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Deliveryman finds new role with a real sense of humor

Updated: 2022-10-15 16:20 ( China Daily )
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Every day Zhao Dong buzzes around the city on a two-wheeled electric scooter running errands for its dwellers for around eight hours.

As the dusk of evening begins to close upon the scene, the 26-year-old, shedding off his helmet and blue jacket, dives into small theaters where he is going to use stand-up comic sets inspired by his personal stories as a deliveryman to make people laugh.

Growing up in Fengxiang county, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, he used to be an athletic sort of juvenile whose dream was becoming a physical education teacher.

Unfortunately, his failure in gaokao, or the national college entrance examination, eight years ago made the young man diverge from pursuing his dream. What's worse, he suffered from the pain of injuries brought by the intensive physical trainings he once took.

After that, the high school graduate of modest means struggled to make a living on his own by successively being gatekeeper, car washer, street vendor and salesperson.

In 2019, he found that running errands can bring him a stable income. Then he moved from his hometown to Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi province, and became a deliveryman.

Within just five years after his graduation from high school, the once sinewy, fair youth became a suntanned, chubby man who looks older for his age.

Fortunately, he turned all the hardships he has been going through these years into infectious, funny jokes, which brings a refreshing lease of life.

He became a part-time stand-up comedian under the name Nangua (pumpkin) in 2020. His new role later offered him the opportunity to travel by plane for the first time in his life, settle in a metropolis and perform in the sensational comic competition Rock and Roast.

For him, the knack of humor is not something he was born with, but what he has been diligently honing with his sincerity and aspiration to embrace a better life.

His first encounter with the comic form can be traced back to 2019. In a freezing winter night, he was about to deliver a cake to a bar on the fifth floor of a shopping mall in Xi'an.

"As I approached the destination, I heard rounds of cheers and laughs coming from the bar, which did spark my curiosity," Zhao recalls.

Consequently, he stopped for a while in the bar after finishing the errand and was told that it was an open-mic event for stand-up comedy.

He was obsessed with the joyous atmosphere into which he wanted to get himself integrated.

"The art form was popular back then. Yet I knew nothing about it as most of us, deliverymen, seldom watch comic shows, either online or offline," he says. "Generally, it would waste our time for running errands to earn money."

He started to apply to be a volunteer for the local stand-up comedy clubs.

While doing the voluntary work, including checking the tickets, arranging the seats and cleaning the theaters, he could also learn comic skills from other comedians' performances and then polish his own script.

A club runner touched by Zhao's persistence and earnestness later sent him a guidebook for stand-up comedy and gave him a chance to stage his sets.

Though he was too nervous to fluently speak out what he had prepared for his comic debut, his meandering and clumsy attempts still won kind applause and laughs from the audience.

"The club runner pointed out my defects, saying that my local dialect would sometimes make my sets hard for the crowd to understand," Zhao says.

Then he started to improve his Mandarin by reading loud out pieces on newspapers.

To overcome his nervousness onstage, he found a KTV bar with the cheapest price in Gaoxin district. There, he grabbed the mic to repeat his set again and again for hours.

This hard work paid off.

His performance attracted wider attention and he received an invitation from Shanghai-based comedy company Xiaoguo Culture to join a comic training camp last year.

It was his first time to take a plane and get out from Shaanxi province.

He soon found that Shanghai, a metropolis, boasts more opportunities for stand-up comedy practitioners.

In October, he moved to the city.

There, he still chose to be a deliveryman and perform comic gigs for four or five times a week.

"I have to obtain adequate nourishment from the grassroots stories I have been experiencing and observing as a deliveryman."

He says his encounter with comedy is like "a drowning man trying to catch at a straw".

For him, what's special about the comic form is its inclusiveness.

"It welcomes people from all walks of life and varied backgrounds to share stories and express opinions on the same stage," he says.

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