Dearth of comediennes no laughing matter –

Kai Feng, founder of the C+ comedy club in Beijing, performs at the venue. [XU KANGPING/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Female performers eager to make their mark

The lack of stand-up comediennes in China has puzzled Yang Li for some time.

The 28-year-old comic, who made her stage debut in 2017 and turned professional the following year, when she also started writing scripts, has been struggling to come up with an answer.

As Yang, one of China’s few female stand-up comediennes, has gained a fan base during the past three years, she has continued to think hard about this issue.

When she discussed it with her younger brother early this year, she found his opinion both hilarious and relevant.

Her sibling said: “It’s not just stand-up comedy. Many industries have far fewer women than men. For example, in The Avengers (in Marvel Comics), there’s only one female superhero, Black Widow.”

Bursting into laughter, Yang conceded that he had a point since, like most stand-up comics, the superheroes in The Avengers are mainly men.

She wrote down her thoughts about perceived prejudice against stand-up comediennes, turning her ideas into material for performances.

When Yang appeared on the third season of the popular stand-up comedy reality show Rock Roast, which premiered on July 22 and was produced by the online streaming platform Tencent Video, she became an instant sensation with her sharp views and unique humor.

“When men become superheroes, they save the world with their wit and power. What about Black Widow? Her superpower is that she doesn’t age,” she said on the show.

“She is always beautiful and in good shape. Audiences don’t want to see a female superhero who is 60 years old and looks out of shape.”

Yang’s performances, which usually last about five minutes, have not only given her the chance to continue competing on the show, but have stirred a considerable amount of online discussion about the topics she addresses, such as gender issues, single women and prejudice against females.

Li Yu, a stand-up comedy fan, who watched Yang perform on Rock Roast, said, “I feel close to the issues she raises on the show, such as prejudice against women at work and single women being pushed into marriage by their parents.

“She brings a fresh perspective to her personal experiences, which she shares with audiences, especially women-only ones, and her jokes have an unexpected twist.”

It was not the first time that Yang had performed on Rock Roast, which premiered in 2017. With some 2.3 billion online views, the show is aimed at popularizing stand-up comedy among Chinese audiences.

Last year, Yang failed to reach the semifinals of the show, but this year she set out to challenge herself.

“With more opportunities to perform onstage, I feel much more comfortable and confident. I have seen lots of online comments about my performances. No matter if the comments are good or bad, I will continue to speak out.

“I am a woman and I tend to address topics that concern women, based on experiences in my life. I feel fulfilled after I finish my performances.”

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