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发布日期:2022-12-07 09:06    点击次数:80


Hello! Welcome to this edition of CBN Friday Special. I’m Stephanie Li.

“Not only are men adorable, but also mysterious. They can look so mediocre, yet still manage to be so confident.”

Sounds familiar?

Yes, it’s the widely circulated line of Chinese female stand-up comedian Yang Li in her best-known bits incorporate stories of her confusion and satire in men and relationships, on a show now considered as the one that brings the newly-found popularity of China’s stand-up comedy.

“Rock & Roast”, the popular stand-up comedy competition on Tencent’s streaming platform, is one of the most-watched online shows these days, with the first season aired in the summer of 2017 and now entering its fifth season. The show, co-produced by Xiaoguo Culture, a leading comedy show content provider in China, has garnered nearly 15 billion of views on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform. It's the spin-off of "Roast Convention”, the Chinese equivalent of the U.S. show "Comedy Central Roast”. The two shows were viewed as the launchpad for stand-up comedy gaining nationwide attention in China.

Stand-up comedy, a Western import, began making inroads in China little more than a decade ago, and became popular only in recent years. A microphone, a spotlight, and sometimes a chair. That's all what needed for most stand-up comedy performances. In China, stand-up was inaccurately known as “脱口秀”, the Chinese translation of talk show.

Take Out Comedy, the first Chinese stand-up comedy club, was founded in Shenzhen in 2009 when few Chinese had heard about this form of entertainment. The Chinese capital got its first stand-up comedy club, Beijing Talk Show Club, in 2010. The club nurtured a number of famous stand-up comedians including Yang Li and Zhou Qimo, who is a season champion of "Rock & Roast."

Audiences in Guangdong Province came to know stand-up much earlier as it was first introduced by pioneer comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah from neighboring Hong Kong in the 1990s, which has the name “栋笃笑” in Cantonese.

Yet Chinese tried their hand at stand-up in the US long before this. Joe Wong started to perform in Boston after getting a PhD in biochemistry in Rice University in 2002. Wong is one of the early performers on this stage. When it comes to Chinese stand-up comedy, he is a pioneer who cannot be ignored.

Wong gained instant fame both in the US and China for his calm yet razor-sharp performance at the annual Radio & Television Correspondents' Dinner during which he roasted the in-attendance then-vice president Joe Biden without mercy. The show was such a success that Wong was given a standing ovation by the audience.

In 2012, a stand-up variety show named “Tonight Post-80s Talk Show” hosted by Wang Zijian, a crosstalk comedian, aired on Shanghai’s Dragon TV. During each themed episode the host discussed hot social issues and events that concerned young people the most. The show, the first of its kind, acquainted a wider Chinese audience with stand-up. The show's writers and supporting actors such as Li Dan and Wang Jianguo are known as the "original gangsters" of the stand-up business in China.

In a society defined by harmony and self-discipline and where grabbing attention is shunned at all costs, poking fun at others or standing out in front of a crowd seems unlikely. Yet stand-up comedy is under the spotlight in China, owing to online programs that brought it to the mainstream.

Li Dan, the host of “Rock & Roast” and CEO of Xiaoguo Culture, is the one behind the wheel that helped spearhead stand-up comedy, which used to be a subculture, onto the front stage. The 33-year-old leader of China's stand-up comedy co-produced the show in 2017 to promote stand-up comedy culture with Tencent Penguin Pictures.

Liu Lijuan, vice president of Xiaoguo Culture, said in an interview that there were about 50 proper comedy clubs in China as of 2020, about 10 times the number of clubs nationwide in 2017. Ticket prices range from 99 to 380 yuan, depending on the lineup. According to an initial calculation, comedy clubs in the country reached over 140 in 2022, most of which were founded between 2017 and 2019 when “Rock & Roast” gained huge traction among Chinese audience.

Multibillion-dollar companies are now inviting standup comedians to their annual meetings or hiring them to boost their products’ images. The annual grant gala on Chinese New Year’s Eve organized by state media CCTV invited musician/stand-up actor Wang Mian to perform a musical sketch this year. It was the very first time the gala had a stand-up comedian in its 38-year history.

Originated in Europe and North America, stand-up comedy allows performers to express their own opinions and talk about things from ordinary life, which makes it easier to connect with the audience. The art form has swept young audiences in China by the feet in particular, because comedians tackle topics that easily spark heated debates on social media, such as gender inequality or hidden rules in the office.

Chinese netizens even see comedians as their own “internet doppelgangers”, meaning that they dare to expose and speak out some underlying truths in society that people wish they’d be able to say out loud, even though sugar-coasted with jokes.

For instance, Yang Li skyrocketed to popularity by focusing on gender issues, a hot-button topic, in her performances. With a style that’s been described as “delivering the sharpest barbs in the softest way”, Yang Li is one of the few Chinese female stand-up comics who have shot to fame.

Other top female stand-ups such as twin sisters Yan Yi and Yan Yue, Li Xueqin, and Niao Niao, made viral sensations of their refreshingly outspoken anecdotes about awkward romantic encounters, body image and annoying male traits. Each performs in their unique style with sharp observations of the circumstances that ordinary women are dealing with every day, clearly striking a chord with the audience.

Still, the increasing popularity of performance comedy art in China shows that even fun has no borders, not everything’s on the table. Compared with anything-goes Western stand-up comedians, Chinese comedians remain cautious about the topics they target. There’s an unwritten rule that they shouldn’t talk about anything that’s vulgar or too extreme.

Norah Yang, a Shanghai native stand-up actress that performs in both English and Chinese, said she wasn’t comfortable talking about things like politics in China. “It’s an overall rule, but I don’t see censorship as a constraint of Chinese stand-up comedy, because the market is so big and we’re at a so early stage of what’s going on. Give us some time and interest, and we’ll tell you what China really is,” said the 32-year-old Duke University postgraduate.

According to the Rock & Roast Marketing White Paper released by Tencent Video, the audience for stand-up comedy is mainly higher-income people aged between 18 and 35 in first- and second-tier cities who have relatively higher social status, incomes, and spending power. For popular comedians whose tickets usually sold out instantly, scalpers even found buyers willing to pay 3,500 yuan for a 380-yuan ticket.

Yet there are a variety of problems confronting the budding industry. Among them, despite the staggering appearance and advertising fees of A-list comedians, most comedians are poorly paid for offline shows, and earning a living through stand-up comedy is not easy in China. Most of the time, comedians have to take up other jobs in order to make ends meet.

Ya Qian, a freelance stand-up comedian, who now runs a WeChat official account teaching stand-up comedy, said for the majority of comedians in China, "a monthly salary around 4,000-7,000 yuan would be good enough.”

He expressed his hope that one day doing stand-up comedy can be considered a "proper job." And in order to achieve that goal, a shake-up of the entire industry is needed, he said.

And that change is probably happening. Young Chinese comedians are learning from outstanding comedians around the world and are growing up very fast, Joe Wong said in a recent interview, predicting that stand-up comedy will be one of the biggest and most popular forms of entertainment in Chinese cities in the future.

During his national tour from 2013 to 2016, Wong found that most audiences were young people, but by 2018 he also started seeing elderly people and even children in the crowd.

The late, great comedian Richard Pryor said, "all humor is rooted in pain". But then Wong responded with his view toward life and comedy, "life is so short, why not be happy?"

After all, the show must go on.














而《今晚80后脱口秀》也在2017年停播。这个节绸缪名字,使得“单口笑剧”(stand-up comedy)掘地寻天地以“脱口秀”(talk show,说话节目)的称呼在国内广为流传。2017年,笑果文化在筹划《脱口秀大会》时,议论到人人的接收进度,依然沿用了“脱口秀”的说法。











笑剧演员理查德·普赖尔 (Richard Pryor) 说,通盘的幽默都源自祸害。华人脱口秀始祖级人物黄西也说,“遭遇绝大部分珍摄时,你都不错采取是哭如故笑。人生挺短,干嘛不采取笑呢?”

Executive Editor: Sonia YU

Editor: LI Yanxia


Host: Stephanie LI

Writer: Stephanie LI

Sound Editor: Stephanie LI

Graphic Designer: ZHENG Wenjing, LIAO Yuanni

Produced by 21st Century Business Herald Dept. of Overseas News.

Presented by SFC

编委: 于晓娜




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