The idea of going to a comedy bar was not so new to me. A couple of years ago, my family would frequent comedy bars during weekends to somehow loosen up after a very busy week. Being an only child, they usually dragged me along with them since no one would be left at home to watch over me.
As far as I could remember, most of the comedy bars I have been to, like Klownz, Zirkoh, and 22nd St. all looked the same. It was as if the same architect designed all these comedy bars and the only difference was that they were situated in different places in the Metro. The sound system was ear-splitting, the venue was very dark and poorly lit, full of smoke, and the space was maximized to accommodate as many patrons as possible to the point that the venue was like being inside the LRT 1 train during rush hour. I even remembered my parents constantly telling me to pee before the show started because once it does, it would almost be impossible to get out of your seat without disturbing all the other patrons inside the comedy bar.
Initially, I also expected Punchline to be identical to those comedy bars I have been to. However, to my surprise, it was nowhere near how I envisioned it to be. Instead of the deafening noise that would signal your entrance to the comedy bar, only the chatter of the people would welcome you. Instead of the typical loud noise that comedy bar’s would usually play at its doors, they opted to have a free movie screening of an old Superman movie. Also, the place was somehow lit brighter than the other comedy bars I have been to and you did not have to deal with bumping into the waiters or stepping on the feet of other people. The smoking area was situated far away from non-smokers and it was obvious that the place had good ventilation since the heavy musk of cigarette smoke was not as strong. The seats were placed evenly apart and there were even comfortable couches at the right side of the venue. This made being inside the comedy bar cozy and comfortable and you did not have to feel like you were being squeezed inside a can of sardines. In addition to that, I also noticed that the crowd in Punchline was somehow different. In the comedy bars I visited before, the crowd was comprised mainly of people from let’s say the upper lower class. However, in Punchline, most of the crowd were well off. Aside from a lot of Ateneans, there were numerous balikbayans who were there who did not hesitate to spend as much as 1000 pesos for one song request. In addition to that, there was even this group of old folks who were adorned with all sorts of jewelry. Despite the hefty price tag of all the items in the menu, just like the hundred peso bottle of beer, almost all the tables were filled by a variety of food and drinks.
Despite its differences, there were still elements of a comedy bar that were still evident in Punchline. As usual, the majority of the entertainers were gay and just like before, they followed a certain “recipe” to their acts. Of course, there would be the song number that would serve as their opening. After their constant reminder that all of their jokes are just part of the act and should not be taken seriously, a barrage of jokes would then ensue. Their jokes encompassed a wide range of topics including very green jokes that made use of all the terms associated to the reproductive organs of humans accompanied by a multitude of the most vulgar words and curses both in English and Tagalog. However, what got my attention the most was the wit of the comedians. They can hurl comebacks and adjust the topics of their jokes as fast as Ferrari switches gears. The spontaneity of their insults and jokes made it seem like it was as if they were just simply having a conversation in front of a number of people and this was what made their act very appealing to the crowd or in Tagalog term, “benta”.
My recent trip to the comedy bar made me realize that a comedy bar is not just about loosening up or having a good laugh after a stressful week. It is also not only about watching gay people constantly on the prowl for handsome guys, making fun of themselves, or complaining about how women are to be annihilated for stealing all the men in the world. A comedy bar serves an avenue wherein gay people can show their talents in singing and their inherent wit at cracking jokes. It is the place where they could not be ostracized or perceived to be those “kinakapitan sa kagipitan” even for just one night. The comedy bar helps uplift the image and status of those people who are normally looked down on in our society and for that night, the ones who are more often than not stepped on during the day become the superstars and focus of attention at night.
–Kevin Udasco 103904