Stand-up comedy in Chengdu: Sharing stories of Chengdu with the world

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"Cause that's the noise everyone makes when they go to Chengdu city," "I have two hometowns: One is Paris and the other is Chengdu," "I love eating mapo tofu in Chengdu, but my friends always advise me 'Don't tell everybody that you like eating tofu'" (Eating tofu means flirting with women in Chinese). These are just a few of the lines from the stand-up comedy show "Chengdu in the Eyes of Foreigners," held on Dec. 8 at The Shakespeare in London and the Feng Qiu Huang Theatre in Chengdu, China. Comedians from countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Russia, France and Mali made the audience roar with laughter with their humorous jokes and observations. At the same time, they expressed their deep love for Chengdu from all manner of perspectives, from the city's parks to the laidback temperament of the locals, and the traditional local culture.

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This event was widely promoted and shared among young people all over the world. With the current rise in popularity of stand-up comedy among youngsters, "Gen Z" has built a bridge for friendly interaction between Chengdu and the world. 

"Chengdu in the Eyes of Foreigners": "Chengdu dialect" by young foreigners

At The Shakespeare in London, British stand-up comedians Sam Picone and Matt Rouse shared details of their recent trip to Chengdu. With exaggerated performances and witty expressions, they described such experiences as visiting Wide and Narrow Alley, tasting Sichuan cuisines, watching the pandas and making hot pot. Their performances not only left the audience laughing, but also triggered their interest in Chengdu, with many audience members remarking that it made them want to visit the city to feel its unique charm.

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At the Feng Qiu Huang Theatre in Chengdu, Mary from the United States used fluent Chinese to tell the audience about her experiences in Chengdu over the years and expressed her love for the city's food and leisurely vibe. She bantered with the audience about the city's rapid development: The first ring road, the second ring road, the third ring road… spiraling out like a mosquito repellent coil on the Chengdu Plain. She also compared the locals with giant pandas because of their fondness for eating and playing, and being adorable and humorous.

In 2008, Nicolas came to China from France because of his interest in tai chi, traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy. The vitality and tolerance of Chengdu people, and the green, open and cultured aspects of the city prompted him to set down roots here and grow with the city. During the show, he talked about his 13 years in the city. One Chengdu youth at the show said, "He clearly loves Chengdu and he lives here. No matter which country or region he comes from, in our eyes, he's a Chengdu native!"

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During the show, Marty from Russia and Ibrahima from Mali shared cultural differences between their hometowns and Chengdu. They told humorous and heartwarming stories caused by the collision of cultural differences. They also spoke about history, culture, food, science fiction, modernity, fashion, nature and sports all coexisting together in the city. 

Offline stand-up comedy + online broadcasting: Helping Chengdu "go global"

"As someone from Chengdu, I feel very proud seeing so many overseas friends praising my city," explained Lu Yu, whose favorite form of entertainment is watching stand-up comedy. The performance connected Chengdu, stand-up comedy and people from different countries, which not only brought joy to domestic and foreign audiences, but also deeply promoted the connection between Chengdu and countries around the world. "I believe that more and more overseas friends will fall in love with Chengdu, visit Chengdu and understand Chengdu," Lu said, adding that she hopes her city can hold more events of this kind in the future.

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The comedy shows were also broadcast on major video platforms via livestreams and recordings, attracting hundreds of millions of views and likes, and creating a fashion for speaking in Chengdu dialect. "I've always wanted to go to Chengdu to visit," commented German netizen Zell. He recently watched the entire show on YouTube, and the performances reignited his desire to visit the city. "When my children celebrate their birthday next year, I must take my family and children to Chengdu to learn the Chengdu dialect, watch giant pandas, taste Sichuan food, see the snowy mountains of the East, and experience Chengdu culture."

Stand-up comedy + city brand: Chengdu building a new pattern of international communication with multiple participation

"Stand-up comedy is a kind of performance that young people at home and abroad like to watch," explained the event's organizer. "After repeated discussions and planning, we finally decided to use it as a carrier to tell stories of Chengdu. Through it, we hope to bring Gen Z, Chengdu and the world together." As a Chengdu native, he has a strong affection for his hometown. He hopes that by building a popular Chengdu brand, more people from overseas will be deeply impressed by the city, and so help it connect more with the world. "The stand-up comedy show 'Chengdu in the Eyes of Foreigners' is just a new way of thinking about the discourse system of our external communication," he said. "In the future, on the basis of optimizing the Chengdu stand-up comedy brand, we'll continue to explore the internationalization of Chengdu topics and write a Chengdu chapter in China's story."

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Professor Dai Yonghong, director of the Institute for China's Overseas Interests at Shenzhen University, said that marketing Chengdu with stand-up comedy — which is popular among Gen Z — is an innovative concept. The event linked Chengdu people, foreigners living in Chengdu, and people who have visited as tourists to share their stories. This will undoubtedly promote greater interactions between Chinese and foreign youths, and help Chengdu culture reach more people. "The era has given Gen Z the spirit of openness, tolerance and innovation, making it another pillar in innovating China," Dai said. "Therefore, in addition to stand-up comedy, Chengdu can continue to try other forms that are loved by Gen Z, such as comics, games and short videos, to open up an innovative path for urban brand communication targeting Gen Z. This can help them embark on a broader international development stage together with Chengdu. At the same time, shaping city branding, promoting cultural dissemination, and telling Chinese stories well is not only the responsibility of the government — it also requires the active support and participation of major social institutions and all citizens so as to create a diverse communication system."

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