When laughter is no laughing matter

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Xi Jiangyue, a comedian and the founder of Beijing Talk Show Club. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A comedian reflects on how his craft is faring in China, and he is not amused

Xi Jiangyue has one of the hardest jobs of the evening. As show host he has to break the ice with what may be a demanding audience, lulling them into the right mood for the comedians who will appear later. After the pleasantries come the inevitable gags.

"I went to this barber once. He said to me, 'Giving you a trim is exhausting work. It's like mowing grass in the desert. I run all over the place, but anywhere I look I can't find a single patch of growth. I'm having a hell of a hard job.'"

As the laughter dies down, a shallow smile settles on bald Xi's face, and from the front row you can almost hear his eyes, shouting out that he really is not enjoying this.

"I don't want to do stand-up comedy myself and I don't want to try other forms of comedy," Xi, a well-known comedian and founder of Beijing Talk Show Club, the biggest stand-up comedy club in Beijing, says later.

"For me comedy has become a bore, which is why I now only host shows.

"A lot of money has poured into stand-up comedy in the past few years, and now comedians don't think the way they used to. In fact, the best performers seem to have disappeared."

Xi sees 2013 as a watershed year, one in which comedians dazzled the Chinese performing world with their brand-new content and completely different style.

Like these new arrivals, Xi saw bright lights on the horizon. After graduating from a university in Gansu province he started businesses in the wholesaling, decorating and logistics industries.

One after another, his companies went bankrupt, and he eventually decided to do something completely different. Since his days as a high school student he had been an admirer of stand-up comedy, and in 2010 he traveled to Beijing aiming to pour his enthusiasm into a new enterprise.

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