Stand-up comedy tour kicks off

Updated: 2014-04-15 11:00

By Chen Jia in Fremont, CA (China Daily USA)

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Guo Degang, a popular Chinese comedian, will kick off his 2014 cross-talk art performance Laughter Across North America in four US cities starting this week.

He is also planning to establish a Deyun She branch in Los Angeles this year for American Chinese interested in learning xiangsheng, the traditional Chinese comedy that combines stand-up humor with puns.

"It would be the first branch of the traditional Chinese art form in the North America," Zhang Bowen, the manager of Pan Hollywood International Media Group, told China Daily on Monday.

A privately-run xiangsheng performance theater, Deyun She was started by Guo in Beijing in 1995, and it quickly brought him nationwide fame.

"Becoming more and more fashionable, the rejuvenated art form has been attracting an increasing number of young people between 20 and 30 years old through a mushrooming wave of Chinese teahouses," Zhang said.

The first stop on his tour will be on Friday at Cupertino Flint Center of Silicon Valley, which just hosted Chinese actress Liu Xiaoqing in a stage play earlier this month.

However, Guo, a middle-aged man with a closely shaved head, feels no pressure about the box office. His VIP tickets are going for as much as $398.

"By now, around 1,500 tickets have been sold for the first show," Chen said.

"Even though the art form is basically based on the language system of North China, many immigrants from South China are also curious about it," he said.

In order to reach overseas audiences, Guo's team also learned some English, he said.

Guo plans to perform three of his classic routines with partner Yu Qian - The Teacher, Pursue My Happiness, and Love - on the North American tour. Three other acts are newly designed for an overseas audience.

His other tour stops will include Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, with Toronto and Vancouver following in the latter half of the year.

His team has 15 people, eight of whom will be on the stage during the tour.

Growing up in Tianjin, Guo began to learn the traditional Chinese art of storytelling, or pingshu, at age 8, which prepared him well to be a xiangsheng performer later.

He never finished junior high school, but has plenty of fans with higher education in the Chinese speaking world.

On the Chinese mainland, Guo had become a household name, on a par with film director Zhang Yimou and actress Gong Li.

Xiangsheng was mainly performed in teahouses in the first half of the 20th century. With the founding of New China, most comedians were recruited into the state-run performing arts troupes.

Today, Guo is widely credited for his efforts to revive xiangsheng, which is very popular in Beijing and Tianjin, northern China. The great performer Hou Baolin (1917-1993) was a Beijinger, and Tianjin has given birth to other masters, such as Ma Sanli (1914-2003).

Stand-up comedy tour kicks off

Eric Zhang (left), general manager of Dollar Travel & Charter Inc under the East West International Exchange Group in California, coordinates US tour for Guo Degang's team, and Zhang Bowen, manager of Pan Hollywood International Media Group, is responsible for ticket booking. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/15/2014 page2)