My friends and I arrived at Klownz Comedy Bar along Sunshine Blvd, Quezon Avenue by around 8: 20pm. By a table immediately outside the establishment were at least six male cross-dressers, thickly cloaked in smoke while engaged in a game of cards and several shots of alcohol. It was obvious we had arrived ahead of time as these men were undoubtedly some of the performers for the night’s show. For some reason, the building’s shadowy exterior, together with the seemingly somber countenance of the male cross-dressers we had just seen, appeared to be in sharp contrast against the brightly colorful sign overhead intended to advertise the place and serve as a kind of fun or happy invitation. It was, after all, a comedy bar.
After having been stamped upon purchase of our tickets, we entered the place and noticed that very few people had arrived. We proceeded to take our seats a very short distance away from the stage, something I couldn’t help feel nervous about, realizing we would be much likelier to be subjected to the audience participation these bars were known for. Meanwhile, the establishment seemed to be just as dark inside as it was outside, with just the minor addition of some dizzyingly colorful lights dancing around the place and bouncing off an iridescent glass ball above the stage. All audible speech was virtually drowned out by the deafeningly loud dance music being played to somehow keep early-comers entertained.
By around 9pm, the same gay men we had seen outside appeared on stage and formally began the show with a song and an invitation for the audience to cheer for the night’s performers. At that time, a considerable crowd had already gathered. Interestingly, a diverse range of people seemed to comprise the audience. Different kinds of people seemed to have been represented by the night’s audience. In terms of age, practically every single age group was there. There were surprisingly a lot of young kids, the youngest of whom, as would be revealed by one of the emcees later on, was a little girl just about four years old. Then there were groups of teenagers or barkadas, young couples, small families, and larger families that included a number of senior citizens. Barkadas among the crowd were also highly varied, including a considerable number of gay teenagers present. Apparently too, people from different socio-economic classes were there: from the humble employee the performers enjoyed making fun of, to these two doctors who came along with their young daughter who later sang Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep” on stage.
It was clear all these people came here for something, for some form of fun or entertainment. On the surface though, I couldn’t keep thinking whether the nature of the entertainment in such a place was really appropriate or suited for the entire diversity of groups among the audience. Could, say, young kids actually appreciate the green humor or the naughty jokes poked at member of the audience?
For much of the time we spent there, a great deal of the entertainment was composed of merry singing by both the volunteers from the audience and the emcees. These loud bouts of singing were interspersed with periods of teasing and making fun of someone from the audience. Jokes were usually either green or made fun of something about the people from the audience, whether it was about their physical appearance, occupation, gender or school. Nevertheless, everyone seemed to enjoy, the audience frequently barking in laughter as another person is shot down with humiliating remarks onstage.
Yet it was all good fun. Walang pikunan. And the performers themselves were not spared from such insults anyway, with one of them being described by another performer as “one of the dirtiest personalities in the business.”
It was interesting how these gay comedians manage to get away with something that would normally spark a fuse in perhaps even some of the most patient or well-humored individuals. Understandably, the context is different, but some of the jokes nevertheless seemed very personal or otherwise offensive on the surface. I remember these gay students being made fun of for their appearance and their school, which the performers described as jologs and cheap. Upon initial reflection, these are jokes no one outside can really get way with safely.
But then again, the performers frequently made fun even of themselves as well.
I think it is by poking fun at themselves, at the ways they are perceived as “different” by society that these homosexual entertainers are able to make themselves more accepted, in a way. Moreover, by pointing out to people the various quirks about themselves that could possibly be made fun of too or be a cause for humiliation, they are able to share in this being “different.” It was this humor that brought the doctors from the audience on equal grounds with, say, the balikbayans among the audience the emcees occasionally called out for.
As a communicative act, Beeman (2000) describes humor as “one of the most heavily dependent on equal cooperative participation of actor and audience” (par. 3). In other words, the audience must “get” the joke to appreciate the underlying humor behind it. This involves being capable of following the cognitive frames being built upon by the performers.
And from the looks of it, it seems they do. Somehow. If only the same humor can somehow extend to contexts outside the comedy bar such that people open up to allow for acceptance of everyone labeled as different, and certain prejudices are suspended—perhaps then there really would be good reason to laugh.
Beeman, WO. (2000). Humor. Research Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 9(2).
Ramon Lorenzo D. Reyes | 093121
SA 21 G