A crash course in Chinese culture and language – with funnies
If you were to pick a comedy ambassador, you could do far worse than Des Bishop. The New York-born stand-up moved to China for a year to learn mandarin and perform in the language, on what is the most nascent of nascent comedy scenes. He got bitten by the cultural bug, and he’s still living there today.
This is the show of his tale – one that stands out in the programme on its originality if nothing else – and it is well worth your time. Bishop is an easy-going presence, but his comedy is cool, slick and tight – as you might expect of someone who has been in the game 15 years.
He knows a comedy cliché when he sees one, and thus endeavours to avoid making it a show entirely comprised of “look at the differences between us and them!”, although a bit of that is inevitable.
It is, in effect, a crash course in Chinese culture and language – the attitudes towards love and marriage; the consequences of pronouncing a “tone” wrong – punctuated by funny stories, such as Bishop’s time working as a restaurant “welcomer” , and video footage of Bishop appearing on a TV dating show.
Bishop keeps the pace up and always keeps it on the side of comedy rather than “interesting presentation”. There’s even a spot of Chinese improv with an elderly Chinaman in the audience, but it’s not heavy-handed or alienating.
This is a smart, fun and genuinely informative hour of comedy – the Chinese are fortunate to have won Bishop heart.
Review by Paul Fleckney