Cross-talk to flay graft on chunwan gala

By Fang Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-02-16 08:00:20

Xiangsheng's vigor lies in its humor and satire; without them, the art form lacks luster. And in recent years, audiences have rarely come across cracking cross-talk performances that criticize dodgy and shady officials. This is not to say that the past years have not seen any humorous xiangsheng work, it's only that scathing social criticisms have been absent. Perhaps the regulators' mistaken idea that artistic works too should transmit "positive energy" to society is to blame for that.

"Eulogizing truth, goodness or virtue can transmit positive energy, but denouncing falsities, badness or vice can also do the same", says Feng Jicai, vice-chairman of China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. "Only by assuring artists that they would not be criticized for their performance can the authorities display their self-confidence and tolerant mind and help art perform its social duty".

Of late, some media outlets have made light of the lackluster programs in the chunwan galas, attributing their insipid nature to their failure to touch upon the happenings in society, including malpractices and corruption.

Eulogistic xiangsheng works can generate laughter in the audience, but such transient amusement cannot last long. Besides, some cross-talk performers generate cheap laughter by telling poor jokes on the physically challenged or other disadvantaged groups. The popular belief is that xiangsheng has to be critical, ironic and sarcastic to create an impact, and true xiangsheng is one that deals with burning social issues.

China's intensifying crackdown on corruption and other malpractices offers many real subjects that can be used for good xiangsheng works. And by allowing such of xiangsheng works to be shown in the Spring Festival Eve gala, the authorities will help restore the lost vigor of xiangsheng.

There should be no political restrictions on xiangsheng works in a healthy, open and tolerant society, and the upcoming chunwan gala will be a good example of that.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.


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