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Cultural Comedy

13 May

I’m on his left

The first thing I noticed when I arrived besides the need for valet parking, was how strict the management was with security and seating. There was a body and bag search at the entrance as well as re-entry stamping which I did not expect from a comedy bar. The waiters kept asking how many we were in a group and telling us that we should all sit in one table. They even had the whole class move to the back when we told them that we were joining the group of people who arrived before us. It was a bit inconveniencing because their approaching us and making us move made me miss what the performers were talking about. We got there just as a musical number was ending which was also unexpected of a comedy bar. My initial preconception was that a comedy bar was all stand-up but the hosts on stage explicitly explained that there would be musical and theatrical performances both by them and by members of the audience. They also took the time to explain that the audience could request songs and that they would be deliberately making fun of people in the audience and warned them that they did not mean any offense. It didn’t take me very long to guess that all of the hosts on stage at the time where gay men in drag.  They began making fun of the family seated in the front table. Their jokes could only be described as vulgar and slap-stick. They made fun of an old man, probably the patriarch of the family, and his genitals and his prudishness. Most of the “gay-humor” came from the host pretending to hit on him and making one of the men in the family touch his crotch to prove that he really had a sex change operation. They jabbed at the family being “balik-bayan” and at the one of the son’s being single. The hosts also made fun of the people who volunteered to sing on stage by interrupting their singing and being theatrical behind their backs. They made a point to do a mini-interview with the volunteers so that they could make fun of their lives and province of origin. After a short break, one of the hostesses sang a song using both her male and female voice. During her stand-up portion of the show, the transvestite hostess made several sex jokes and used a lot of gay humor. One example was that she said her vigina won’t grow old and wrinkly since she got it through surgery in Thailand. She also made fun of how Japanese people have sex. After that though, she proved that she could sing Mariah Carey. The other hostesses did pair stand-up making jokes about sex and politics. The others did more theatrical humor pretending to do strip-tease in drag.

When I asked the waiters why they had to move around our seating, they said it was so that we could be billed properly. The reason they had to make sure that people didn’t carry any weapons was because they served alcohol after all. I found it interesting that my assumption of the kind of humor was totally different from what I got. I expected something like in western comedy bars where it’s all standup and the comedians are mostly straight. The topics for western stand-up comedy usually aren’t so dedicated to slapstick or sexual humor either. From what I understand though, gay-humor and slapstick are big staples in what most Filipinos find funny. The kinds of jokes in Filipino comedies are usually low-brow insults and physical humor. The most popular Filipino comedies also include or make a premise of gay humor such as Zombadings and Praybeyt Benjamin. Unlike in American comedies, the subjects of a lot of jokes involve drugs or substance abuse. Another thing I noticed was that no one was outwardly offended by the gay sex humor, even the more explicit jokes about sex changes and gay sex. Not even the older men were incredibly outraged and had fun with the hostesses. It shows a lot about how homosexuality has become more or less accepted in the Philippines. It wasn’t even that people were laughing at the hostesses’ homosexuality. They knew when to make fun of themselves and when to say “wag niyo pagtawanan ang mga bading.” It’s the difference between having fun with something and having fun at the expense of something. The audience found it funny that the hostess could sing both the male and female parts of the song while being impressed by her singing at the same time. Everyone in the audience was impressed when the hostess sang Mariah and even hit the high, power notes that most women can’t hit. As for the people in the audience besides the Ateneans, most of them were working class adults with office jobs. There was also a group of older women who were particularly affected by the jokes about viginas but they were not incredibly offended either. All in all, it was a great experience. I even told everyone that I’d totally go back there.

– Jake Fragante, 111597, SA21-I

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