Beijing fines stand-up comedy show for use of banned content, sparks public controversy over satire and social morality
Published: Apr 28, 2021 12:43 AM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Beijing imposed a fine to the producers of a stand-up comedy show in what is the first case related to the violation of sensitive content, according to media reports on Tuesday. 

As a consequence, a controversy around stand-up comedy, which has become popular among young Chinese in recent years, has resurfaced on the internet in China. Some netizens believe a boundary should be set in comedy events, and vulgar content should be banned.

According to the Beijing Daily on Tuesday, an administrative fine of 50,000 yuan ($7,692) was imposed to the organizers of a stand-up comedy show in a small theater for using vulgar terms on its performance which violate social morality.

This is the first case in Beijing where a stand-up comedy show is punished with fines for banned content, according to the report, and it shows zero tolerance for this behavior, setting a precedent for the emerging stand-up comedy genre in China.

According to the report, Beijing conducted a law enforcement inspection on comedy shows in March, where prohibited content was found.

The specific content of the stand-up comedy performance that was fined has not been made public yet.

The Global Times learned this performance took place at a theater in Beijing every Tuesday from March 13 until the end of the month.

Stand-up comedy has been seen as an "offensive art" that uses sharp and strong language to reflect on people or situations, said an online observer on Sina Weibo.

The penalty case raised a discussion among the netizens in China over "offensive art." 

This case has attracted over 80 million views on Sina Weibo as of Tuesday.

Several netizens said that this satirical art form doesn't need to be overviewed by the regulators with strict rules.

Other netizens believe that a boundary should be set for stand-up comedy and vulgar content should be banned.

"With stand-up comedy shows booming in China, they no longer reflect deeply on bad behaviors. Instead, some of those shows tend to destroy or even slander the morality in society. This should not be followed by other comedians," said a netizen.

"I've been to a stand-up show before and I felt terrible when they told some sexually charged jokes in front of the audience," read a comment.

As an emerging type of comedy show in China, stand-up comedy became popular among the audience, especially online shows like the 80's Talk Show and Roast!. 

Yet, the development of stand-up comedy has hit a bumpy road in China, where the show Roast! was taken off the internet for a short time in September 2017. The show was able to get back online after it published a rectification 5 months later in 2018. A similar experience happened to female stand-up comedian, Yang Li, who was also under a massive attack, especially from the male audience, who felt offended by Yang for her sharp language against males during her performance.