This story is part of our June 2020 cover story, a series of articles profiling internationals who have made – or are making – an impact in China. To read more fascinating profiles from this series, click here.
The team behind comedy troupe Mamahuhu are unquestionably among China’s most celebrated entertainers. From their hallowed ranks a number of seriously talented expatriate comedians and entertainers got their starts, including American Zach ‘Donnie Does’ Etkind, who now works for Barstool Sports, and Australian Andy Curtain, a Hong Kong-based comedian who has a Comedy Central special coming out later this year.
For the uninitiated, Mamahuhu releases regular videos that highlight cultural differences between Shanghainese people and their expatriate neighbors through comedic skits. The group, which was originally comprised of Alessio Avezzano, Matt McGill, Johnny Tian, Kay Wang, Charlie Cooper and Nick Yeung, got their start filming lackluster pranks and ‘social experiments’ with TMD back in 2014.
“At the time, that company were keen on us making ‘social experiments’ until I convinced them to allow us to give sketches and shorts a try,” Mamahuhu’s director and cinematographer Avezzano tells That’s via email. “The channel blew up after that. Later that year, I would leave the company to go solo and wouldn’t be given the channel back until two years later when TMD was no more.”
Image via Mamahuhu
Since making a comeback in 2017, the creative minds behind Mamahuhu have released a string of wildly popular videos, including ‘The Last Man in Shanghai,’ the ‘Laowai Park’ series and the hilarious fake commercial ‘The Ayi From Work Diet.’
“We’ve been really fortunate to have had this great little comedy bubble made up of talented writers and comedians. Most [video ideas] come from daily observations that are then greatly exaggerated; cultural differences of course have played a huge part as well,” writes Avezzano. “If the idea makes us laugh, that’s usually enough.”
Due to the transient nature of expat life, the core members of the group have changed over the years. In addition to Avezzano, the current team includes expats Matt McGill, Andy Curtain, Adam Hamilton and Mohammed Magdi, as well as Chinese citizens Dawn Wong and Norah Yang, among others.
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the time and commitment required to produce each and every Mamahuhu video. Additionally, filming on Shanghai’s noise-plagued streets have also proved to be an obstacle.
“Time and budget have always been the biggest challenges [and] filming on the street, working around noise pollution,” says Avezzano, “I swear there’s a guy with a drill that shows up at every shoot no matter where we are.”
Image via Mamahuhu
As a result of the troupe’s creative comedy skits, they’ve amassed a considerable online following, with over 194,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 54,000 followers on Facebook.
“Our viewers have grown globally over the years, YouTube being our biggest audience and perhaps WeChat second,” Avezzano tells us, adding “We’ve all grown into better filmmakers and storytellers as a result of the channel and we hope to push our skills beyond short-form content in the future.”
And moving beyond short form content appears to be very much in the cards, with the team set to soon release a 30-minute short film called ‘Scarlett, Shanghai & Me,’ in addition to actively pitching TV series and film concepts based on the Mamahuhu channel.
To read more fascinating profiles from this series, click here.
[Cover image via Mamahuhu]