I have never been to a comedy bar before, and I never really thought I would end up going to one because of the following reasons:
- There is an entrance fee. I’m cheap like that.
- Public humiliation – I’m not one to get called onstage and be expected to cooperate only to be subjected to mockery
- Time – At the time of their show, I would usually prefer being at home practicing my lack of acceptable social skills than being out and about in the dark streets of Manila.
Despite these, I found myself on the MRT, travelling to Laffline Comedy Bar along Timog Avenue, and after almost getting lost – I would have missed the street I was supposed to alight the jeepney from had it not been for the conductor who told me that I was at my stop – I made it to the place, albeit being late.
The place was crowded, more likely because guests from the same group were crammed into one table rather than the venue actually lacking tables. As a matter of fact, when I got to the place, there were a lot of vacant tables, but as the night progressed, people kept pouring in until eventually it really was packed. People from different walks of life came and went. Though I can’t say much about their jobs or socio-economic status, I can say however that people of different ages were present that night. The trend however was that the people that were there all participative – in the sense that despite the manner of the jokes, their reaction was very well-disposed instead of hostile or judgemental.
Entering the place was like being in a different place altogether. While I was outside, I was considerably stressed by my need to get to the place and I was more concerned that my attendance was a must because it was, after all, a field trip. When I entered though, my attention immediately shifted to the performers and the humor. The atmosphere was carnivalesque, and just like a carnival, there were even clowns (the entertainers). For just a moment, my concerns were abated and I was in a place where “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” (a quote from Misfits). An escape.
The performers were all gay (save for one who was biologically female) – more accurately put, transgender, but I will not enter a debate about gender identity and labels, instead I will leave it at that. They were dressed like women, they even had make up to look like women except there was no “pa-pretty effect” according to my friend. They really exaggerated, hiding behind the make up like it was a mask to the effect that I even mistook some for women, that is until they started speaking.
They were able to separate themselves from reality, entering their own escape through their job as performers / entertainers. The humor was either about genitals or gay culture. They would mock themselves or their experiences as if they were just observers laughing at the misfortunes of a homosexual. It was, for me, amusing but at the same time tragic, because it is the comedy that wins the audience over.
Being gay myself, I understand that it can be difficult to live in a heteronormative society, especially in the Philippines where culture is conservative because of Catholicism. Personally, I am amazed at their ability to take their experiences in stride and use it in a way that is more productive for them because it’s hard for me to get over mortification.
The people themselves, as I have mentioned, came from different walks of life. Majority of the people there were working, possibly yuppies whose offices were just nearby. Those who weren’t so young anymore were middle-aged men and women who may have their own families and such. Despite the variegation of spectators however, I am certain that those people were there because they needed an escape – and what better way to escape the hustle and bustle city life than to enter another dimension?
Despite the generally homophobic social context, the audience took well to the performers. I suppose they really just need a break from all the crap that they have to endure every day in whatever job they’re unhappy with – assuming they’re unhappy with their jobs. If not their jobs, then maybe their love life? I overheard a conversation between group of gentlemen on my way to the restroom. One was complaining about how he caught his girl cheating on him and he was thanking all the other guys for trying to cheer him up.
The point is, there is a reality we have to face everyday, and it’s not always rainbows and smiles. More often than not, reality is harsh and we come out of our ordeals a little broken. Despite this ubiquity however, there are still pockets here and there where we can go to for a little vacation from reality, and this comedy bar is just one of them. It’s up to us to find our own escape.
Juan Miguel Ocampo
II BS MIS