A That's series where we ask a Beijing-based somebody to tell us 5 Things specific to his or her life.
You might know Stuart Wiggin from his work on China Plus' The C4 Show 别叫我憨豆 and its travel-themed offshoot Travelling with Stu-pid 司徒游记. The Beijing-based funny man is the writer and self-described "on-screen idiot" of the two comedy shows. We don't know about you, but we think he's hilarious. Most recently, Stuart has been on a comedy quest all across China from his most recent trip to Chongqing to the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi. He's even joked with monks in the Qinghai Tibetan Autonomous Region and the Shaolin Temple.
So what's it really like to film a comedy show in China? Stuart gives us a behind-the-scenes look at 5 things he's learned about being a comedy star in China.
1. Some people will believe anything
The C4 Show films a mixture of comedy sketches and part scripted/part improvised travel shows. From my experience, comedy shows in China are usually 100 percent scripted, so in the case of our travel shows, we blur the lines a little. Obviously, whatever kind of video I’m filming, I’m portraying a character. The guy that people see on their screens, 司徒, is not necessarily the real me; although you’ll have a hard time telling that to some of the people who follow the show.
Whether it’s the fake phone calls home to my mom, pretending to urinate in the world’s biggest public toilet, smashing up Tianjin’s Porcelain House, running away from Hippies in Dali, or claiming to live as the Monkey King 24/7, as far as a large proportion of casual viewers are concerned, this all actually happened and the cameras just happened to be there.
This also extends to others who appear in the show. In one episode entitled “The Man Who Speaks Guitar,” I conducted an (obviously fake) interview with a person who had been struck down by a disease called music mouth, which meant he was only able to communicate via his guitar (ridiculous, I know). After appearing on the show, his colleagues in real life approached him to ask whether it was true. To his credit, he kept it totally kayfabe and drummed his answer out on the table.
2. Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you’re famous
Even if you try really hard and get millions of viewers there’s a pretty small chance that anyone will actually recognize you. Having been featured on the front pages of Youku, Tudou and Bilibili on a number of previous occasions, I have been recognized in the street a total of six times! That’s a pretty pathetic payoff for three years of work.
3. Mundane things are usually the funniest
Some of our shows have plots, numerous filming location, beautiful B-roll, lots of jokes and maybe even a story arc. I lie, we never have a story arc. But some of our most popular videos have been about the most mundane of subjects. A parody/piss take on the ridiculously popular documentary A Bite of China remains one of our most successful shows. The subject: potatoes.
4. If you don’t get it in one take, you just don’t get it
If you happen to watch one of our comedy travel shows, you’ll see that a lot of the stuff we film was done in one take. This obviously involves me being the wit (prick) that I am 100 percent of the time. It also involves my fabulous team (of two other people) taking advantage of every opportunity we get because the funniest things usually rely on spur-of-the-moment decisions and the people who just so happen to be around at that very moment.
5. Chinese culture is absolutely full of humor
Every aspect of Chinese culture can be funny. By this I don’t mean that every aspect of Chinese culture can be made fun of and ridiculed; you can do that if you must but then you’re probably just a racist. What I mean is that there’s a funny side to everything, and Chinese viewers seem to appreciate it when that funny side is brought out. We have a series of sketches which explain every single Chinese holiday one by one, from Chinese Valentine’s Day to Double 11 and even Tomb Sweeping Festival. Yes, we made a sketch about a festival which basically revolves around death. If you look hard enough, you can make everything funny.
If you want to watch the show, just search for it on the following platforms below:
Youku: “thec4show” or 别叫我憨豆
Facebook: Comedy in China