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Serious approach to comedy

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-26 07:40
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Young comedians perform a short sketch during the variety show Gold Medal Comedy Class. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Performers shouldn't be eager for quick success," Chen says."If you don't have a feeling for your role, your performance will be flawed throughout."

In his opinion, while making people laugh is what comedy is about, a performer should not be obsessed with that side of it while writing scripts.

"Today's comedies put too much emphasis on jokes," he says. "How to create laughter may be central to the production, but we need to care more about where the comedy comes from and the nature of it. It's about stories and structure ... Deep thinking is something beyond just laughter."

The other two mentors also voice their own understanding of comedy in the program. Guo, who found fame with his xiangsheng performance group Deyunshe, highlights the rhythms of language, while Ying, director of the iconic Chinese '90s sitcom I Love My Family, says roles featuring individuality are a key part of it.

"It's time to nurture more talent for the future," Ying says. "And a good way to do that is to learn from the past."

Therefore, he encourages today's comedians to glean more inspiration from ancient literature.

Speaking of what can be taught to young performers, Chen says the real "classics" are not stories to be mimicked, but should be used to learn a technical approach to tell stories. For example, methodologies in Huaji Liezhuan (Comedians' Biographies), an article from the foundational text of Chinese history Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), can still benefit today's comedians.

"When certain conditions are met, a good comedy will be born naturally," he adds.

On social networking platform Sina Weibo, posts related to Gold Medal Comedy Class have attracted over 280 million clicks, according to the statistics of China Media Group.

"This show aims to present not only stage performances, but also how the art can be developed to a high quality," says Ren Congshu, a director at CMG in charge of variety shows.

"Variety shows that trigger people's laughter will always be in demand," he says. "However, it's actually quite difficult to amuse people ... We want to revive techniques and find multiple ways of expressing humor."

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