As soon as we saw the strip of colorful signs and flashy lights, we knew that we were in the place that we were supposed to go. It was our first time to go to a comedy bar, but we knew that that was the place as it evoked a sense of happiness and light-heartedness. When we entered, we were greeted with high-spirited gay men and a couple of buff-looking men in black. It felt like a scene in a movie, as it was something we weren’t used to seeing before. Some may call it sketchy, but we called it a new adventure. Plus, it helped that my parents were there to accompany us. We felt safe even though we were immersed in a new environment.
My mom and the bar’s manager were good friends in college so we were given special treatment as soon as we entered the bar. When we entered, there was this sudden boom of loud music and they were mostly playing pop and mainstream songs. Filipinos are fond of karaoke, so the lyrics were flashed in monitors around the room. The room was dark but streaking lights of all colors illuminated the whole area. It smelled a bit like smoke, but it wasn’t too overwhelming since there weren’t a lot of people yet at that hour (9 pm). The room was filled with tables for groups and couches at the sides. A long bar towards the left was also a standout in the room. The stage was however the focal point. The backdrop was colorful and filled with entertainment themed designs. We were directed to our seats and we ordered our food right away. The menu was mainly a drinks list and most were alcoholic beverages. They only served finger food, or most commonly known as “pulutan”. We ordered cocktails for each of us, and a serving of sisig and nachos to share. The show was scheduled at 9:30, but since it was a Monday night and the room was not yet full, the show was delayed shortly.
Proof that we actually went there
Because we totally had a right to be there!!!
But the show must go on after all, so they began even if the room wasn’t full at all. Three gay men went up the stage. Two were in short and skimpy dresses, and they had hair with big volume to match. One sported a pair of shorts and a polo shirt, and he acted more manly than his companions. They started with a song, and we weren’t too surprised with their choice. They sang, “Call Me Maybe,” in the happiest and most animated way possible. After their song, they welcomed the guests and started with their comical bits and humorous stories. They like interacting with the guests, as it made sure that everyone was enjoying the show. “Huwag kayong ma-offend sa mga jokes namin ah! Nagpapatawa lamang po kami at sana maintindihan ninyo” (Don’t get offended with our jokes, okay? We’re just trying to be funny and I hope you all understand), said one of the comedians as he reminded everyone that it was all for the name of fun. Their warning was fit as most of their jokes involved poking fun at each other and at the guests. They even called one of the guests, “brother bear”. The guests were luckily all good sports as they laughed along with everyone else despite the offensive comments. We also observed that their jokes were mostly sexually suggestive. The comedians were out there and had no bit of shyness in their bodies, and their comments weren’t things that we’d usually hear in own little censored bubbles. Though it was something new, we really had fun experiencing something different. We had the slight fear of being put on the spot and being the victim of their jokes, but fortunately (debatable), we remained as spectators. The hosts were very fast at thinking and they were very witty, as they had to keep the audience entertained and had to get immediate laughs from them. They were able to do this by presenting comical antics that are very fit to the Filipino culture and current events.
Since my mom knew the manager, we had the privilege of being able to interview the assistant manager (since it was the manager’s day off). He, or can also be referred to as she, gave us the inside scoop on the life in a comedy bar. She shared with us that the day of someone working in a comedy bar starts when the sun goes down and ends before the sun goes up. Typically, people would have it otherwise but these performers live the nightlife. As the assistant manager, it’s role to take care of the acts. Auditions are held to be able to get the best acts in the city. It’s a tough act to maintain, to be able to keep the guests coming back for more. However luckily, they are able to get talented comedians for their bar. Many famous entertainers came from the club and have risen to fame, including Vice Ganda, Ethel Booba and Pooh (the impersonator of Manny Pacquiao). From the small stage of Punchline, their talent has brought them to a stage with a national audience. In addition, it made us realize the kind of humor we Filipinos enjoy. There’s this certain comedic formula that they have that we have observed is also being done at local noontime television shows. Filipinos enjoy comedies that poke fun on other people, and that may sometimes be the kind that involve exaggerated and boisterous actions. Mostly, involving gay men.
The very offensive but funny homosexual entertainers (no big deal)
Deliciously unhealthy nachos & sisig with some drinks
It may look like all fun but it takes a lot of talent coming from the performers to be able to work up a crowd and to keep them entertained, even after the help of alcohol. Filipinos may be naturally happy people but it still takes a lot of skill to make people laugh through monologues and comedic stunts. There are different kinds of people who come to watch the show and all with a different kind of humor. It is up to the entertainers to be able to quickly adjust with the kind of crowd they have, which is why we observed how often they interacted with the audience. They would put some of the audience members under the spotlight and they would ask them questions about them. They would ask the kind of jobs their audience members had, or the reason why they were there. Most came for a good time after a long day, or to treat out a balikbayan family member of theirs. It made us realize that comedy is something that we Filipinos are truly fond of and it is actually part of our culture.
Overall, we really enjoyed our experience at the comedy bar. It may be not be the kind of entertainment we are used to seeing, as the jokes weren’t our style but we really commend that even though this was so, they were able to keep us entertained and to get a lot of laughs from us. We saw how light hearted the people were and how happiness can change a whole aura of a person. It’s definitely true that “no matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it even just for a few seconds”.
Observation of the five senses can only go so far; most times we often judge things using our senses without actually understanding what is going on. Observing made us simply see the surface of what comedy bars were like; dark, lots of colourful lights, loud music and smoke inhaled in every breath. To our convenience, a member of our party had been chosen to participate in the endeavours of the unscripted program. While we were interviewing the assistant manager, Justine’s dad had been put on the spot and chosen to sing along with the hosts in their Sing-Along Segment. They made him pick a song and jokingly insulted him along the way while interrogating him about where he came from (although all of this was gentle fun and everybody knew that). After which we had asked him how he felt being a member of the audience that was pulled into being part of the program. For him, it was a first; he felt a bit violated by the way they were speaking to him but it was alright because he knew they they were just doing their jobs. From his experience, we learned that being a member of the audience isn’t even close to enough to understanding and gaining a full experience of a comedy bar; you have to be one of the people they talk to and interact with at least once since these are the things that make up comedy bars in general.
We were lucky enough to be able to interview the assistant manager on a night like this. He/she (homosexual, but no judgement) was very helpful in helping us understand what goes on or what has happened in the past that we are not able to observe at the moment. We were able to ask many questions and the assistant manager was able to answer them all without hesitation as if he dad done this before- and indeed he did. He had told us about the many times students had gone there to interview him and to observe as well for their thesis papers. It makes me wonder how he really feels about this; does he think that people like us see his everyday life as something alien and weird that it must be made into a study? Nevertheless, he seems pretty content with his job and he helped us have a deeper understanding of what really went on in these comedy bars.
To fully understand something, being a part of it should be a must. One thing we learned from pure observation is how the entertainers act in front; they really make an effort at the start to tell you that everything they say it not meant to offend you and it’s all about having a good time; almost like protocol! This is important because when some people get offended (especially drunk/ people who have been intoxicated with alcohol) things tend to be violent. At the same time the audience members are the ones that turn out to be offensive to the entertainers however you will see their part of professionalism to be able to keep the order and peace within the premise. Another would be the changing reactions of the audience members who vary from culture, background, social class and virtually anything; they can understand the joke, think its funny, offensive or just plain disgusting (especially the green jokes about sex, masturbation, etc). Its really just important to keep the fun in the air with these kinds of things that go uncensored since its not on television anyway.
With a questionnaire, we are able to get concrete and factual information from an informant that has been in the industry for many years. Answers to questions asked can help us with understanding things from an inside perspective rather that from a typical outsider, observer perspective. We went there on a night that not a lot of people were there so we weren’t able to see the club at its peak so we had to ask the assistant manager a bunch of questions. From him, we were able to find out that the people who go there are usually ages 20 and above and that they usually come in families, couples & barkadas that usually come for a good time, for birthdays or for anniversaries. It was interesting to know that the social classes that went here ranged from class A to class C; this information would never have been guessed unless a real survey had been made but it was told to us that there was indeed a survey made by the previous students that made their thesis about Punchline comedy bar. We were also able to find out inside things like how the entertainers were chosen, etc., they were auditioned or referred to by other bars. It was also mentioned that some of these entertainers grow to be famous celebrities such as Vice Ganda that were contacted by ABS CBN and ended up working there instead. However he still chooses to go back to his home base to work a little and give back
Submitted by Alyssa Chuidian & Justine Limjoco
2 AB COM