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That First Experience

14 May

When we were first told that we were required to go to a comedy bar for our SA project, we were like “What?!”. Clearly both of us had no idea of what we were going to get ourselves into. On our way to Laffline Comedy Bar in Timog, we were very anxious and kept asking ourselves questions like,”What’s the place going to be like?”, “Will the hosts be gay?” and more importantly, “What’s going to happen?”. We were without a doubt, clueless.

We stayed clueless until we arrived. The building/facility, itself wasn’t that eye-catching. What made it stand out were the colorful and vivid lights. We didn’t go in right away because we were still waiting for a couple of people. We had nothing to do but to keep on peeking inside. That was when we realized that the hosts were really gay. The guards told us that the show was about to start, so we decided to just enter. We had our bags checked and were led to the cashier. We were requested to pay for the entrance fee, which by the way, amounted to P300 per person.

After that, the waiters escorted us to our seats. We noticed that they were very strict in arranging the seats. They had us sit in groups and did not tolerate switching tables. They probably had this seating policy as so it would be easier to take note of each one’s orders and tabs. As students we were seated in the back portion of the bar, even if there were still a lot of unoccupied seats in the front. We were actually placed in the “high chair” areas, probably because we were too many. While we were crowding at the back, there was this big family with balikbayans that was seated in the very front row just near the stage. We assumed that they were prioritized because foreigners usually tend to give more tip.

The waiters and the hosts kept on repeating the phrases like “bawal tambay”. They were clearly emphasizing that we still needed to order despite the fact that we had already paid the entrance fee. They also stressed “bawal pikunan” and said that those who don’t deal well with jokes should just leave. They have probably had cases where in some customers took the jokes too seriously. And it’s no surprise to us, since some of the jokes they make are really insulting. It’s already protocol for them to inform the audience before things get out of hand.

We came in when the show was just starting. All of the entertainers did an opening number, singing and dancing together on the stage. There were about 6 of them. While watching, we kept on looking around and observing the audience’s reactions. You could tell the difference between the first-timers from the usual ones. The guys from our class were a bit horrified and disgusted because of the gay hosts. The other people, on the other were enjoying themselves very much.

After a while, the place started filling up. It was easier for us to observe the kinds of people. Most of them were co-workers hanging out together, but there were also some families and people on dates present. Age was not a factor since there were some kids present as well as old people too.

The hosts separated into two groups. It was probably so that it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle for everyone. They needed to divide the workload. The first group of three went around each table and interacted with guests, playing jokes on certain people; however, they paid more attention to the table in front for obvious reasons. And that same thing happened with the next group of entertainers. Throughout the evening, the couple in the front and their family was given more attention compared to the rest of the audience.

There was also a lot of audience participation. The hosts would call the volunteers up onstage and let them sing. We believe that audience participation in events like these are really important because that’s how they can earn more customers and therefore, money. Filipinos love karaoke and are very fond of jokes too. The managers played their cards right by combining the two in order to assure complete customer satisfaction.

In between these karaoke performances, the entertainers would also come out by twos and make fun of each other. Most of the jokes they threw at each other would be considered rude but we suppose that they’ve gotten use to it and are no longer bothered by the comments. Or maybe it still bothers them at times, but they just have to deal with it because it’s the only way they can make money.

After that they each had special numbers and were surprising really good. One “girl” sang a duet by herself and one even did Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. We’re not sure if they really had the talent or if they were just experts at lip syncing. Fake or not, the performances still amused everyone. The foreigner seated at the front, even gave one entertainer P500 for an outstanding “Through The Rain” rendition. We realized that the reason for the entertainers becoming so good and well-rehearsed for these song and dance numbers is because customers love good shows and end up giving large tips.

So it is obviously a money making establishment since they wanted to make money out of everything. Aside from the required amount we had to pay upon entrance, the food we had to order plus the tips, we had to pay for parking too. The establishment insisted on valet, worth P50 instead of just providing us with a regular parking spot.

We also could not help but notice that there was this young hostess who looked just about our age. During one of the “get-to-know-the-audience” portions, she said that she studied in CEU. We’re not quite sure if she’s still studying or if she already dropped out. Whatever it is, we feel very sorry for her because instead of just studying, she has to work. The bad part is that she chose or even worse, was forced to work in a comedy bar.

Now, on to the cleanliness. Considering that the establishment allowed open smoking and drinking, it was a surprise to us that their restroom was clean. Places like that don’t usually have the cleanest restrooms but theirs was actually quite clean. There was even a lady at the door who would hand you tissue just as you go in. They probably keep the restrooms really clean because it’s a major plus point. If the place has a clean CR, then you’re good to go. There’s a big chance that a lot of customers will come back.

That night, we were able to experience an environment different fromthe ones we’re used to. Ijn Laffline, homosexuality was very much accepted and the phrase “Walang mahirap, walang mayaman dito at lahat ay pantay-pantay.” was clearly emphasized. It’s true that they made fun of some people’s appearances but at the end of the day they didn’t care who we were or how much money we made.

Well, we’ve said all we could. At first, we were hesitant and nervous but by the end of the show, we were satisfied and happy. We really enjoyed spending our Saturday night at Laffline and will surely remember that first comedy bar experience.

 

Precious Almendras
Ira Sembrano

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