Xiangsheng, History of

One of the most popular humor forms in China throughout the last century and up to the present time is the verbal art of “crosstalk,” the name being the conventional (flawed) translation of the Chinese term xiangsheng, literally “face and voice,” indicating that the art form primarily emphasizes facial expression and vocal skills. Crosstalk is one of a large number of Chinese folk oral performance literature forms in the category of quyi (“vocal arts,” or sometimes translated as “minor performing arts”). Westerners seeing the form for the first time are usually strongly reminded of American stand-up comedy, particularly the classic American comedy duos such as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, or 1960s TV acts like Rowan and Martin and the Smothers Brothers. Indeed, the surface ...

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