I came from Las Piñas City with my parents because they were meeting up with their friends at Laffline as well and we picked up some of my blockmates on the way. We were a bit early so we decided to go in already. The place from outside looks like almost any other bar you can see along Timog Avenue; brightly colored and poorly lit (except for it’s big neon sign reading: “Laffline” with a list of tonight’s performers at the bottom. Places like these don’t usually run on advertising but rather on reputation and on word of mouth. By the looks of it’s outside you can really tell that it had already been through a lot. Most of the paint from the sides of the building were either faded or coming off. I guess that’s normal for a place like that though. You don’t really go to comedy bars here in manila and expect a flourishing façade. Large steps leading to it’s front door were placed in the middle, easy to see.
A security guard greeted us (well technically more like looked at us judgementally and pointed to the door) as we approached and we were led inside where a woman was seated in front of a table facing the door. She immediately asked for our entrance fees. It wasn’t my first time at a comedy bar but i was still giddy and hyper because I was excited for what was to come. This kind of reaction received snarky stares from everyone who worked there. There was also this guy who was trying to stamp us who looked like the existence of everything irritated him. For a comedy bar EVERYBODY WAS SO HOSTILE. I think they needed to be like this so people would get intimidated and behave. We then were led to a table by a waiter but going there we saw a friend and wanted to seat with him but apparently everything’s supposed to be systematic and shit so he had to like get approvals from everyone else before we could sit there. The tables also allowed to seat only a certain number of people and since we were still waiting for some people we had to sort of argue to get some extra seats on the table. But once we were seated though everything got fine.
From the outside, a comedy bar such as Laffline looks spectacular and inviting with its flashing neon lights in contrast to its dark surroundings; this no doubt reflects the entertainers present inside. Although upon entering the happy place, we were not immediately greeted with radiant smiles, but rather with a gloomy receptionist who did not even bother with small pleasantries. In an uncaring manner, she just naturally asked me for payment and all the other necessary details required by her job. From the looks of the waiters as well, we could perceive that they did not embody the spirit of Laffline as a place like wonderland where laughter is brought on by surprises and everyone is enjoying themselves; they were all wearing black and practically scowling at us.
At around 9:30 pm, once we have settled down, we noticed that the place was still not full, but nonetheless, the entertainers on the stage were on performance level and presenting us with a funny song and dance number. They were wearing colourful and revealing clothing that reflects their personalities. Although, the people were unresponsive with their gags; and the people surrounding our table were more entranced by the gay person who had godly legs. Since most of the people present in our table were first timers, I guess we were all awkward and we did not know what to expect from a comedy bar. Deep in our hearts, we were nervous. Questions from our hearts were sprouting like crazy towards our brains such as, “How would he or she make fun of me?”
So the first wave of gay men appeared and they started singing songs. Damn, were they beautiful. White-skinned and fit. My legs were put to shame by their legs! There was this one girl and we were debating whether she was a girl or not. She was, by the way. Anyway, we ordered a round of beers, sort of because the gay men were hassling us to. They were making jokes about groups of people who go in and order just one bottle and by the end of the night they haven’t even finished the one bottle. This was because they make most of their income on what the tables consume. We were seated right in front of the stage area about 3 tables back and it was kind of intimidating. They had already warned us beforehand that people who have onion skin shouldn’t go to places like these because the comedians usually use the audience as a fuel for their jokes. I think we find this funny because making fun of others is natural for us. We can tell how close we are with someone when we’re able to make fun of them and they won’t get angry. The first round of jokes were centered around a group seated right in the front. They were making fun of this old man and even though it was hilarious members of our table were getting anxious. We knew that we were soon to be the topic of their jokes. They moved from table to table, and person to person until the dreaded moment came when one of the gay men looked directly at our table and slowly moved towards us. My laughter died down and I tried desperately to get myself ready to what was to come but all that my mind could muster up was “oh shit”.
A couple of minutes afterwards, once the booze had arrived, the indifferent atmosphere started evaporating and being replaced by a lighter one with a comedic feel. Before the comedians started their rounds of funny insults towards the guests, they apologized and explained clearly the usual happenings in a comedy bar. This necessary presentation of respect enamoured us and gradually eased our fears. Once that was over, they immediately targeted the table nearest the front. The table had Filipinos visiting from other countries, and they were all open to the offending humour of the comedians. It was quite clear that they were indeed having fun, and even the grandfather being targeted was laughing all throughout the jokes towards his age and health. From a sensitive mind, the jokes towards death were bordering on insulting, but we think it necessary as the comedian’s job was to find the weakness of each person present and use it to create laughter.
The next table the comedians went to was ours. The first one they made fun of was Ian, our block mate. They kept on asking whether he was gay or not, then when asked about our school, Ateneo de Manila University; they moved on towards insulting it. We noticed that we did not really care about the jokes on Ian’s gender, but none of the people in the table laughed when Ian’s appearance was being insulted. We were all loyal to our friend, but we did not really get angry towards the comedians as they were only doing their work. Before leaving our table the comedian asked us who was a good singer, being the good friend that i was and having Ses right night next to me i immediately shouted her name. And repeatedly at that, just so the interest wouldn’t go to me. Although I had a huge stage fright, I was already used to being made fun of. Plus, I could not do anything about it. The whole time after I felt like a nervous wreck and could not even concentrate on the other gags made by the comedians.
As time passed by, the place slowly started to fill up. When it was the guests-turned-singers’ turn to go on the stage, everyone’s eyes were on the stage. The first man to sing was being made fun of first. (I was not really watching him since I was so scared of when it was MY turn to sing)
When it was Ses’ turn to sing she was really panicking. She was asking us to go instead of her, but we wouldn’t budge. Then she started asking us what songs to sing but she doesn’t really know much. We tried assuring her a little by pointing out the little tv facing the stage that showed the lyrics. She was called on-stage so she got up and walked awkwardly towards it. The comedians noticed this and made fun of her. They had introductions first, as a formality but then the fun started.
When I was called on stage, I felt strange and I could not even walk properly. I was truly scared as I am absolutely tone-deaf. I was rejecting the idea at first but when the gay comedian shouted that I was unattractive so why bother not going on stage, I went. When I was upstage already with all the comedians’ attention upon me, I felt like I would melt because of the pressure of their stares and voices. I could barely look towards the audience and I just looked towards the table where my block mates were. I was asked where I was from and when I answered that I was from Ateneo de Manila University, they started saying how my actions reflect the school I came from, and it did not really bother me at all. They then asked me my year and course, and I answered that I was still a freshman since I did not remember that I was already a sophomore because of my nervousness. Later on, they gave me a choice whether or not to sing because I was a minor and I chose not to anymore. I prodded them to let Ian sing on stage, and Ian forcibly agreed.
Ses actually said my name first but I screamed out no and that if she wasn’t going to sing because SHE was a minor then obviously i couldn’t sing as well because i’m younger than her!
When Ian was on stage, we could observe that he felt shy too, but was more confident than Ses. He openly answered the questions they asked him and did not feel offended at all. When he was going to sing already, he sang beautifully in front of a crowd he barely knew. The comedians were making fun of him by making sounds of explosion, but he was not bothered by it and he continued singing to the best of his abilities. He is usually the type of person who does not let the downsides of life get to him, and perseveres, which is most probably why he got to sing two songs upstage beautifully and confidently. Thus, when he finished, the audience gave him a warm round of applause.
After Ian went back to the table, we already had a couple of drinks and were having fun, but gradually we became bored at their jokes. Most of us wanted to go home already as it was nearing midnight and we did not even listen to the entertainers. The comedy bar was already full by that time and it was really loud inside that we could barely talk with each other. Come midnight, we were allowed to leave already and most of us did with grins on our faces, seemingly satisfied with where our 300 pesos went.
When my blockmates left i moved to my parents’ table. We stayed there until 3am. We even got to see Chokoleit and Ethel Booba. They had really fun interactive acts. The bar was so full by that time the laughter was so loud. The crowd was usually made up of families but you could see co-workers and groups of friends together. There was only a few couples there. I guess the comedy bar isn’t really a romantic place to go for a date. And of course you don’t see anybody there alone. Because that would be really sad. I was already sleepy by 2am and i was nagging my parents for us to go home already. I was so sleepy and tired as we went home and as i dozed off in the car i recalled the loads of fun i had had that night.
Juella Bautista and