Mr. Rhodes and Mr. China
I toured with legendary comedian Tom Rhodes last week. Rhodes has been on tour for 9 straight years and really should be applying to the Guiness Book of World Records for longest tour ever. Before going on the road he hosted his own late-night talk show in Amsterdam and starred in his own NBC prime-time sitcom in the 90's. Check it out.
Tom comes through Shanghai/ Suzhou about once a year and I get to out for a week with him running around China doing shows. Last year my buddy Erik Wolfe did the whole China tour with us and, besides memorizing my set, was chief air-temperature control manager as Tom likes his rooms chilly. This is where I learned that when people are cold they laugh more. Apparently all of the Letterman, Leno, Conan theatres are allways freezing (always learning!). Anyway, great dude, fun tour.
Also on the tour this year was my good friend and soon-to-be famous Chinese comedian Storm Xu. Storm hosts a weekly stand up show in Chinese at Kung Fu Komedy Club in Shanghai and regularly tours with me doing English language shows. He is one of 3 or 4 comedians in China successfully doing original Chinese language stand up comedy. There are 40-50 comdians in China doing stand up but most of them are translating Chris Rock bits and hoping nobody notices. Storm Xu is the real deal.
Also, while on tour in Suzhou we ran into China most famous foreigner, Da Shan (Mark Rowswell). Mark speaks flawless Chinese and in the late 1980's that made him a star in China. By chance he fell into a role on a skit during the Chinese New Year's Gala in 1988 and was seen by over 500 million people. The next day he walked down the street and everyone knew his name, or his Chinese name "Big Mountain".
Fast forward 27 years and he is a budding Chinese language stand up comedian, telling stories to his fans of his life as a celebrity in China. He was supposed to have a gig the day after we played in Suzhou so we all met up and hung out. For a dude that has more weibo (chinese twitter) followers than President Obama he was a chilled out, down to earth Canadian.
Point of this post (I'm finally getting to it, my blogging skills are sub-par at best) is how similar comedians are no matter the path they take to the art form. Tom is a 30 year veteran, Storm is doing it in a second-language, I started an open mic 5 years ago in a country that had no concept of stand-up and Mark is a long-time, massive celebrity who has just recently jumped into stand up.
We sat for 45 minutes and talked about which rooms are good, which ones are terrible. Mark talked about how you couldn't jokingly call Chinese audiences "assholes" and still expect them to like you (as I had done the night before in a wild show in Suzhou). Tom surmized that bombing in Chinese stand up shouldn't even matter as just speaking the language should be accomplishment enough. Both and Mark and Storm talked about the convervativeness of Chinese audiences and what you could/ couldn't get away with. Overall, it was one of those conversations that should have been a podcast and almost felt old-school that it wasn't.
Good times! Any questions email me, see you at the club.