One of the first things you notice when you enter the comedy bar is the boldness. We don’t just mean the comedians’ racy jokes and willingness to come up to people even though they might not cooperate. It was the audience too. During some acts, the comedians sometimes involve the audience, even individually. Some people came up onstage to showcase their talents. Although, maybe they were so bold because they came in with friends, or a familiar group. Clearly, this was no place for shyness, which is why when more people came in; we were suddenly overcome with it. Obviously, it was our first time at a comedy bar.
After a while, though, we started settling in, mostly thanks to the distraction of the hilarious performances. It didn’t seem to matter that they were green jokes. Or maybe it did. Maybe the reason they were so funny was because they were green jokes. We were even warned over and over during each act that their jokes were just that, for fun, and not to be taken seriously. Also, you have to give props to those gay comedians (they were mostly gay). They were proud of their sexuality, and used it to their advantage. They even made a joke of coming on to the more attractive members of the audience. They were pretty rowdy onstage, but it was funny, and they were really good at coming up with punch lines quickly. They were also really talented, since some of them even sang, or did impersonations. They acted as professionally as someone who works for laughs can, which means they were really enthusiastic. It was totally worth the three-hundred-peso entrance fee, even though the star of the show, or the main act, wasn’t on until sometime past midnight.
What really sticks out though is that despite the jokes, and the fact that it was a comedy bar, there were some pretty strict rules. The bags were checked thoroughly, as in you actually had to empty your bag. The performers kept to their schedule strictly too. Members of the audience were not allowed to move to another table. You had to stay where you were. Not to mention the roving waiters who (other than serving expensive food and drinks) were keeping an eye out. But I suppose that’s to be expected since it was a bar, and people were drinking. In fact, the groups who ordered buckets of beer were the ones the comedians kept teasing the most. The place was also noisy, since everyone’s conversations mixed in with the music. And it was dark, since whatever light was on was mostly directed at the stage. In fact, when the waiter gives you a menu, they also use a mini-flashlight just so you can see what’s on it.
Anyway, back to how the audience is so game, and us feeling shy about it. Here’s the thing, after a joke finishes or something and you realize that the comedian is looking for someone to tease or make fun of. The after effects of laughing so hard drains away and you’re left with this dread in the pit of your stomach. Oh God, not me, please not me! And you try to seem inconspicuous; not shy at all, but also not willing enough to attract attention, or seem like you want to be the center of it. Well, lucky for us, none of us were the individual center of their jokes, though our table became the center of attention at some point. But the unlucky victim, the butt of their jokes, wasn’t any of the three of us, but two of our friends who sat at our table. Like every other victim or target, they ended up just grinning and bearing it, though I’m sure there were other people out there who enjoyed the attention when it was their turn. A lot of the jokes were insulting though, but as mentioned before, they kept reminding us that it was all a joke, and walang personalan. After every two or three performances, the comedians would sing. Sometimes, members of the audience would volunteer to sing, but before they get to sing, the comedians would insult them first. It’s amazing how well people can take insults, especially when they say it’s just for fun! It makes me wonder if this is a uniquely Filipino trait or not? We’re known as a very happy country, but Filipinos do, observably, have a somewhat self-deprecating sense of humor.
Another observable thing about the audience is that there were people there who came after work with their friends. This seems really obvious. No one goes to comedy bars alone, and of course they’d go after work, when they’re free. But you could also say, from this observation, that this is their form of stress relief. Maybe this was also their form of escape from the long hours of hard work.
There is also the matter of the performers, who were mostly gay. Their confidence and total lack of self-consciousness is admirable. They have taken something about them that could be a cause for insecurity, and made it their job. It’s a defense mechanism, I guess. If you take something that people could put you down for, and make it look like it’s not a problem to you, or even be proud of it, no one can use it against you anymore. It’s either they’re doing that, or just really naturally confident about their sexuality.
I guess in the end, the lesson of the day is that you can only feel insulted as much as you allow yourself. Both the performers and audience members at Laffline were aware that they were in a place where you would be laughed at and made fun of, but the next day, everything would still be okay. That’s why everyone was not self-conscious, and even bold, because it was actually a safe environment where everything was a joke, and therefore, not to be taken seriously. In such a liberating environment as that, you learn that insults only hurt when you let them.
AC Divina, Aby Esteban, and Jessica Yabut