If I were to write a bucket list, a trip to a local comedy bar would definitely be part of it. I have always wanted to visit one and watch a live performance, but unfortunately, I never had the chance to. Luckily, an opportunity was given to me through my Sociology and Anthropology class.
The moment I stepped inside Laffline, I suddenly had an adrenaline rush. My heart was pumping with pure excitement and irrepressible happiness. I felt like a kid inside a store filled with toys and candies. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? Or maybe, that’s just me. Honestly, I could not blame myself for feeling that way. After all, it was my first time to be inside a comedy bar.
Upon sitting down, I deliberately chose to observe the environment I was in. The very first thing I noticed was the thick mist of nicotine trapped inside the area. It was a bit difficult for me to breathe but it did not stop me from enjoying the night. The interiors of the comedy bar seamlessly complemented the function and atmosphere of the establishment. Bright and vivid colors accentuated the walls and furniture of the space. Throughout the night, lively music and loud sounds were played on repeat. These different factors (visual, auditory and olfactory) heightened the energetic and gay (pun intended) ambiance of the bar.
It was a Saturday night and as expected, the place was jam-packed. People went in by groups, mostly families and cliques. As I surveyed the audience, I was amazed to see a variety of people. The age group was remarkably diverse and not confined with adults. There were children, teenagers, yuppies, and adults all together. The majority was comprised of adults who were already working. In terms of gender, there was a seemingly equal ratio of males and females. The audience was predominantly Filipino but surprisingly there were several foreigners too. Most of them were with their Filipina fiancés and their families.
When the stage lights were turned on and the background music was cued by the disk jockey, everyone started to shout and cheer. It was the cue for the encore performance. After a couple of minutes, three performers entered the stage. They were all dolled up, complete with full-make up on and sky-high heels. I immediately recognized two of the stand-up comedians, Pretty Triszha and Tekla, for I have seen them perform before in Wowowee countless of times. And yes, I am a self-proclaimed fan of noontime variety TV shows.
Just like any other spiel, the show started with hateful insults and tirades. Most of which were focused on the new performer, a girl named Diana. The negative yet equally witty comments thrived on her awkward body gestures, her strong bisaya accent, her apparent ditziness and the fact that she was a girl. What started out with verbal bashes ended up becoming physical. The veteran performers starting pushing and shoving Diana’s head which made feel a bit uncomfortable. I could not understand why people kept on laughing when someone was already getting hurt. It was a good thing that Diana was a sport and did not take the slurs personally. After all, this was the nature of her chosen profession and means of income.
Aside from the spontaneous exchange of comical jokes, pick-up lines and anecdotes, I noticed the frequent delivery of sexually connotative actions and puns. I was taken aback when they started delivering explicit and malicious jokes without holding back. It was not so much of me getting offended by those comments. I was ultimately concerned with the younger members of the audience. As a matter of fact, the sexual innuendos did not stop with words alone. There was a segment in the show when the hosts started calling members of the audience to go up on the stage with them. A guy was volunteered by his group of friends and as expected, the comedians willingly chose him. What happened next startled the entire audience. The hosts took turns in touching the genitalia of the guy for a couple of seconds. I felt really uncomfortable and chose to look away. Even though it was done for comical relief, I found it a bit disturbing especially for the children in the audience.
It was almost one in the morning when I finally decided to go home. As a popular cliché goes, time really does fly when you are having a great time. I spent most of my time in the comedy bar hysterically laughing and smiling to my heart’s desire. My experience in Laffline gave me a newfound appreciation and admiration for stand-up comedians. It can actually be considered a distinct form of art. Being a comedian is no joke (pun intended). It requires a certain degree of talent, intelligence and spontaneity to deliver one pun after the other. I have also realized that comedians are not confined with jokes alone. They are actually really talented people. One of the main stars of that night was Tekla. Despite being biologically male, he was able to belt out a Celine Dion hit with an exceptional high pitch.
Comedy bars in general reflect Philippine culture and society. Filipinos are known to be happy-go-lucky individuals who enjoy spending time with their families and group of friends. The fact that these kinds of establishments continue to operate and earn profits proves this point effortlessly. Secondly, the context of the jokes delivered in local comedy bars defines the sense of humor of most Filipinos. Our funny bones are tickled by sexually connotative puns, witty insults centered on perceived flaws (i.e. stupidity, different accents etc.) and ingenious retorts (pamimilosopo/pambabara). Even though it may seem shallow for some, most Filipinos positively react to these kinds of jokes with uncontainable laughter. Lastly, comedy bars show how much of our culture has changed through the years. Ever since we have been colonized by Spaniards, we have been stereotyped by most people as religious and conservative people. However, the themes of the performances of the comedians in Laffline obviously show the opposite. The casual discussion about sex by the performers and the positive response of the audience to these sexual innuendos show that most Filipinos have developed a certain type of comfort and acceptance towards these topics which were considered to be taboo before. This substantially proves that we have outgrown a part of our conservative nature.
After visiting Laffline, I have realized that comedy bars do not only show the evolution of Philippine comedy; they also mirror the significant change in our identity and heritage as Filipinos.
–Marco Antonio B. Guillermo