Comedians on a happy mission

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-10-01 07:25:14

With his heavy Dongbei accent and programs focusing on hot social topics, such as marriage of elderly people, family relationships and changes in life brought about by economic reform, he became one of the country's biggest comic stars.

"Northeastern folk culture and errenzhuan is in my bones," Zhao once said. "When I hum a tune, it is always from the Dongbei area."

While being devoted to spreading Dongbei culture and errenzhuan, Zhao is more of an entrepreneur than most of his peers. He has opened a restaurant and a theater called Liulaogen Guild Hall in Beijing's commercial area, Qianmen. He has also launched a media group, invested in TV series and movies, and opened a school to train errenzhuan performers.

Errenzhuan usually sees two people, a man and a woman, sing and dance holding fans or handkerchiefs in their hands. The art form used to be considered vulgar because some of the jokes were about sex, and its popularity had declined as audiences shifted to modern forms of entertainment.

Zhao has sanitized it by removing the erotic jokes and added new, contemporary elements to draw audiences. In 2007, Zhao led his "apprentices" on a tour of North America and performed errenzhuan in six cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Vancouver.

One of Zhao's most famous apprentices, Song was born in Tonghua, an industrial city in southern Jilin, and started learning errenzhuan at 19. He made a name for himself by collaborating with Zhao in a skit called Blind Date in the 2011 Spring Festival TV Gala of Liaoning.

"Comedy is hard. We are neither good-looking nor well-educated. It's a miracle for us to be welcomed by audiences," says Song.

If you go

7:30 pm, Oct 11. Mastercard Center, No 69, Fuxing Lu (Road), Haidian district, Beijing. 400-610-3721.


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