Crossing Lines

14 May


Crossing the Line

“A gay bar?”. This was my friend’s initial reaction when I told them about my required field trip to Laffline Comedy Bar at Timog, Quezon City on May 6,2012. “ It’s a ‘comedy’ bar ”, I reiterated. “Isn’t that the same thing?”, he replied.

The “Happy” People

Though many people still maintain an indifferent demeanor towards the existence of homosexuality in our country, it is generally accepted and not much of a taboo as it used to be back then. Sons in the traditional Filipino family are expected to the ‘manly jobs’; tilling the soil in the farm, feeding the pigs, milking the cow and many other dirty tasks. We were meant for neat barber’shaircuts, well-ironed black school pants and blue-collar jobs. However, as time passed and as more “girls-trapped-in-a-boy’s-body” came out of their closets, homosexuals have been thriving in the contemporary society. Some of them found their place at Laffline.

As we went up the stairs that led to an already laughter-filled coven that was the bar, I was both anxious and excited. I have to admit I expected a bar mostly filled with cross-dressers and the hanging odor of alcohol, which was swiftly proven false even before we paid the three hundred pesos entrance fee. The cold atmosphere of the air-conditioning quickly changed my early apprehensions. As we seated ourselves (which proved difficult because of the meticulous waiters), the night began for us.

Equality, Titanic and Hisamitsu

My friend who was with me (not the friend I mentioned earlier) said on our way to Timog, “Dapat matatawa ako dun ha.” He laughed all right, and more than his anticipated share of laughter.

Gay people are known to be very adept at making other people laugh, whether they mean it or not. Not surprisingly why many of them have already found a spot in mainstream entertainment; Vice Ganda, Pooh, Chokoleit, to name a few. Some of them even hailing from Laffline itself. The first three performers opened the night, with an old man upfront as the subject of their jokes.

The comedians (or comediennes, whatever) constantly reminded the crowd of the principle being practice during show time; that everyone else in the bar are all equal and anyone can be subjected to the predicament of the old man. She (or he, whatever) even joked about a certain time he picked Imee Marcos from the crowd as a subject of her comedy.

This idea of equality in Laffline intrigued me. It seems a good thing considering the bar’s environment and its stand-ups’ reputation of insulting people for fun. My musing brought me to an interesting thought: is this principle’s practice possible in the future?  The results are promising: a discrimination-free, possibly happier and a more fruitful and productive society. However, is this even feasible enough? The present situation makes it look impossible and far-shot. However, as this philosophy is continually practiced at Laffline, the presence of this place free of soci-economic, social and racial perception presents a haven for those looking for looking for a short escape from this judging world. Even in this case it used for something as mundane as having a laugh.

The Audience

Finally, as we found our place inside the bar as a class and settled down to one row of seats dedicated for us, I started to look around and observe the people sharing the merriment with section I. Though we seated ourselves at almost 10 in the evening, we were surprisingly early as people were just starting to pile in.

As the opening act insulted the first guest performer (who, as they described, resembled a cellphone thief), different groups of people (I rarely saw someone coming in alone) came in. One was a group a call center agents, probably enjoying one of their Saturday night-outs with colleagues. The old man I mentioned turn out to be a balikbayan from California, accompanied by his family (who by the way enjoyed the portion of the show with their probable lolo being insulted). There was a group of elderly woman who reacted violently to a joke on female genitals. The table behind me was occupied by a peculiar assembly in which a couple stood out for me; a man who must be in his early fifties seated next to heavily make-upped, dressed-to-kill young woman. I have some assumptions, which can prove to be pretty obvious given the place and environment where Laffline is situated.

The diversity of the people coming to the comedy bar is an interesting thing to look at. Whether white-collar job holders looking for a break from the monotony of office life, a family celebrating the return of a member from abroad and chose the bar as a deviation from the usual posh restaurants and hotels or in our case a group of sociology students tasked to observed the place; the bar in itself has its own culture.

The Best Medicine

The breaking of cultural and social walls done by the performers by insulting the people they pick as subjects though they met for the first time. The blatant use of vulgar words also played a very vital role in making the comedic act successful. Identification with the experiences and anecdotes used by the comedians, though how unrealistic some maybe for the sake of performance, we can obviously relate to most them causing our instant connection with the. This connection is effectively used as means to establish rapport with the audience.

As the trip ended, I came home with a mouth and stomach strained by laughter and my eyes and ears still recovering with the after effects caused by the bar’s loud music and lightings. And with my observations in mind, I became a little bit wiser and less judgmental.


Basil Nemesio P. Silleza




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