The ‘Punchline Queens’ Ripping Into Chinese Comedy’s Boys’ Club

Female contestants are stealing the spotlight in the popular online series “Rock & Roast,” sparking discussion on the wide gender gap in stand-up comedy.

“As men, you stand at the center of the universe. You spout pearls of wisdom that shape the future of the world. So when your female friend comes to you, you might wonder: ‘Is she hoping to share her sadness with me? No, she must be hoping to learn something from me!’”

The audience roars with laughter and applause as Yang Li, flashing a mischievous grin, finishes her monologue with a flourish. She is one of 50 contestants competing for laughs on the hit series “Rock & Roast,” a talent competition for stand-up comedy that airs weekly in China. Yang received the highest audience-rated score of the evening’s 10 contestants, winning her an outpouring of support on Chinese social media, as well as the coveted title of “Punchline King.”

“Yang Li is definitely a friend to women!” one fan wrote under a video of her set. “I really wish China’s stand-up industry would have more women, to flush out the culture of toxic masculinity,” wrote another.

Though one early comedy show, “Roast Convention,” was slow to win over discomfited viewers in 2016, Western-style stand-up has gradually gained ground in China thanks to open mic events and shows with wider appeal like “Rock & Roast,” whose hashtag has been viewed over 4 billion times on microblogging platform Weibo.

However, as in many other countries, female comedians in China represent only a small minority. According to Shanghai Xiaoguo Media Company — a giant in the domestic stand-up comedy industry, producing several online series including “Rock & Roast” — out of all the comedians who participate in the company’s open mic events, only around one-fifth are women.

Since premiering in July, the third season of “Rock & Roast” has featured more female faces, many of whom regularly win the spotlight by delivering the funniest jokes, and by being outspoken and refreshingly open about gender issues. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.