8:45 PM, May 5th, me and my friend arrived surprisingly early at Laffline, a comedy bar in Timog Avenue despite the fact that we got lost along the way. Though I was already quite familiar with what can be found around that area, it was the first time I had ever heard of Laffline and I was quite curious as to what me and my friend would experience inside.
After waiting and having a quick meal at the neighboring Burger King branch, we proceeded to enter the comedy bar. I remember my friend told me earlier that he had heard of Laffline and that what he heard about the comedy bar was that it was filled with people from the homosexual community. So upon remembering what my friend had told me earlier, I felt quite awkward going into the bar (Not that I have anything against homosexuality). I was merely afraid that people who saw me going into the bar might question my sexual preference.
Upon entering the comedy bar I felt even more uneasy when I saw only a few of my classmates were in the bar. They were all seated at the back. We decided to join them. Later on, me and my friend would find that sitting on the far end of the bar would serve to be quite a good idea as it would spare us from the humiliation that was to come.
When we joined our classmates, the show had already started. There were three very distinctive performers on stage. There were three male performers who were homosexual in terms of their sexual orientation and they were wearing such skimpy outfits that you wouldn’t even normally expect a regular woman to wear. More than their outfits however, what really caught my attention was the type of humor they made use in the show.
The performers were very interactive. They always interacted and made jokes with the audience. However, they were also very vulgar and very blunt and straight forward in terms of how they interacted with the crowd. They made a lot of sexual jokes and they were quite fond of interacting with the crowd by insulting them. At times it seemed to be too offensive like the time wherein they were making fun of an old man who was with his family who were “balik-bayan” or who came home from living abroad. He was assaulted with a barrage of insults and offensive references. He couldn’t do anything but sit down and quietly sip on his bottle of water. I also noticed that aside from the old man, they were also very fond of interacting with the other members of the balik-bayan family.
After the first three comedians were finished with their performance, a new batch of three came up. This time, there were two homosexual comedians and one female performer who was kind of attractive. I was afraid to point that out to my friend at first because I was afraid that she might have been one of those trans-gender people who are increasingly growing in number here in south-east Asia. Later on, I found out that she was actually female (thank God). The girl however, was not that much of a comedian. She didn’t say much jokes and the only time I heard more than just a couple lines from her was when she was singing. She was actually kind of good.
This batch of performers was noticeably different form the previous one. Aside from having a female with them, the performance itself was very different form the previous one. There were instances wherein they would sing and pull-out people from the audience and ask them to come up on stage and sing as well in a form of a cruel yet humorous public humiliation. And In my opinion, the humiliation which they inflicted upon the unsuspecting audience members was much more than that of the previous group. Aside from making audience members sing on stage, like the previous group they would also make offensive references and very blunt sexual jokes. One joke which really caught my attention was when one of the homosexual performers grabbed his crotch and said “Nalilibugan nanaman ako. Mamaya na, nagtratrabaho pa si ate.” as he was looking straight at one of the male audience members. Though I found it very funny, I know I would hate to be in that guy’s position.
So after going through such a unique experience and witnessing an entirely different type of performance in an alien environment, one can not help but to try to make sense of it all. Probably what I enjoyed more than the unique and eccentric humor of the performers was the opportunity to actually try to apply the skills I learned from my SA class. For a day, I get to play the part of an actual anthropologist observing and analyzing a unique environment.
Going back to my initial observations, I’d like to start by discussing the most obvious or the more superficial. As I said earlier, one of the things which caught my attention was how the performers would wear very skimpy outfits. Their outfits, I believe are in a way, comparable to their humor. In the show, they make use of very blunt and slapstick sense of humor. Their jokes aren’t very witty, or thought out. You get instant stimulation without really having to think. Just like with their clothes, immediately, you get a form of visual stimulation. Immediately, just by observing the visuals on stage, people are entertained. Seeing grown men wear such absurd outfits give an instantaneous humorous stimulation for the audience.
Now, with regards to the humor of the performers, one aspect in which I found to be very unique was how interactive they are with the audience. This improvisational interactive technique is a very unique style which causes the performers to be more engaging with the audience. In western stand-up comedy, comedians are not as interactive and their improvisation is very minimal compared to that of the comedians in Laffline. Western comedians would usually have some form of premeditated scripts, set of jokes or some sort of pattern or flow for the jokes that they would deliver. In Laffline however, I observed that it was mostly improvisation and a lot of the material came from their interaction with the members of the audience. Because of this, the audience feel more engaged with what’s going on on stage and they feel that they are part of the humor or part of the show.
As I was observing their interactive style of humor, I could not help but observe that they interacted more with one particular group than they did with the others. As I said earlier, among the people in the bar, the performers were very fond of interacting with the group of “balik-bayan” people. One might argue that this was mere chance or that their positioning in front of the stage made it easier the performers to interact with them. However, I believe that it is probably because the performers recognize the willingness to interact of the “balik bayan” group. As people coming home from a foreign country, they have long been detached from their native culture and have been exposed to different cultures and different types of humor. So as they return to the Philippines, they are more than willing to engage in this show which is unique to our country. The performers recognize their enthusiasm and were more than happy to entertain these returning countrymen.
Last but not the least, probably the most integral contributing factor to the Laffline show, is how they made use of homosexuals as performers. With the humor of the show being very straight forward and sexual in nature, the fact that the performers were homosexual made it all work. Homosexuals, being biologically male but are female in terms of their sexual preference, are perfect to deliver this type of sexual humor because in a way, they are somewhat in the middle of the gender spectrum. If it were a straight female delivering those sexual jokes, she would be seen in a bad light. Same goes for a straight male. If a straight man were to say “nalilibugan nanaman ako” while grabbing his crotch and staring at a female audience member, he would probably get beaten up in the parking lot by the girl’s boyfriend. But the fact that the show made use of homosexuals, it makes for these jokes to be less offensive and more acceptable. So the utilization of this type of humor is fitting for the sexual orientation of the performers.
That one night in Laffline was a very memorable experience. Not only was the show very entertaining but I was able to be immersed in a new environment, a new culture. It was such a unique comedic experience incomparable to anything I have encountered before. No matter how uneasy i felt in the beginning, being able to experience, observe and analyze such an environment filled with people from different walks of life, to me felt like a privilege.
By Renzo Ross C. Sarte| SA 21-I| 113591