Once upon a time， Chinese live comedy meant watching two men doing a 300-year-old crosstalk routine at the teahouse. The PRCs early years were a difficult time for humor， as there was little modern material not considered either vulgar or bourgeois. In the early 1980s， the CCTV New Year Gala helped shake things up with social satire， but has since become toothless and stale.
Now， an eager generation of young performers—raised on a diet of US sitcoms and old Gala classics—is hoping to put comedy back on its feet. Their success on the growing stand-up circuit has， in turn， attracted investors wondering if theres serious money to be made from this new form of entertainment. As underground comedy goes mainstream， will these corporations suck the fun out of the scene—or are they precisely the lifeblood the business needs to protect itself from ever-watchful censors？ In our in-depth cover story on Chinese stand-up， we spend some time with comedians， audiences， and club owners to find out.
Elsewhere in the magazine， we look at families with a lingering preference for male babies， take a trip through the ruins of a lost kingdom， sample classic Chinese candy， and look at some homegrown industries—Hunan and Hainans dangerously addictive betel nut business， scandal-ridden “study abroad” agencies， and the quest to put on a successful Chinese musical.
Robert Foyle Hunwick