Sunday, April 18, 2010

Joe Wong: not funny in China

When I first showed one of my Chinese-Australian friends a clip of Joe Wong's breakout standup comedy routine on Letterman, he was incredulous. He couldn't believe that someone fresh from mainland China could have that kind of sense of humour, let alone develop a standup career out of it. Well apparently there is something in that, because according to a new article in the Wall Street Journal, Wong has been met with little enthusiasm in his land of birth. While proud of his achievements, they just don't get his jokes. Standup does not have a long tradition in China, and apparently those few that are successful often use "footnotes" - telling a joke, then subsequently pointing out to the audience why it is funny.

I guess it's not surprising that Wong's particular brand of humour would fall flat in China. His best material draws from looking at well-known aspects of Western culture from the slightly skewed perspective of a newcomer forced to learn the things we take for granted.

In any case, Wong's career in his adopted country seems to be going from strength to strength; he recently performed in front of Joe Biden at the annual Radio & Television Correspondents' Dinner, which you can watch here:

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