Jesse Appell Delivered An Impressive Stand-Up Act On Saturday, In Chinese

We’re not ones to fawn over foreigners who speak Chinese good*, but we give plaudits where it’s due: check out Jesse Appell performing a stand-up act in Chinese on Saturday as part of the Bookworm’s The Humor Section, a monthly comedy event hosted by Des Bishop. (You might remember Appell as the Fulbrighter behind the Youku sensation Laowai Style — and a recent guest on the Sinica Podcast — who has since gone on to found the website Laugh Beijing with the goal of “connecting China and other cultures through comedy.”)

Make sure to catch his closing, an exercise in cross-talk prowess (the rhyming routine is called guankou 贯口). Xiangsheng in stand-up comedy — a beautiful merging of East and West.

Also of note were the Chinese comics who performed in English. (Joe Wong‘s influence was apparent.) The Good Doctor took footage, including an interview with Bishop, which we hope to post later this week.

The headliner was Los Angeles-based comedian Jimmy Schubert, who complained about cell phone technology, forgot part of his set, then consulted notes on his iPhone. His chicken omelete joke was pretty funny though. In the middle of a joke featuring a fish called Larry, a British man in the audience heckled him. It was an entertaining cap to the night.

*I know, I know.

    8 Responses to “Jesse Appell Delivered An Impressive Stand-Up Act On Saturday, In Chinese”

    1. bag-o-pussies

      Good imitation of PRC hick speech. There must be some useful application for this skill!

      Shame he wasn’t funny.

    2. Mike

      Fuckin well done! The whole, ‘Here in China you can yell at the waitstaff’ is kind of sad… sorry was that supposed to be part of the culture? Or people are just generally assholes?

      In America.. or.. “the world”, the waiter comes to your table.. and… talks to you? So.. yeah..That’s his job.

      My takeaway from this, not surprisingly, is that for all the progress we’ve made as foreigners, in China, there is still NOTHING FUNNIER than a guailo that can speak Chinese.

    3. DSLAM

      Jesus that hardcore Beijing accent makes me cringe but it was interesting to watch. I’ve been wondering how long before fluent westerners doing real, American-style stand up would start to happen.

      It’s hard because the more sophisticated stuff usually drips with sarcasm. You don’t realize how much sarcasm there is in standup until you start to translate it, and Chinese aren’t big on sarcasm in the same way. It will be interesting to see how people develop it.

      • Jesse Appell

        Yeah, this is actually a real problem. The soul of what makes standup standup to most foreigners–sarcasm, social & political commentary–is almost impossible to pull off as a foreigner performing standup. My routines are vastly limited not by any direct censorship but simply by what Chinese people are willing to hear a foreigner joke about. Combined with a culture that is also hesitant to joke at themselves in the first place, it means that the standup that is done in Chinese looks very tame compared to western standup, where we are used to having someone go onstage and loudly rail against social ills and the government.

        That being said, from a Chinese perspective, there are a lot of issues that hit between the West and China that a foreign comedian could take advantage of, and I’ve been trying to hit those points in my pieces designed for Chinese people.


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