We bet that when you draw up a list of possible things to do on a Saturday night, a comedy bar’s not usually at the top of your list. Same with us, prior to this experience, the three of us have never seen a comedy bar, let alone been inside one! In fact, we all thought that comedy bars, gay bars and the like, all sounded rather seedy. Strobe lights, foggy rooms, lots of beer, indistinct chattering, people making out illicitly — these were the stuff we thought we’d see in a comedy bar.
But surprise surprise! When we got there, the first thing we noticed was that the place actually looked pretty decent. There was a valet who offered to park our cars; and when we entered the room, the reception area was nicely lit. We were pretty shocked though that the steep entrance fee of P300.00 didn’t even include a complimentary drink. Weird, because we’d always associated comedy bars as a place with a rather shabby clientele. Apparently not. Aside from the many Ateneans who were in attendance that night, we noticed that almost all the patrons at the comedy bar were well-off. Many of them were above 30 years old. There were OFWs, businessmen, nicely dressed couples, etc. Likewise, we noticed that their menu prices were exorbitant. Imagine, shelling over a hundred bucks for drinks? We were shocked… but apparently, their clientele weren’t. As the night drew on, we noticed that a lot of the audience members were actually ordering drinks and food even without prodding from the comedians (although the comedians were giving not-so-subtle hints that the comedy bar wasn’t a “tambayan” to the tables with no food or drinks). Aside from that, people were giving P500.00 to P1000.00 for the comedians to sing songs of their choice! Shocking! Admittedly, the comedians were really good singers, but still, with that amount, you could already buy two original Celine Dion albums!
So this got us thinking, why do these well-to-do people flock to establishments such as comedy bars? First thing we considered was the venue. As we mentioned above, the place was pretty nice. It had an excellent sound system, excellent service from the waiters (who magically materialize as soon as you finish your beer so that they can ask you if you want to buy more), comfy seats, and delicious looking food (we can’t vouch for the taste since we didn’t buy any). The stage was also very intricately decorated, and very brightly lit. Flamboyant and colorful, the stage evoked a feeling of mischievousness to the audience. It really set a fun and lively mood, and it showed that they weren’t scrimping on their comedy set background. But even more important, the comedians really utilized the stage in order to flawlessly deliver their comedic punch lines! This then brings us to the second thing that we factored in, the comedians themselves.
All the comedians, or at least the ones we saw, were gay. We didn’t find this as shocking as the fact that no one else seemed to question why all the comedians were gay. Why is it that when we think of funny people, the first people we think of are the gay ones, like Vice Ganda? Where did this stereotype come from? Are gay people naturally funnier, are they more expressive? However, consider that around a decade ago, the funny man in the scene were people like Joey de Leon, Dolphy, Vic Sotto and the like, definitely straight men. Or is it simply because since they are gay, they are allowed to talk about subjects that would be otherwise taboo? Think of it this way: a lot of the jokes thrown around that night touched upon their sexual orientation. They weren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves. But as we laughed, we also wondered, what if the people making these jokes weren’t gay? Would people still laugh? Or would they be affronted? Likewise, we wondered about these comedians. Why would they make fun of themselves? Even if it was all just in good fun, doesn’t it still hurt their self-esteem even a little? Were they making fun of themselves to earn a decent livelihood, or to make sure that they’re the first to insult themselves, preempting others from doing the same?
Aside from that, we noticed that their jokes were mostly centered on the usual dichotomies: rich vs. poor, smart vs. dumb, handsome vs. ugly, young vs. old, gay vs. straight, male vs. female. We noticed how at the beginning their jokes were very “green,” in that it involved a lot of private parts and curse words that you wouldn’t hear in an everyday conversation. However, as soon as they found out that the place was teeming with Ateneans, their jokes immediately changed to cover smart vs. dumb jokes. It was amazing to see how the comedians could gauge what the audience found funny, then immediately adapt and change their jokes to suit their current audience. That certainly takes a lot of skill and practice. In fact, this led us to ask the question of, who exactly were the observers and the observed? We entered the comedy bar thinking that we had the upper hand, but in reality, the comedians were probably the more experienced and better observers! It was certainly a rather unsettling thought.
The last factor, and the one we believe to be the most important, is the audience. We noticed how the age demographic and the economic background of the people largely influenced which jokes they found funny. Likewise, the language capabilities of the people also affected whether they found the comedians funny or not. Take into account the people who have a hard time understanding Filipino. Because they cannot understand what is being said, they were mostly laughing along, which then brings us to the bandwagon effect. There were moments during the comedic act when we couldn’t understand what was happening, but since everyone was laughing, we laughed along. Afterwards, when we asked others what the joke was about, a lot of them responded with a shrug, saying, “I don’t know. Everyone was laughing eh.” Also consider that the jokes that elicited the most laughs were the smart vs. dumb jokes. Perhaps this was because these were the jokes we could mostly relate to, as opposed to jokes about young vs. old, and gay vs. straight.
Aside from that, we also noted how the audience was extremely into the performances. They would applaud the performers and they were extremely good sports even as the comedians insulted them. Likewise, as mentioned earlier, some people were even offering to pay the comedians P500.00 to P1,000.00, just for them to sing. At first, we were shocked and impressed by how generous these customers were and by how well these comedians were singing. But as the night wore on, and as we noticed how the comedians were actually choosing which songs to sing first (they based it on how much the customers paid, the higher the payment, the earlier your song will be sung), we realized that there were actually hints of capitalism occurring within the comedy bar. A night of fun and laughter among friends is not exempt from the capitalistic structure of our society. From the valet, to the P300.00 entrance fee, to the bucket of beer we shared; each and every single one of our actions involved money. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, and we left the comedy bar believing that our P300.00 was money well spent as we had an awesome time laughing the night away. However, this does leave us with the question, if a supposedly “carefree” night immediately links you to capitalism, is it even possible to avoid capitalism in our society today? Does money really make the world go round, since it is involved in practically everything that we do? These were just some of the questions that were left in our minds after our trip to the comedy bar. Ultimately, we all agreed that our experience was definitely worth what we paid for, as it allowed us to step out from our usual comfort zones and it made us think about how society works. All in all, we were really impressed with the atmosphere, the audience and the comedians. It was definitely a memorable college experience!
Goldielyn Limsiy, 102244
Nicholas Cancio, 100690
Emmanuel Chua, 100886