Jon Stewart’s humor a hit with millions of envious Chinese

Chinese censors prohibi the criticism of public officials, which is Jon Stewart's bread and butter.
Chinese censors prohibi the criticism of public officials, which is Jon Stewart’s bread and butter.

Humor may not always translate well, but Jon Stewart is picking up millions of fans in China, where his gloves-off political satire is refreshing for many in a country where such criticism is a rarity — especially when directed at their own leaders.

A recent segment on North Korea scored more than four million views on microblogging Sina Weibo, and even stodgy state broadcaster CCTV has used Stewart’s “The Daily Show” in a report, though they wouldn’t let a Chinese version of him near their cameras.

Recent popular sequences have included one in which Stewart lampooned the Chinese hackers who cracked the New York Times computer system earlier this year, wondering if that was the best they could do.

But far from squelching Stewart, CCTV even used one of his sequences on Guantanamo Bay to criticize Obama in a regular broadcast — a move widely derided by netizens.

In China, however, such criticism tends not to be welcomed by the government. Dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who regularly criticizes the government for what he sees as its flouting of the rule of law and human rights, was detained for 81 days in 2011, sparking an international outcry.

“There’s nothing like political satire here,” said David Moses, who studies and writes about Chinese humor.

Though the exact timing of Stewart’s entrance to China is unclear, many have been watching him for four or five years, mainly through the Internet and Weibo.

“Being a journalist, you have to find out the truth,” said Mao Moyu, a Shanghai journalism student who got hooked on Stewart four years ago.

“If there’s … something that hurts the public interest you have to stand out, no matter how sharp the thing is. You have to stand out and say that’s not right.”

Part of Stewart’s popularity is that he seems cool to young people in love with all things foreign, but a thirst for satire that is not afraid to show its face contributes too, Moses said.

The closest thing that exists in China is coded references and puns that tweak official pronouncements or sound like obscenities.

“That’s just shooting a finger at the government. But this is full-fledged jokes and routines about North Korea or about China and trade. … It’s just what they wish they could do here,” Moses said.

Free translations into Chinese by Stewart’s fans have boosted his popularity. In fact, one — known as Gu Da Bai Hua — now even has his own fan base.

China’s thirst for foreign satire is so great that Stewart is not the only popular U.S. comic. Some Chinese say they prefer rival television satirist Stephen Colbert — although humor may not be the only issue at stake.

“I think I like Stephen Colbert’s pronunciation more because it’s much clearer for me,” said Shanghai student Peng Cheng.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.