Unexpected surprise

By Li Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2014-2-20 19:33:01

A scene from Surprise featuring actor Ma Ke (left) and Bai Ke Photo: Courtesy of UniMedia

Joyshow(Yi Zhenxing), director of Web-series Surprise Photo: Courtesy of UniMedia

Aguy with a wooden face yet funny internal monologue has suddenly become an Internet sensation, thanks to a mini series called Surprise (wanwan mei xiangdao). Showing on video streaming website Youku, the Web-series is jointly produced by UniMedia and Youku presents and has received 562 million views so far.

In Surprise, embarrassing or unlucky situations constantly keep "surprising" main character Wang Dachui. A typical diaosi, a popular slang word in Chinese meaning "loser," he appears dumb and shows little facial expression on the outside, but his funny and exaggerated internal monologue has made audiences across China roar with laughter during each five-minute-long episode.

This series has brought the production team into the limelight, to include lead actor Bai Ke, who plays Wang Dachui; the director, Joyshow; and many other script writers.

This team now numbers among the leading hit figures on the Chinese Internet that are gradually becoming a leading force behind the rise of Web-series in China.

Hit online figures

"I feel like I'll soon get a raise, be promoted, marry a beautiful woman and reach the pinnacle of my life!"

Quotes from the show, such as the one above, have already become prevalent memes online. However, this isn't the first time the production team has managed to create a new Internet phenomenon.

Show director Yi Zhenxing, more commonly known by the name Joyshow, has been earning Internet fame for his wacky style since 2007. One of China's most popular online video directors, his works rank among the top five series on China's video portal Tudou.

"I knew mobile devices like mobile phones and the iPad were developing very rapidly. So I wanted to make something that was particularly suited to watch while waiting for the subway or the elevator. Just a few minutes, just like tweeting," Joyshow told the Global Times.

That thought caused Joyshow to turn to Web-series and directing Surprise. For him, Bai Ke was the perfect actor for the leading role.

Although Surprise may be the first time many people have seen Bai, they most likely already heard his voice years ago.

Bai, together with fellow Surprise actor Xiao Ai, are members of animation dubbing team cucn201, which they started in their dormroom back in college. In 2010, they began dubbing Japanese anime Gyagu Manga Biyori (lit. Good Day for Gag Manga) which resulted in quite a buzz throughout the Internet for the unique way they never followed the original lines, but adapted and added buzzwords that were popular in student dorms. Many of the buzzwords they popularized or created are now generally accepted and used by people around nation. For instance the popular explosion of geili, an expression people tend to use when praising something, started with this show.

These hit Internet figures have banded together to create an Internet phenomenon.

Bai told the Global Times that creating something with his team was always a shining and enjoyable time. "It seems like everyone on the creative team has a mental disorder," he joked. "If I had gone into radio after graduation, I'd probably have remained a normal person." He further explained that discssion among the group often gets extremely heated when writing scripts, sometimes to the point where they begin insulting each other, but he points out that this too becomes a source of inspiration.

Popularizing the underdog

As the word diaosi becomes an increasing part of daily vocabulary, more comedy works have begun focusing on this type of person. Just like the role Wang Dachui in this series.

Bai said: "He (Wang Dachui) represents the state of mind of a person that suffers from unlucky things, but tries to stay cheerful."

"On the one hand diaosi means 'loser', but it also contains the idea of an upward spirit and positive hope for the future," said Joyshow giving his interpretation of the word.

Although featuring a guy that seems to have achieved nothing and is unlucky everyday, Joyshow hopes everyone will find inspiration in this character, stating that he wants people to think to themselves, "Wang Dachui is far more unlucky than I am, but he always appears full of hope the next episode."

He thinks the country's current state of mind is that of a diaosi gradually climbing upwards. Although experiencing frustration and problems, China is still moving towards the future; as does her people.

Another interesting part of the show is how this character's wooden facial expressions make his unlucky fate seem completely reasonable. This particular style was specially required by Joyshow.

"The highest level of performance only relies on the expression of the eyes. Just like Tony Leung or Chow Yun-fat, they only have a few different facial expressions," Joyshow explained. Although Bai hasn't reached that level, he is able to approximate that level by keeping his face wooden, and then lighten up the performance with his internal dialogue.

Additionally, Joyshow feels that Bai's average appearance will attract a larger male audience, since they feel the character is more like them.
The rise of Web-series

Originally neglected, Web-series have now become a driving force for attracting audiences. Joyshow's career has followed a similar path. 

Back when the market for this type of program was still immature, he worked as an engineer in Central China's Hunan Province. However, he kept pursuing editing as his hobby, and waited for the market to grow. When he felt the time was right he quit his job and came to Beijing to start UniMedia with his partners in 2010.

Many fans like to refer to Joyshow as the master of self-depreciating humor. "I hope some day we can do as the Americans do. When you see a joke about you on TV, you can laugh at yourself. We have to be able to appreciate the wretched parts of our nature as well as the beautiful," he said.

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