“Huwag po kayong magugulat sa mga pinag-uusapan namin dito.”
The disclaimer made by one of the comedians was unnecessary, as among the flurry of emotions that filled us that evening, shock was not one of them.
When we first stepped into Laffline last February 18, we had a pretty clear picture of what we should expect of the place despite it being our first time to actually be in one. Stories from friends and even our parents had filled us in on what goes on in them. Speaking of our parents, it was a bit of a surprise for us when they didn’t even spare a second glance when we had told them that we were going to a comedy bar for class. Pau’s folks even gave her tips on how to survive the night. It makes us wonder how they would’ve reacted if we had opted for the gay bar field trip instead.
While it was one thing to hear about it, actually being there in the crowd was a very different matter. Here are some of our observations:
1. Stereotypically gay comedians. A comedy bar will never be complete without a gay comedian or two. Or five. When we entered Laffline at around 9:30 that evening, the faces of now-famous comedians and comediennes like Vice Ganda, Pooh, and Pokwang greeted us at the small reception area. The posters of these well-known comedians were probably placed there so that people would get the idea that hey, the quality of comedy in this place is Vice Ganda level, or that the sorts of performances shown would be like those of Pokwang’s. A long-time patron would already know of that, surely, but for first-time guests like us, these posters make the bar a lot more enticing. Another thing would probably be because these comedians started out in Laffline. So maybe they’re trying to say that this is the “breeding ground” for the great comedians we see on TV today.
Our hosts for that night were stereotypically gay. They were loud and proud about their sexuality as they hurled one joke after another donned in their skimpy clothing. One was even wearing a rainbow dress. The establishment seems to be reinforcing the idea that all gay people act like this, that while there seems to be an improvement in the status of LGBTs these days, it cannot be denied that most people appreciate them mostly for their entertainment value. But the comedians at Laffline do from time to time share some of the difficulties they face because of their sexuality, but again they are punctuated with humor.
2. A run for your money. Pau’s mom had told her the day before going to the comedy bar: “Mag-order kayo ng drinks!” She said that it would be embarrassing if we just sat there with nothing on our table, and that if we were caught, the comedians might poke fun at us for not buying anything. But we didn’t get to order drinks, not after we saw the menu. The prices of the drinks were definitely not student-budget-friendly. (Either we’re really just not used to buying drinks, or they were really expensive. Or both.) The prices were more or less a 100 pesos each. We had expected that something came with the 300-peso entrance fee, like maybe a bottle or something , but alas, entrance fee is just plain entrance fee.
That’s probably how the bar earns money. And they can get away with charging higher than usual for the drinks because (1) let’s face it, going to a bar without buying drinks is like visiting a foreign country and going back home once you reach the airport; (2) most of the guests are balikbayans, so they could surely shell out a few more bucks for drinks.
So despite the many parinigs of the hosts about how they would shine the spotlight on anyone these see who did not order anything (i.e. “Mahiya naman yung iba diyan, nakikitawa lang wala namang inorder. Sige, tatawagin namin kayo sa stage!”), we didn’t and thankfully we got away with it.
3. Sex sells. The quote we opened this blog post with, “Huwag po kayong magugulat sa mga pinag-uusapan namin,” was right on the mark.
About 80% of their jokes were about sex, or at least made some implication of it. And they weren’t even innuendos. They joked around about sex so casually as though they were talking about the weather. They were so vulgar, so straightforward, that if they were on a television show, more than half of what they said would be bleeped out. The disclaimer could be taken as a joke as well. They would often direct these to the older members of the audience, those whom we often associate with as being traditional and conservative. But Pau felt that it was directed at her too. She found it very awkward, quite embarrassing and also a bit surprising that she found herself actually getting the punch lines and the jokes, and that she was laughing too. She had thought of herself as too innocent for these things, so her being able to laugh without having to ask for an explanation was a new experience for her. What made it even more awkward for her was the fact that, ironically, she had just received the sacrament of reconciliation earlier that day, and yet there she was, laughing at all these lewd jokes. Kristine, meanwhile, had a good time as well, despite being more inclined towards subtle, witty humor as opposed to the toilet humor the comedians thrived in.
Aside from the sex jokes, the comedians also had a knack for pang-ookray, picking on the physical characteristics of the audience and themselves.
But still, we have to give props to the comedians. Laughter is one of the hardest reactions to illicit from people, and our hosts for the night never failed to deliver. There’s just something about their timing, delivery, and lewdness that makes the audience erupt in laughter joke after joke after joke. Of course, there’s the bandwagon effect, but it cannot be denied that those people are really good at what they do. You also cannot help but admire their energy. That they do their act every night, it makes you wonder how they manage to pull it off so effortlessly each time.
4. Great music. One of the things we’ll never forget about the comedy bar (besides the green jokes and the awkwardness that ensued from that) was the music. We knew beforehand that many of the comedians, if not all, accepted song requests and also had performances in between their comedy skits, but we never expected them to be that good. Mediocre, at best. But that night, we were pleasantly surprised to find that most of them had really beautiful voices, hitting high notes flawlessly despite their biological disadvantage as born males.
One of the comedians, a transgendered man, performed a duet all by himself, err, herself, alternating between the male and female parts of the song without a hitch, even while spinning around the stage. We were so amazed with that performance that at the end of the night, we found ourselves with songs like “Halik” stuck in our heads.
Besides prepared performances, the hosts also accepted requests. They would often reach out to balikbayans, asking if they had requests, which were often accompanied by tips—the higher the tip, the better the performance. There were also times when they would invite one of the audience members over to the stage to sing, but not without their trademark pang-ookray first.
That night, the unlucky soul was a girl named Rachel. She was a balikbayan from Britain, and was around the same age as we are. Although the comedians’ remarks about her speechlessness were admittedly funny, we couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. After all, she was just forced to get up there and sing, and yet she was still being picked on. Good thing she wasn’t pikon. This pulling-audience-members-into-the-stage-and-making-fun-of them act was actually why we were reluctant in going to a comedy bar for our field trip. You can imagine our relief when our group chose a table at the far side of the venue, far from the line of sight of the hosts.
5. Varied audience. When we arrived at the bar, the place was barely filled. We thought that by that time the bar would be at least half-full, but there were still more than a dozen empty tables. People slowly started pouring into the venue, and when we had left a little past 11:30, the place was packed. The last tables to be occupied were the ones in front, probably because like us, the other guests weren’t too keen on being the butt of jokes for the evening.
There was a wide variety in the types of guests in the bar. Most were apparently balikbayans. Having spent much time immersed in cultures so different from ours, balikbayans likely flocked to the place in search of a much missed dose of the uniquely Filipino brand of humor. And perhaps they also missed that Pinoy attitude of just laughing at everything, even at oneself. Filipinos are often like that—dinadaan na lang sa tawa ang lahat. Given the country’s long history of oppression and whatnot, it is no surprise that most Filipinos choose to adopt a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Besides balikbayans, there were couples, barkadas, co-workers, families, even a group of gays, and, of course, us.
It’s interesting how the comedy bar industry is booming here, given the country’s conservative image. But maybe that’s just what it is — an image.
Overall, it was a happy and gay experience, indeed.
Kristine Fulgencio, 101572
Pauline Miranda, 102594
SA 21 – A