It might be my age, but I’ll go ahead and say it: I find Metro Manila’s nightlife kind of… boring.
Ask almost anyone where the coolest places to go to on a Friday night are, and you’ll probably get the same old answer. Hyve, 71 Gramercy, Vyne, URBN… a seemingly endless list of clubs and bars (spelled incorrectly) that play excessively loud music, charge premium prices for alcohol, and are crowded by barely dressed yuppies with cash to spend… or daddy’s credit card.
After my boyzillian experience, “the same old *whatever*” just wasn’t enough for me anymore. I wanted to try something different! Something exciting! I decided to pay a visit to… a comedy bar.
Admittedly, I had never given much thought to visiting a comedy bar before. I always thought they looked kind of shady with their bright lights and sometimes tacky names.
I’ve always been a fan of Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart and even our very own Rex Navarrete. From my initial research though, I was told not to expect the exact same kind of humor. My friends told me that comedy bars featured gay comedians (often dressed in drag) whose idea of comedy was more centered around public shaming and dirty jokes. Already, I found myself a bit scared.
First Impressions, Low Expectations
I managed to convince (bribe) a friend to come with me. “Low expectations, low expectations…” I kept telling myself. We had scheduled a Wednesday trip to Zirkoh Tomas Morato, with primetime performers Wally Bayola, Jose Manalo, and Ate Gay on the bill. I was kind of hoping for the Mocha Girls. Fail.
After paying the ₱450 cover charge (no free drink??), we found a table for two in an inconspicuous part of the bar. We heard that sitting in front by the stage was just asking for trouble. We were there to observe and as first-timers, we weren’t ready for any public shaming just yet.
The place was surprisingly large, with dozens of tables scattered across the floor. At around 9 PM (when the show was scheduled to start, only one other group was seated, a party of around 10 by the stage. I thought to myself, “I wonder if this place ever gets full. On a Wednesday? Naaahhh…”
With some old school Lionel Richie ballads playing in the background, things didn’t look too promising, to be honest.
At around 9:30 PM and without warning, blinding flashes of light started going off, music began blaring from the speakers, and out of nowhere, this group of 7 performers made their way to the stage, beginning the show with a lively medley of pop hits like Love You Like a Love Song and Call Me Maybe.
There was the red-haired Boobsie, Betty la Fea, and Osang, who was wearing the shortest skirt I’ve ever seen on a man. There was also OMG-I-can’t-believe-she’s-a-dude Angel, cosplay-attired Mariko, plus-sized Petite (best name of the bunch) and Atak, the only one who was the only clear male among the group, dwarfed by his companions in their 6 inch man-killer heels and go-on-forever legs.
For the first hour and a half or so, each entertainer took to the stage one-by-one, taking quick jabs at the audience members before going off in song. While they all have that little becky twang in the voice, OMG… when they sang…
I had forgotten that there was a reason they were entertainers. They were pros… and while they came off as over the top and outlandish with their manner of speaking and wardrobe choices, their singing was also over-the-top-AWESOME.
One of them in particular, Angel, had the voice of… well, an angel:
The applause was definitely well-deserved.
Falling Out Of Your Chair… Then Reaching For Your Wallet
When the performers began their skit as a group, I have to admit, they were pretty damn funny. The humour was a tad low-brow at times (the show was definitely NOT kid-friendly), but we couldn’t deny the fact that the audience was having a good time.
Some of the jokes were crass, a few were racist, I even found some jokes directed at audience members to be downright offensive… but hey, people were eating it up! We looked around and noticed that the entire ground floor was PACKED. I actually started feeling kind of excited! That is, until they started asking for tips…
Probably the biggest turn-off of the entire show was when the entertainers started asking for tips. They began singling out groups of balikbayans, business owners, and people celebrating special occasions. The performers would call some of them up on stage, not taking no for an answer. The audience members would then sing a song or two with the comedians. At that point, they were trapped.
One table had a balikbayan from Las Vegas who was promptly greeted with “so dollar yung kinikita mo?” From another table, they called on a pretty young woman to sing Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, and then started flirting with her cousin from Dubai who, I suppose, felt obliged to tip them with a few blue bills. The comedian Mariko wowed us with her fluent Japanese directed at another balikbayan and while I couldn’t understand anything, her outstretched arms and pa-cute tone of voice said it all… to the tune of a ₱1,500 tip.
The performers had a few gimmicks up their sleeves for people who did tip, like making fake fireworks noises and taking song requests from the generous few, but I wasn’t buying it. It was a bit of a letdown. Just when I was starting to enjoy the show, too.
Probably the weirdest thing to happen to me that night had nothing to do with what was going on on-stage. Around 2 beers in to the show, I made a trip to the men’s room, did my thing, and began the short walk to the sink.
It was cool at first. A staff member offered to turn the faucet knob for me. “That’s nice,” I thought. He even pumped the soap dispenser for me and handed me a hot towel. “This is great service!” I told myself. UNTIL HE STARTED RUBBING MY BACK AND SHOULDERS.
Sensing that something was up, I began to refuse the “massage.” He didn’t stop. His hands found their way down to my back before wrapping his arms around my shoulders and LIFTING ME OFF THE GROUND. I practically had to pull myself away from him.
“Tip naman diyan, sir.”
Surprise, surprise. I handed the man ₱20 and basically ran out of the bathroom. As much as my bladder would let me, I held in my urge to pee for the rest of the evening.
Primetime Past My Bedtime: Where’s Wally?
My friend and I had planned to stay long enough to at least catch a bit of the headliners Wally Bayola, Jose Manalo, and Ate Gay. By 12:30 AM, the audience was told that they were on their way. A little before 1 AM, Ate Gay hit the stage.
His/her(?) performance, I would say, was the highlight of the evening. It was pretty cool getting to see a living legend of Filipino comedy in the flesh. It was lively, entertaining, and at some point, I was practically bursting at the seams from laughter. Audience participation was highly encouraged, with sometimes 2 or 3 guests being onstage along with her and Boobsie. There was an improv Mr. Pogi pageant, an on-the-spot acting workshop with Ate Gay as co-star, and several nostalgic OPM song numbers that the tanders in the crowd seemed to really appreciate.
But the question was… Where was Wally?
By 1:30 AM, we decided that we couldn’t wait much longer. We had jobs to get to later that day (Thursday) and without any assurance that the other 2 primetime performers would even show up, it didn’t seem worth the wait. We said our silent goodbyes to Ate Gay and made for home.
Shattered Expectations Muddled by Cheap Gimmicks
All things considered, I had a lot of fun that night. The low expectations I had set for the evening were more than surpassed, as evidenced by the handful of times I caught myself snorting from laughter. And the singing. OMG, the singing. The performers that night must have some KILLER karaoke parties.
Unfortunately, some parts of the performance really cheapened the experience for me. Not only did I feel like I was about to get raped in the bathroom, but I also felt bad for those caught off-guard by the incessant prodding for tips. At no point was anyone forced to shell out any cash, but trust me, comedians can be pretty convincing. It might just be me, but I’d feel much better about tipping the performers because they gave an awesome show, not because they asked me to.
So what’s the verdict? Would I go back? Probably! I’d even take more friends along.
I’d say that visiting a comedy bar is something everyone should try at least once. It’s a great laugh and if you’ve got the cash to burn (just in case), it sure beats watching another bad movie at the cinemas. Try going on a night before a day off, unless you want to find yourself feeling like a zombie the next day at work.
Klownz Comedy Bar
Punchline Comedy Bar
Polari Comedy Club
Laffline Comedy Bar
Lettuz and Pepper Comedy Bar