The Chinese Comedy Scene, by Rochelle Beiersdorfer

Laughter is a universal language, a great equalizer and the best type of medicine. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love to laugh!? We all love to laugh! The endorphin rush feels great and it can transcend differences and bring people together, regardless of language or cultural barriers. In China, Xiang Sheng (Crosstalk) is the traditional method to elicit laughter. Xiang Sheng is a type of comedic, interview-style banter that’s usually between two individuals. In a Xiang Sheng performance, one performer “interrogates” the other performer with questions ranging in topics from, but not limited to, everyday life, differences in Chinese dialects and politics. Starting centuries ago, Xiang Sheng is very well-loved in China’s popular culture and, until recently, was the only form of comedic performance in China. But, like with the rise of craft beer, western styles of comedy are becoming more prevalent and very accessible, especially in Shanghai and Beijing.

From international, household names performing at posh theatres to local celebrities doing a quick 5-minutes set at a dive bar’s open mic, there are many opportunities in Beijing to go watch and even try your hand at stand-up comedy and improv. Both in English and Chinese, you can see shows at the Bookworm and The Local in Sanlitun or at Paddy’s in Dongzhimen. If you’re itching for a more Chinese experience with your dose of western humor, you can go venture to the USCCC (US-China Comedy Center)’s hutong headquarters or to a few of the hutongs’ eclectic bars, such as The Great Outdoors. So, when you’re feeling stressed, blue or just fed up and need a good dosage of laughter, there are plenty of opportunities in Beijing to get what the doctor prescribes. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

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