The Borrowing of American Stand-up Comedy and Jocular Techniques into Taiwan

Yi-Ting Yang, National Taiwan Normal University;         Abstract: The influence of American humor has spread into Taiwan’s entertainment industry, particularly the practice of stand-up comedy, affecting the nation’s educational and sociopolitical views. Before the turn of the decade into the 2010s, when stand-up talk shows have not yet been introduced into Taiwan, past researchers have found Taiwanese humor to be more restricted. For one, past researchers claim that as society gives the Taiwanese pressure to act well-behaved and controlled, the Taiwanese will choose only to laugh in appropriate situations. For another, a Taiwanese humorist who cracks self-deprecating jokes, rather than being accepted for being open about his/her deficits, will be seen as lacking in self-esteem. However, over the past decade, young comedians such as Brian Tseng and Lung Lung are incorporating American techniques of comedy into their talk show performances, widening the scope of the Taiwanese sense of humor and changing the political perspectives of citizens.

In the examples provided below, the comedian roles of the negative exemplar and comic spokesperson, adopted from American stand-up comedy, are incorporated into Brian Tseng’s entertainment style. First, as a negative exemplar, a comedian exposes a defect of a certain kind to the audience and serves as a scapegoat for people to gain a sense of superiority over him/her. In example 1, the audience laughed at Brian’s experiences of having been raped by the female sex, particularly his wife. Second, as a comic spokesperson, the entertainer allows the crowd to identify with his/her conducts and celebrate a shared flaw together, achieving a catharsis for the audience. In example 2, Brian raised awareness on the lack of political attention given to the rape of male victims. The impact of the incorporation of American techniques into comedy has reshaped the views of the Taiwanese individual. In addition, a rising trend unique to the nation itself has been observed. This paper offers an analysis on the extent of humor evolution Taiwanese comedy has undergone as a result of American influence.

Keywords: stand-up comedy, humor, negative exemplar, comic spokesperson, jocular techniques

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