Some people say that taking a couple of over-the-counter analgesics before tattooing can take the edge off the pain. Acetaminophen, commonly sold under the brand name 'Tylenol' is generally recommended, but not aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs, as they tend to inhibit clotting. In short, you may find yourself bleeding like the proverbial stuck pig. There are actually topical anesthetics available, even in the stick-up-its-butt U.S. For instance, Bactine contains some lidocaine, and it is possible to buy benzocaine preparations over the counter. The drawback of these is that they do not work on unbroken skin, but if they are applied after the first pass with the needle, they can make a tremendous difference.
EMLA is reputed to be much better, and will work on unbroken skin, but it is not generally available in the U.S.