In a Comedy Bar
For the SA participative observation, the group chose to go to a comedy bar. The chosen place, Zirkoh, was located in Tomas Morato. We arrived one hour early since we do not know that it would begin at 9pm. The entrance fee was expensive (P300) and there was a dress code. No people wearing sandos, shorts and slippers are allowed to enter.
Upon arrival, the security guard invited us to enter the currently empty venue. He said that it would be better to go inside early since it would be filled later on and seats may be hard to come by. We heeded the advice and waited inside.
For the one hour of waiting spent, we observed the surroundings. It was air-conditioned. There was a drinking station. Waiters were wearing uniforms and they even gave us a menu. Though, the drinks were really expensive so we did not buy anything. The venue was dim so we needed a flashlight just to look at the menu. A video of an Evanescence concert was playing on the two screens in front to amuse the waiting customers. The sound system was very loud but cannot be heard from outside.
One hour passed and the number of guests was still too few. Right before the show began, the venue was about one thirds full. We also noticed that the guests are mostly middle aged women probably in the late thirties above. It may be possibly because the women prefer to go in groups for safety and also because of the nature of the bar itself. There were a few middle aged men. What surprised us are the senior citizens going inside. There were also few foreigners present together with their families. These people clustered together (groups of 3-10). If they are not one family, they are friends since they talk casually. The foreigners were possibly being more casual due to the different culture they are in because they want to be simply immersed in it, but not too much. The audience composed of middle-aged women, foreigners, and certain family members might be there just to have fun and have a good laugh. It might be a way for them to relax and enjoy. For the foreigners with their family members may also be there purely to be entertained – to have a night out with their families and share some laughs. Most of the audience that the performers were being perverted with were foreign men and this might be because they either like the guy or they know they could really make the people laugh through them.
Then the show began. Out came six cross dressers whose nicknames sound alike to actual personalities such as Boobay. The odd names were probably used to gain attention because they were catchy, similar to how 90.7 Love Radio names their DJs after lower class jobs like the name “Chris Tsuper”, who is named after a automobile driver of public transport, and is also a play on the name Christopher. This may also indicate the target market of the comedy bar performers, but not necessarily. They sang songs first as a group then individually. On their individual presentations, they quickly noticed the foreigners and interviewed them. Some of them even made jokes about these foreigners which made the audience laugh. Surprisingly, almost all of them except one, spoke in English fluently, possibly because the target audience of the performers were also English speaking.
Then, after the individual presentations, they came out again as group and interviewed the other customers. They made lots of green jokes which the adult audience find humorous. The green jokes may be used simply because of the drunk nature of the crowd but they could also be used because of the way green jokes can be a way to discuss something more important or to gain attention. They seem to be fond of the foreigners spending most of their time on them. Comedy is a performance art, and it can be interactive because it can be paused by the performers, and the performers perform relative to the audience. After the welcome talk, they decided to ask the audience if they have requests and encouraged some people to sing in front. A man was convinced to go on stage and sing. This man was very tall and young. We thought he was a college student. But upon interviewing by the hosts, we found out that he was still in 4th year high school! This was a shock not only to us but also to the hosts who jokingly said that “he” was interested in the lad. Nevertheless, he still sang a song. What was the age limit of the place again? He must be only slightly over it.
While the performance is going on, the people around us were eating, drinking, smoking and chatting. It was a very noisy crowd but they tend to talk to their fellow tablemates. People like to keep circles, possibly also due to the fact that the bar/club has tables. Some groups occupied four tables to accommodate the whole company. According to the interviews of the hosts, we found out that some of them were from provinces as far from Laguna and one was a balikbayan from London.
We wanted to stay longer and finish the whole event however, it is dangerous to go home late and we have other things to do so we decided to leave after staying for about two hours. It was a fun and interesting experience.
Being inside the comedy bar, Zirkoh, made us experience first-hand what it was like being in those kinds of places, where people would bash, make fun of, or be perverted towards other people just for the sake of entertainment. Making fun of or discriminating other people is not an acceptable social action in the society, however, in these places; these jobs are the jobs that these people are paid for. Aside from making fun of people, they would also have very green jokes that might serve as entertainment for the people watching. However, these people would also showcase their talents through individual presentations also for the entertainment of the viewers. As the subjects of our participant observational study are the cross-dressers or the performers in the comedy bar and the viewers in the place. The performers were helpful in showing to us what they do and how they go about running the comedy bar. They were the ones who brought the entertainment for the people by showcasing their talents through their performances and through calling out certain viewers, whomever they think would help them in making the other audience laugh.
The idea of comedy itself is that comedy is a performative kind of art and therefore it inherently requires creativity. This creativity begins even at the introduction of the names of the performers with their names’ catchyness already requiring creativity. The cross dressing aspect also stems from the performative aspect of comedy because of the diverse fashion used by cross-dressers, and also to gain the attention of the audience because of its oddity. Green jokes may be there because of the drunken nature of the crowd but obscenity may also be used to heighten the position of the performers relative to the audience, therefore improving the performance and making it not boring. Green jokes are also just one method that the performers do for comedy. The performers also comedically bash the audience as a part of their performance. Comedy’s creativity can also come from the fact that the focus is on the performer with a simple stage and a simple microphone needed, which is done to place emphasis on the performers, this means that there is a lot of room for creativity.
However, this comedic bashing for entertainment may be not just performative but also part of a discourse. This discourse is that the performers are a subject of ridicule. While we laugh when the performers bash the audience or say green jokes, we may think it is funny inside the bar, but outside the bar, we know it is improper. The performers are able to make us laugh through their comedic performances. This is where the idea of “License to deviate” of comedians comes in, which somewhat means license to deviate from normal. It may have originated from the comedian being an object of ridicule because the audience ridicules the comedian’s ridiculing of “physical and mental defectives”, therefore we actually ridicule the wrong actions when we laugh at the performers in the bar. Even if we laugh at the comedian unknowingly, almost everything the comedic performers do is against society, just like cross dressing and green jokes. Comedy may therefore subliminally be an output for our ridiculing things against social norms. The discourse here is that the comedy shows us an image of some things against social norms, going to comedy bars is like going out of your normal life to experience something irregular and something special or weird, and laughing at it is like critiquing the “incorrect” that the performers do. As participants in the participative observations, it is in this discourse of the audience and the performer where we really participated in, whether knowingly or unknowingly, simply by laughing and watching.
To end, we did experience something different from the usual everyday by experiencing being part of the audience in a comedy bar. Seeing all the bashing and green jokes, and cross dressing is definitely something special for the first time viewer, maybe even shocking to some. However, it is likely that the regular audience is familiar with what the comedic performers do, so would always watching comedy bars make the comedy bar become the new normal? Well, maybe that is why comedy bars are often places to go on Fridays and the weekends, because we just need to be removed from our normal routines and experience something different, as a way to step out of everydayness.
Answers to After Post Questions:
1. This experience made us have the experience of actually being in those kinds of areas, and see for ourselves why people have the amusement in those kinds of places. Talks or gossip of other people about this area is very different from experiencing or immersing yourself in those places. It made us realize how they go about their jokes and why people would still want to go to these areas where all they do is make fun or flirt with you.
2. Unfortunately, we were all unfamiliar with the venue and we do not know anyone who could give us additional information. Thus, we failed to have a key informant.
3. It would be very different from surveys since in surveys, you would only be able to hear out the side of the viewers or the performers, and you would not really be able to experience what it is like to be there. What interviews or questionnaires might miss is the experience that you should be able to feel to be able to understand truly these kinds of community. Immersion is still immersion, therefore actual; and only through immersion can there be actual participation.
4. Interviews would be better if the data needed is an accurate story from the point of view of a certain person. An example of this would be personal accounts of past events, because we cannot go back in time. For surveys, these are better for sampling large samples of a population in order to acquire data and make an inference. These data are useful for simpler questions like preferences related to products.
Greenbaum, A. (1999). Stand-up comedy as rhetorical argument: An investigation of comic culture. Humor, 12(1), 33-46. doi:10.1515/humr.19220.127.116.11
Mintz, L. E. (1985). Standup Comedy as Social and Cultural Mediation. American Quarterly, 37(1), 71-80. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2712763
Seizer, S. (2011). On the Uses of Obscenity in Live Stand-Up Comedy. Anthropological Quarterly, 84(1), 209-234. doi:10.1353/anq.2011.0001
Sheard, L. (2011). ‘Anything Could Have Happened’: Women, the Night-time Economy, Alcohol and Drink Spiking. Sociology, 45(4), 619-633. doi:10.1177/0038038511406596
Lee Ponce; John Simbajon; Ted Velasquez
SA21 – P