The Business of Entertainment

15 Mar

I did not have to pull myself out of bed early for NSTP: the first sign this Saturday would be good. I ran errands in the afternoon and later in the night I met up with friends so we could set off to Laffline Comedy Bar along Timog Ave., QC together.

We arrived quite early. The area looked promising with the well-structured exterior and cemented pavement, and a guard who looked after cars that were parked outside. By the entrance was a table where a fee of 300 pesos per person was collected. Our group of five was then ushered in and we took seats by the side of the stage, away from the small crowd that had already gathered to watch the early performances.

After a couple of minutes it was clear that we would not be getting the full “experience” seated in the area where we were, so we moved nearer the front of the stage. Once we were settled, taking notice of the layout of the place, seats and tables were cramped and the smell of cigarettes wafted in the air. All the seats faced the direction of the stage and not necessarily the table itself, giving the impression that the main “attraction” in Laffline Comedy Bar would be just that, the comedy. Similarly, VIP areas where audiences can stay for a minimum amount were set up, and what this area offers is more space and an elevated surface, so that you have a better view of the entertainers.

All the performers that night were homosexuals who, in typical Filipino fashion, were cross-dressers as well. There was a format to each performance. The group would start with conversation, a heavily audience-involved ordeal. The performers make jokes about the taboo topic of sex. They call the attention of several customers  (balikbayans and adolescent males were a favorite), who would eventually bear the brunt of their jokes.

Later into the night, more people arrived, justifying the cramped yet orderly manner the seats were situated. It is now more obvious these people come here for entertainment, as the cheers and applause get louder and louder the more people present. A girl from Britain was called on to the stage and she gamely stood by for all the jokes made at her expense, and gave a enthusiastic performance when asked to sing, albeit remarks made by the performers that she sounded odd, etc. With the house full, people of all ages were present, either with their families or friends, thus jokes about sensitive topics would also be made to the expense of (in our case) a mother and a young son (of around 12 years). Nobody took ire with these jokes, even the foreigner in the VIP section who was asked where he picked up his Filipina girlfriend from.

In this sense, entertainment is found where propriety is not. Making use of the taboos of society, performers are able to upturn these barriers and are able to share this same humor with everyone present. Because we are all subjected to the same taboos, we are in turn “in” on the jokes as well. Others less and less view the performers, all homosexuals, as taboo themselves. When a performer would start making jokes about a certain group of people or stereotype (conyos and people from Makati, etc) they would be quick to say that they themselves viewed everyone in the place as equals.

Homosexuals today are increasingly trying to break out of the stereotype into hardworking individuals, who remained flamboyant while being able to make a name for themselves. In this business of entertainment, they are able to show their true colors, so to speak, in a way that society (the audience) will accept and applaud them for. They put themselves out there not just to make a living, but because this is who they are and these are the lives they live. The purpose of telling jokes about gender prejudice and the homosexual taboo were not lost on the audience. However with the colorful stories the performers tell about getting penectomies and working hard to be able to support their “boy toys”, the audience gets a glimpse of the complexities that arise when you live on the sidelines of society.

A singing number usually punctuated these great performances where often the voice of a woman would be adapted, always heartily applauded by the audience. Amidst the raucous laughter, by both performer and audience, you notice the waiters increasingly close in on tables that had nothing on them. They would ask repeatedly if we already had something to order, and similarly, the performers would remind the audience that they should buy food because it was not “a free show”, it was business.

You are then brought back to the reality that this endeavor was put up to gain money from a satisfied audience willing more than the entrance fee warranted if only to show appreciation for the hard work of the entertainers. The inside of the bar would be interestingly less appealing that is exterior, because the attraction inside were the performers, and after you’ve entered and paid, you will sit down and eventually get hungry, enjoying your money’s worth in entertainment. When you take a second glance, you notice just how the place is conducive to moneymaking. There was overpriced food on the menu, and donation boxes in the comfort rooms where a woman gave out individually folded tissue paper. The crowded area proved stifling with the hustle and bustle of what seemed too many waiters most of whom had nothing to do but prod the audience to take a look at the menu and order something.

In this business of entertainment, humor is drawn to make profit. However this business is carried out may vary, but we all partake in the same form of entertainment, a stamp that humor would be an identifying factor in Philippine society, and who but the most colorful of Filipinos would be present to deliver it.

Kat dela Cruz 101212



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