China’s Comedians Who May Really Cause Pain

An eye-opening commentary from the Beijing News (新京报), translated by CDT:

Although it has a declining viewership, China’s New Year Gala on CCTV is probably still the most watched show ever in the country (it’s like China’s version of the Super Bowl). Some comedians make their living on the show by laughing about human weakness, some joke about physical disabilities. The former, it’s fair to argue, fully showcases the ugly side of people in society and we can say it is an outstanding form of art. It pries open everybody’s inner side and the flaws inherent with human nature and exposes them to the audience, so that an echo or sympathy sparks between the viewers and those who are being laughed at.

The latter, however, makes fun of people with disabilities to entertain others, which we cannot say is genuine art, but a low-ball trick, or even unethical social behavior. A few years back, comedian Zhao Benshan (赵本山) topped China’s most loved gigs with a series of skits (小品) that center around a limping man. The shows triggered some criticism on the Internet. Although the skits did entertain hundreds of millions of people, they also could have cut deep into the hearts of many disabled people and their families.

This year is no different. Another heavy weight comedian Cai Ming (蔡明) performed a skit about selling apartments, in which she spew out derogatory phrases containing the term for “Alzheimer’s disease.” [Alzheimer’s has another, more commonly used name in Chinese, lao nian chi dai zheng, 老年痴呆症, which has a sharply derogative connotations, mostly meaning “stupid.”] China has more than 5 million people who with Alzheimer’s, and these people and their families are probably not happy with the comedian freely throwing up a controversial term for a light laughter.

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