Tony Chou performs a stand-up comedy routine in Chinese on October 26 at the Hot Cat Club. (GT)
Beijing, one of the origin cities of Chinese traditional crosstalk, is now seeing a growing local interest in Western stand-up comedy.
Hot Cat Club holds open-mic comedy nights twice a week: in English on Wednesday, hosted by Comedy Club China, and in Chinese on Saturday, hosted by Beijing Talk Show Club. Both comedy nights are popular among foreigners living in Beijing and Chinese comedy lovers, and have attracted media attention from home and abroad.
Comedy and linguistics
Zhou Guangchao prefers being called Tony Chou. The Shandong Province native is bilingual, so he's able to perform with both clubs at Hot Cat. He just returned from a trip to the US where he immersed himself in stand-up, both watching and performing. He's now preparing with the Beijing Talk Show Club for their first commercial showcase at Stars Drama Village later this month, he told the Global Times.
"I'm Tony Chou. Like every other product you value in your life, I was made in China," he often says at the start of his English showcase. Finding humor in studying English and joking about the cultural gap between China and Western countries make his Western audiences crack up.
A June feature in The Atlantic said, "He (Chou) might not be Russell Peters, but for the audience at the Hot Cat Club, he's comedy gold."
Without any educational background specialized in English or any study abroad experience, Chou, 30, is the only regular Chinese comedian in Comedy Club China. He has ambitions to make comedy his full-time job. Some are curious about how he can so confidently do his routine in English.
"Language is only the tool for me to express my humor," Chou told the Global Times.
Though some comedy is universal, Chou prepares different jokes for his English acts and Chinese acts, and sometimes for those places where he performs for Chinese people but in English, he prepares something a little different from both.
"The humor needs to be linked to culture," said Chou, "The foreign audiences here are mostly interested in China, culture shock and the relation between China and their home countries, while Chinese audiences care more about daily lives and relationships."
Chou, 30, was an English teacher at New Oriental School before he became a reporter for CCTV in 2009. The experience of working in front of the camera allowed him to feel comfortable in front of audiences.