Female Chinese Stand-Up Comedians Stand Up for Themselves

In China, women comedians take the stage: for funnies, and for feminism.


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Female Chinese comics are launching to fame with appearances on “Rock & Roast” (脱口秀大会 tuō kǒu xiù dà huì). The stand-up comedy internet show recently aired its third season. 

The show’s hashtag on Weibo has been viewed over 4 billion times.  

While women are still considered the minority in the stand-up industry, “Rock & Roast” has featured more female faces than any other comedy show. Many of these women steal the spotlight with their refreshing takes on gender issues. 

One of the finalists of “Rock & Roast” this year, Yang Li, used sarcastic remarks to tear down the cocky nature of men. Yang received the highest audience-rating and the coveted title of “Punchline Queen.

Yang’s joke “Why are men so mediocre but still so confident?” went viral on Weibo.  

Li Dan, one of the “Rock & Roast” judges commented on the genius behind Yang’s comedy:

All men felt targeted, but no one can take offense because that would make her arguments all the more true. 

This didn’t stop the online trolls from attacking Yang and anyone who agreed with her. Yang noted this in her interview with GQ China

I’m only trying to be funny. In fact, in the same performance, I also ridiculed women for being emotional, but I didn’t receive any hateful comments or threats from female netizens. Women have most likely become used to their stereotypical weakness being made fun of, while men have heard so few jokes like this before. 

Chinese stand-up comedy gets a shot in the arm from women comedians who  mine stereotypes about the sexes"The Avengers," sounding  like "Women Federation" in Mandarin, only has one female hero.
Yang is shifting the narrative of comedy to allow critiques of heterosexual males who enjoy privilege in a male-oriented society in China. More and more female comedians are tearing down the patriarchy

Yang made it to the final six of this year’s “Rock & Roast” season, along with fellow female comedian Li Xueqin. Li told hilarious and heartfelt stories of her journey with depression and loneliness. She has since become a hit on Youtube.

The twin sisters Yan Yi and Yan Yue also made it to the finals with their set calling out the misrepresentation of female friendships in film. Their set has been shared over 51,000 times. 

They have also been known to call out the prevalent body shaming in Chinese media. 

In their set, they said, “Women tend to have anxiety over their body shape. It seems it’s not ethical for a woman to be unfit."

Twin sisters Yan Yi and Yan Yue focus partly on the pressure on women to lose weight. Photo: YouTube"TV sitcoms taught us being fat is negative, whereas losing weight is a good thing.”Chinese stand-up comedy is emerging as a more female-driven art form. This is compared to more traditional Chinese forms of comedy like sketch shows (小品 xiǎo pǐn) or crosstalk (相声 xiàng sheng). 

Usually, stereotypes of women are used as the butt of the joke. But stand-up allows female comedians to turn their own life into humorous material. The success of female comedians results from their ability to connect to the audience.

According to Wang Bei, a senior supervisor at Beijing IMiner Data Technology, women make up the majority of viewers for stand-up comedy shows. The company’s statistics indicate that over 70 percent of female stand-up comedians’ fans are women aged between 25 and 34. These women seek mature, talented comedians for entertainment. 

Chinese women are taking over stand-up one laugh at a time. China better make way for these Punchline Queens



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