On February 25, an ordinary Saturday evening for us, my classmates and we headed to Quezon City to search for Punchline Comedy Bar. It is situated along Quezon Boulevard near Great Eastern Hotel. Some people say that if you want real entertainment, try comedy bars for a change. It is increasingly getting popular among locals and tourists in Manila. The comedy bars mostly have homosexual emcees who are willing to make fun of themselves and patrons who do not mind being ridiculed for a few laughs. Though we basically visited Punchline for the field trip in Sociology and anthropology class, we were able to feel that all of us, especially we Koreans, were full of expectation and anticipation to experience something new and fresh. The purpose of the said activity is to observe the performers, the audience and to participate. It started at 9.30PM and was supposed to be finished at 12 midnight. Those who wanted to say a little longer, they might do so with waivers form from their parents. During the two-hours of staying in the bar, we realized that we were not familiar with the place and with the people there sitting or standing on the stage. Everything was new and somewhat shocking to us. We were asked to observe the physical set-up, the demographic characteristics of the different groups of people and types of humor and jokes which were cracked by the hosts or even by the guests on the stage.
The audience consisted of various age groups; but no one looked younger than us, college students. Most of the people were sitting as a group of at least four of five. Some of them were eating while almost everyone was holding a bottle of beer. Whenever the emcees cracked some jokes, people laughed while looking at each other’s face as if they wanted to get an agreement that the joke or the show itself was awesome.
As we entered the bar, the show had already started. We noticed that, in stand-up comedy, the comedians usually recited a fast-paced succession of humorous stories, short jokes and one-liners, which constitute what is typically called a monologue, routine or act. Some stand-up comedians used props or even music to enhance their acts.
Stand-up is form that is openly devoted to getting immediate laughs from an audience above all else, unlike theatrical comedy which creates comedy within the structure of a play with amusing characters and situations. We have observed that, in stand-up comedy, feedback of the audience was instant and crucial for the comedian’s act. When the emcees cracked some jokes, the audience busted into laughter right away. We could feel that audiences expected a stand-up comic to provide a steady stream of laughs, and the performers were always under great pressure to deliver. This pressure could be thrilling, but also be threatening. If the performer is not able to coax laughs out of the audience, the bored crowd harass the comedian or vice-versa. One hallmark of a master stand-up comedian is the ability not only to face down and silence a heckler, but to win over and entertain the rest of the crowd with a witty retort. The adept gay stand-up comedians nimbly played off the mood and tastes of any particular audience, and adjusted his routine accordingly.
My recent Punchline experience can explain why I, David Shin, am not a bar person. I felt strange with that kind of atmosphere. The food was even not that good. I believe that one can enjoy the entertainment more when he is partnered with delicious eats and drinks. I laughed but felt scandalized and harassed at the same time because of the offensive jokes and vulgar punch lines. I am a conservative person. I have been raised in a strict Christian family. Thus, hearing tons of vulgar and obscene words was too much for me. I also personally believe that one can make comedy not by merely bashing other people’s physical traits. This is my first time to go to comedy bar like Punchline. I admit that the performers are genuinely talented and funny. The only distasteful part of the experience was the continuous harassment for money. There was a request for one song from the audience and I never heard the end of it. The performers need to learn to show respect and appreciation to the audience instead of flat-out embarrassing them for giving a small amount. The comments about ‘out-of-towners should give more money’ was annoying. It made me regret going in the bar. I bet the other people there backed off as well for fear of getting harassed. It would have been a fun experience had I enjoyed it. But I do not think I would anytime soon. I would not visit someone’s home where you will be welcomed by very aggressive, glorified panhandlers. Honestly, the little girl selling cigarette and candies outside the club showed more respect and class.
On the contrary, I, Siyeon Lee, was totally amused by the humors and happenings in the bar though it was a little embarrassing that the emcees rushed towards me as everybody was staring when I walked inside. I was not able to fully understand what they said in Filipino. But, at least, I could get some sort of sense of what they were talking about. They so eagerly asked me if I was a Korean. I was surprised enough with the sudden attack. At first, they might have talked about my skin and, the next, about my hair style. He might have said something about typical Koreans who usually has smooth/flawless (well, according to them) skin with hair banged. Then, they asked my name and I answered ‘Siyeon’. They started introducing themselves with fake Korean names. It was funny enough to make every audience laughed. During the entire show, one thing that was so lucky to me was that they a lot used their bodies for the source of humor since I could not understand what they said. One of the most shocking and funny things was that the emcees never hesitated to touch their important part of bodies and even that of the guests. It, of course, was possible thanks to the unique situation wherein they were gays. But, still, it was a real big surprise to me. And every audience seemed to be greatly amused by that kind of actions. At this point, I realized that the comedy bar was a place for people to become free from every rule or oppression of their everyday lives. Holding a bottle of San Miguel whatever, they just let themselves be controlled by the natural human desire at the bottom of their minds.
Shin Sang Hoon