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Richmond stand-up comedy club embraces culture clashes

Two feminist shows have been put on by Van Comedy Club.
Hao Hao is organizing a comedy event at the Richmond Cultural Centre this Friday, but tickets are already sold out.

A stand-up comedy show is coming this Friday evening to the Richmond Cultural Centre.

“Gaga Naoxin,” translated as “Hilarious Troubles,” is performed by comedian Shi Yu, who will share his experiences of struggling in Beijing and studying in New York.

The show will be performed in Mandarin. It will also tour in Calgary and Edmonton.

“Everyone’s perspective is unique, and everyone sees things differently. As international students or immigrants, we embody the combination of Western and Chinese culture,” said Hao Hao, organizer of Gaga Naoxin and founder of the Van Comedy Club.

“The show tells personal experience, and comedy always arises from the pain in our daily lives. We have lived in Greater Vancouver for a long time, so we could observe the fusion of cultures,” Hao explained.  

Certain topics show interesting cultural clashes, Hao said.

“When we talk about the views of the East Asian education system, Canadian peers and audiences find it novel and never consider this perspective before.”

“When we tell a story about marriage pressure, Chinese-Canadian audiences understand the punchline, but in English shows, the audiences always show empathy,” she added.

Hao’s Van Comedy Club was founded in March last year, providing a way for Chinese-Canadians to listen and express their feelings.

Van Comedy is currently the only stand-up comedy troupe in Richmond.

Comedians discover themselves through stand-up

Hao used to work as a computer programmer, but she struggled with depression and it was hard to work until she discovered stand-up comedy show, which allowed her to explore and discover herself.

“It’s really healing for me,” Hao said.

“When I perform and see the audience genuinely laughing, I feel truly excited. That’s the charming point of our industry.”

Stand-up comedians in Hao’s club come from various careers, including professors, computer programmers and lawyers. 

"They all perform well in their respective fields, which makes their jokes thought-provoking."

"Since the Chinese-Canadian comedy industry isn’t profitable, those actors who stay in this field truly love it. This also contributes to high-quality jokes in the whole comedy industry.”

Huge response to feminist-themed show 

Van Comedy Club has held two feminist-themed stand-up comedy shows, and the revenues generated from these show have gone to support Chinese girls who have dropped out of school, Hao explained.

Hao explained her inspiration to help girls: “We observed the situation of girls dropping out of school, and we wanted to do something to help them.”

The first show was “quite challenging,” she said as there were only 50 attendees.

The second show, however, held last month in Richmond, had around 180 participants.

“It received a huge response. We even received invitations from New York and Silicon Valley to perform,” she said.

“Through the success of the second show, many other comedy clubs have reached out to us, expressing their interest in this topic.”

The feminist shows were put on to combat humour that targeted women.

“Male comedians sometimes unintentionally objectify women in their jokes, so we chose an all-female cast in this themed show to ensure the audience feels more comfortable,” Hao also added.

Newcomers welcome on stage

Van Comedy holds large-scale shows monthly, and open mic activities weekly.

“This format is rooted in North America, with open mic nights serving as a platform for comedians to exercise their jokes based on audience feedback,” Hao explained.

“Ensuring at least four punchlines within a minute can meet the standards for commercial gigs,” she added.

Anyone can participate in open mics, Hao said, and Van Comedy Club offers low-cost beginners’ workshops to encourage newcomers to take the stage.

“Gaga Naoxin” will be held at the Richmond Cultural Centre but tickets are sold out.

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