“Don’t ever seat near the front, you will be the object of their jokes.”
That’s what everyone should remember when going to a comedy bar. Once you get inside the comedy bar, Laffline, you’ll be dazzled by how many people there are, how close their seats are and how strict the people who work there are when it comes to your specified table and especially, the comedians who are up on the stage.
Once inside, you’ll be faced with people asking you to pay before going in. The place is dark even in the entrance. This may have been intentional so as to direct all attention to the stage. Later on, you’ll be asked if you have a reserved table with friends there and you wouldn’t really take notice of it until later on. You couldn’t just seat anywhere you want. There is a lot of staff who will assist and tell you where you should seat. If you have friends with you, you have to tell them how many will be with you and they’ll find a table for you. If you’re seating in a stool, you can’t change that stool with another chair from another table. Their system keeps the groups of friends together by making sure that they have space for their group and by maximizing the space that they have for other customers. It’s hard not to block other people’s view when looking for a seat. The place is really crowded. They obviously tried to bring in as much people as they can in a small space. Towards the middle of the night we noticed that more people arrived, some were even just standing at the back. Now, once seated, you’ll notice that all lights are directed towards the stage and there were around 3 steps in the stage to help the blocking of the performers and to make it easier for them to interact with the audience by talking to them, making fun of them, pulling them up the stage to sing and even dance for them. People tend to seat at the back because of this. Seating in front symbolizes courage or in the words of the performers, it would also mean “katangahan”. The stage colors and drawings fit the comedic atmosphere of the place. It contrasts the dark surroundings as one enters the place. They also had loud speakers that made sure everyone was listening to what the performers had to say.
One of us has been in Laffline back in 2010. It was surprising to see that even after two years, the same stage design is still used.The “doble kara” song by Donita was also the same song she performed back then in the same manner. These may have been done to try to minimize costs and acquire income as much as possible. There are also other ways they have manifested it such as not using specialized gadgets in the entrance like cashier registers. Air conditioners weren’t enough for the whole space given that there were so many people inside. The entrance fee as well as the prices of the food and drinks sold inside was really high. They explicitly encouraged monetary donations.
Most of the time, all they’d be doing is making fun of other people but you’ll also notice a recurring theme in their humour. Most of their jokes revolved around sex. They’d talk about orgasms, their penises or vaginas, blowjobs or even breasts. They say it in such a way that it wouldn’t be awkward to talk about with the costumers. At the start, they’d excuse themselves and tell the audience that they would be talking about sex a lot, and not to feel too frightened or grossed out about it. Another kind of humour that they have is making fun of other people. Things you wouldn’t normally say to a person face-to-face like “Ang pangit mo.”(You’re ugly) or “Ang tanga mo.” (You’re stupid) is said by the comedians to their audience members and to their fellow comedians. Filipinos are really conservative but we think everyone would sometimes laugh at other people or even have fun joking about sex and to hear it being talked about a lot and said out loud is very entertaining or funny for us. Once in awhile, we get to laugh about some trivial, vulgar and mean things but no one takes offense for it. It’s all just for laughs. The performers, both gay and straight, have over the top make-up and costume. They wear weird and sexy outfits like a really sexy woman, a diva or even a French maid. One would question their gender since their feminine over-all look is so convincing. Their clothes and make-up are actually a part of the entertainment. If you were to put a boring looking comedian in front, people wouldn’t really pay much attention but if you make them wear really eye-catching or attention-getting clothes, they’re sure to get the audience’s attention. Examples are the gays who wear really high heels and yet, they seem to be used to it or even the gay guy who wore a silver-sparkled long gown while singing and later on, took out the lower half of the gown. They help the comedians be more memorable to their audience. At the first part of the show they come in triads but only two of them actually speak and make jokes. The other performer usually just stands there for support for the two. The more prominent comedians had their stints by the end of the show. Gays were funnier than the straight performer. This observation might be a little undeserved since there was only one straight performer that night. However, her only distinction was that she sang very well but she failed to make the audience laugh as much as the others did.
The audience members are actually very diverse in nature. You have the families, the groups of friends, the people celebrating anniversaries or birthdays, balikbayans and even couples. But most of them are adults. Rarely did we encounter children or even teenagers inside except for the group of Ateneans. What they all have in common though is that they know how to take a joke. Audience members will surely be picked upon by the comedians and they’ll say really harsh things but it will be said as a joke. If a random stranger came up to you and said how horrible your face is, you’d be pissed at that person and respond harshly. It’s a different story when it comes to comedy bars. Audience members will laugh about it and just have fun by not taking it seriously. If they see that you were really affected, they’d surely pick on you more. And so, everyone chooses to accept what they say and do and just go with it. If they make you sing, you go up the stage and sing. Comedy bars give you nights to let loose and just have fun. They’ll make you forget about your problems and just laugh especially during the moments that we need the most.
By Jeppie Barroga and Kaye Donato