When the Laughter in China Died

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The hatred of human joy and happiness that resides within the heart of the totalitarian mind is once again on prominent display — this time in communist China, where Guo Degang, a beloved Chinese comic, has been viciously silenced by the tyrants at large. The Marxist despotism knows all too well that the prerequisite for enslaving man is to purge him of any human impulse or trait that can spawn a smile, or worse, a cheerful laugh.

Guo Degang is renowned among the Chinese people for his use of his culture’s popular xiangsheng, or “cross talk” — a traditional Chinese comedic performance art that blends stand-up comedy rich in puns, poetry, and allusions with a quick, bantering style. Degang’s performances were full of critical and mocking sarcasm, directed not only at himself and at the Chinese as a whole, but also at the communist regime and its rulers. He also sprinkled in an earthly sexual humor, which was finally, all too much to bear for the totalitarian puritanism of the regime. And so, in recent weeks, the government embarked on a Iranian-style “Anti-Vulgarity Campaign” — a crackdown on what President Hu Jintao calls the “three vulgarities“: sex-obsessed, mindless, and tasteless culture. Degang has become the poster casualty of that purge.

The torch-carriers for Mao Tse-tung’s Red Guards have seen to it that Degang’s CDs and books have been purged from all of Beijing’s store shelves. The comedian’s website has been repeatedly hacked so badly that he had to temporarily shut it down. The country’s media has launched a smear campaign against the comedian, making all kinds of defamatory accusations, which include financial corruption, non-payment of fellow comedians, and the seduction of married women. The authorities have shut down his comedy clubs and squashed his media appearances. Degang himself remains out of sight and the Chinese people do not dare utter his name.

The Chinese regime is clearly teaching its people a stern lesson: Don’t only stay clear of criticizing the rulers, but stifle in yourself the desire to laugh. Degang’s audiences roared with laughter. That was a problem. Humor knows no boundaries and is a deadly enemy of the totalitarian state.

There was a reason why Mao criminalized humor. The greatest mass murderer in world history understood how to run a killing machine well. That’s why his butchers criminalized “speaking weird words” — which involved anything from asking strange questions to articulating dissatisfaction to making any kind of wisecrack. These offenses would get one classified as a spy — the consequences of which were obvious.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    And we were sold this bill of goods by our own elite who wanted trade that if China liberalized economically, it would inevitably liberalize politically. Fifteen years later, tell that to Guo Degang.

    • Nick Shaw

      Give it time Chez, give it time. The Chinese state is one huge ship to turn and it's starting from a dead stop. As a frequent visitor to China since 1990, I can see the changes. There are setbacks but, as more Chinese enjoy the perks of western living they are discovering there is more to life than serving the state. I can personally attest to this. Think of the establishment's response to Guo Degang somewhat like the response of the US establishment to Lenny Bruce less twenty years or so.

  • DogWithoutSlippers

    Just like the muslims – there is no room for laughter and joy! This shows how insecure and fragile their way of living and governments are. Laughter is essential to life and curbs the depression of the soul. Like freedom laughter will ring!

  • Alex Kovnat

    What I find wierd about China is, the government seemingly wants for everyone to have a car but can't tolerate any form of humor or dissent.

  • Lori

    What can they Do In China? No Joy? No Peace? No Love? It Is Totalitarian Or Elite! I Guess Pretty soon we will all be thrown Somewhere for All Actions of Joy,Peace, Love, Self-Control. Everything the Elite cannot Have they Hate! But I Believe they are Jealous of It and Cannot Be Honest with Themselves enough to admit It! If They Had A Bit Of Truth In themselves They Could crack A Smile! But Lies are Unhappy Peoples Food. Sour and rotten! Cold and Ugly!

  • Jane Baer

    Here in the US, humor is seen by the left as only a weapon against conservatives. John Stewart and his like make mocking ironic sarcastic "humor" against only conservatives. Long lIve Denis MIller!!!

  • Tim K.

    It's time to re-rent Woody Allen's movie "Ants." It graphically shows what totalitarianism is all about, in a way that even kids understand. No doubt it's one Hollywood film you won't find selling on the streets in Shanghai.

  • Tim K.

    It's time to re-rent Woody Allen's movie "Ants." It graphically shows what totalitarianism is all about, in a way that even kids understand. No doubt it's one Hollywood film you won't find selling on the streets in Shanghai.

  • Tim K.

    What's interesting about political humor is that it is an expression of superior understanding and vision over one's controlling powers. To make fun of a country's leaders is to in effect mock them, belittle them, and put them back to a human level. If humanizing political leaders is forbidden in a culture or country, that culture will become dehumanized. It's extreme result is engraving a master-slave philosophy into the minds of all its people. We can guess where that leads.

    • Lori

      I agree with you On this! Realization Is far better than Falseization, Laughing Brings Not Only Smiles But Heals your Body Of Pain. True Joy and Laughter! is better than A Shot Of Valium. Remember those days you Laugh so hard it Pulled every muscle in your stomach? Those were days you did not have to go and be drunk! or get A shot Of Valium in your arms or legs! you felt great all week and kept the laughter going! You just had to stay realistic.

  • Wesley69

    When a government has to clamp down on laughter, there is something wrong. The government can not control people’s minds. As the Chinese become more industrialized and modernized, their people will be looking to explore new things. Only outright oppression can keep the populace under control. But ideas, events fester, it just needs a spark. The Communist Party allowed western ideas to enter China. Tiananmen Square is not a distant memory. Its repetition will occur in time

  • Wideband

    Kind of funny how Stewart and the left are extremely hesitant to laugh at even the most obvious gaffes of Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Reid, Franks, and the whole pantheon of the left. A little bit of unheard of self-censorship by these folks? They'd fit right in, in Bejing.

  • Paul

    Marxists, radicals, communists, Nazis, religious fanatics have all lost their senses of humor. It goes with the territory. Remember all of the protestors during the Vietnam era.
    Did you ever see any laughter? What the left sees as humor is also telling. It is usually vicious, cruel, sardonic and mean.
    Everyone needs to lighten up a bit. You are not going to get out of this alive. Life is a fatal condition. Enjoy it and enjoy each other along the way. be good to others and be kind to yourselves.

    • Lori

      Right On About Life, Enjoy! Be Good To All! And Be Not Sarcastic, Rude Or Doing Hate Jokes, But True Joy Is one that few really know about! And Hey When true Joy Comes upon Me I laugh and sing and It Is what makes me Live.