private sex lives and we don’t prod into the nitty-gritty details of it, too. We shy away from such topics because propriety asks us to do so.
If we reflect on our said “reality”, propriety asks us to never straightforwardly say: “Ang pangit mo!” nor to tell others how sexy they are unless the person we are referring to is our close friend. We also take heed when it comes to touchy subjects such as the never ending “Battle of the sexes” which during these times, involves not just the two “sexes” who normally duke it out.
Why can’t we state those said things? Simple. It is not proper nor is it right. Usually, it ends up sounding perverted, offensive, or insulting for others. Though this applies to the outside world, in a comedy bar where the comedians certainly put up a little “world” of their own complete with a warning to “tread carefully”, you definitely should “let loose” for no one is stopping you. It is the ideal place for you to just laugh at reality even if it means engaging in the topics propriety asks us to shy away from.
Though the condescending tone of the comedians sounds threatening, they say it in such a manner so it would be lighter and funnier for majority of the people. And if you were to catch a lot of people’s attention, you would be able to talk about more important topics. It also comes with disclaimers for first timers or even sensitive people so that they wouldn’t get too overwhelmed. After all, through their condescending tones, they are able to lure the audience into paying attention to what they have to say or majority of the times, joke about.
After two hours of laughs, we leave in the middle of some intelligence-bashing between two of the comedians. We exit the venue with empty stomachs (P300 does not cover food), aching laugh lines, and a new arsenal of anecdotes. But however wild the stories we’ve accumulated are, we still think a good ol’ banat session with friends can top any comedy bar’s efforts to satisfy our addiction to happiness.