OPINION> Chen Weihua
Parody is a norm of life, accept it
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-27 07:55

American television talk show hosts like Jay Leno and Jon Stewart are hugely popular among the audience for their satirical humor - right from ridiculing US President George W. Bush's statements to making fun of 'Chinglish' labels on Chinese exports.

In fact, there are millions of Americans who claim to get their share of news from around the world from Jon Stewart, whose Daily Show on Comedy Central is also aired on networks like CNN.

I watch the Daily Show from time to time, too, but relying on the comedy show for news is ridiculous. It is simply a funny show, not news at all.

Still, the Daily Show's popularity means that the demand for such entertainment programs is high. And if there is a need, we should fulfill it.

Unfortunately, Chinese television lacks such shows. Our TV is filled with many boring and poor-quality dramas. You could go on switching channels after dinner and find it hard to spot anything worth watching.

It's not as if there is a dearth of comical talents like Jon Stewart or Jay Leno in our country.

Just a few days ago, I saw glimpses of a Jon Stewart in our homebred Shanghai-based spoofster Hu Ge online. Hu could be better and funnier than we think, if only a TV station offered him the job to make us laugh.

The 38-year-old comic, who turned famous overnight three years ago with his parody of director Chen Kaige's The Promise, has greeted his fans entering the New Year with a seven-minute video mocking prime time TV news programs.

Serving as an anchor for CCAV, a group housing news broadcast in a local community, Hu anchors news about an annual meeting of group-housing residents, the overcrowded toilet problem, job prospects of some college-graduating residents, a touching story of an Internet addict and a row between the property management and residents regarding a clean environment.

The format of the program, and the clichs and jargons people hear every day on news programs are probably the reasons that make the parody so funny and so popular among Chinese netizens.

The short clip is circulating on the Internet so furiously that its popularity may even rival several so-called New Year blockbusters that have hit the Chinese cinemas now.

Some netizens have even encouraged Hu to produce a parody of his archrival Chen Kaige's new movie Forever Enthralled, a film about the life of a great Peking Opera master.

But Hu's interests have obviously extended outside the movie genre.

I just hope that no TV station would want to take Hu to court for the violation of intellectual property rights or any other rights, as the humorless director Chen Kaige (not related to this columnist) did three years ago, when his 350-million-yuan The Promise was mocked by Hu's hilarious The Bloody Case that Started from a Steamed Bun.

What Chen Kaige did not expect then was a unanimous support for Hu from his online followers, who wanted to launch a fundraiser to pay for the lawsuit.

What I hope is that TV stations that have been mocked this time would show more generosity by broadcasting Hu Ge's parody on their channels, so that hundreds of millions of Chinese, who don't have access to the Internet, would also be able to watch this hugely entertaining clip.

Making parodies of mainstream culture is still sadly not acceptable by many people and institutions in our society.

But one day, when Hu's show is as famous as Jon Stewart and reaches a wide range of young audience, or when a large chunk of youngsters say they get their news from Hu Ge, it would be impossible to reject it.

It is just a matter of time and a matter of vision.

E-mail: chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 12/27/2008 page4)