In 2010, I came to China to learn Chinese and see what life was like in the most populous country in the world.
Back then, I didn’t speak Chinese. During that tongue-tied time, I discovered the truth that would grow into the core of LaughBeijing: The surest and quickest way to make a real, personal connection with a friend from another culture is to laugh together.
In 2012, I was selected as a Fulbright fellow and given the chance to spend 14 months learning about China by studying Chinese humor. To do so, I apprenticed myself to a master comedian, Ding Guangquan, to study the traditional Chinese art of Xiangsheng comedy.
LaughBeijing is my project to learn about Chinese humor. Its goal is to connect China and the West through comedy.
It seeks to share information about the wonderful but sometimes hard-to-approach art of Xiangsheng.
It seeks to explore novel ways of mixing the comedic styles of West and East in a way that brings both groups closer.
It seeks to highlight groups and people, both Chinese and foreign, who are bridging cultural gaps through laughter.
It seeks to share with people everywhere the insights into Chinese culture that we find while immersing ourselves in this language and culture.
Laughter is an amazing bridge that connects people. When people from different cultures share funny stories from high school or describe ludicrous situations from work we open a window onto our lives, our cultures, and our values.
When we laugh we share in a way that is conducive to real understanding. The bubble of laughter is a safe zone where topics that normally might cause friction can be explored and investigated respectfully.
Learning what others think is funny is vital because how can we work together—how can we live together—if we don’t know how to laugh together?