Zhou Libo: Close up with Shanghai’s favorite funny man

Zhou Libo: Close up with Shanghai’s favorite funny man

Controversial -- and hysterical -- Shanghainese stand-up comedian Zhou Libo discusses his book and how to make the Shanghainese laugh
Zhou Libo (周立波)
"I really like American style comedy, especially when they play with words with double meaning," says Zhou Libo. "After the joke is delivered, you have to think again about what’s being said, realizing there’s even more to think and laugh about."
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For the latest on CNNGo TV check out our blog, and our map guide to the locations and people that made up this month's program.

Shanghai’s favorite comedian Zhou Libo (周立波), or ‘Bobo’, is best known for drawing sell-out crowds to his live shows, delivering his act in Shanghainese, and lampooning just about everyone. His latest project -- “Zhou Libo: Hui Ci Dian” or “Zhou Libo’s Dictionary of Humour” -- is a lexicon containing hundreds of commonly used Shanghai slang terms, explained with Zhou’s funny flair.

I love my country. I make jokes about our leaders because I love them.— Zhou Libo

CNNGo: Why did you help write this Shanghainese dictionary?

Zhou Libo:
Shanghai is a big city with lots of cultures so it’s easy to lose your own. I hope that Shanghainese people, newcomers and people who are interested in Shanghai culture can use this dictionary to better understand our dialect and slang. From the thousands of Shanghainese slang, I picked about a hundred -- the funniest ones, of course.

CNNGo: Like what?

Zhou Libo:
"Fa dia" is a funny one because it was traditionally used to describe some women. But it has changed over time, and now it's an expression to describe a very old person who does something immature.

CNNGo: How do you feel about people calling you a “savior” of Shanghai culture?

Zhou Libo:
There are all kinds of different cultures building up Shanghai, and this city has become one of the best in the country. And because it’s the best, there are many misunderstandings about it in China. I want to say something true and good about what Shanghai really is. I’m just a supporter of Shanghai culture. I really love this city -- I’m so proud of being Shanghainese.

CNNGo: Like you, more and more performers across China are using local dialects in their acts. What do you think about this trend?

Zhou Libo:
I think it’s very good. One single flower blooming does not mean spring has arrived. When hundreds of different flowers grow in the garden, this is when spring has come.

CNNGo: Describe your favorite types of jokes.

Shanghai is a big city with lots of cultures so it’s easy to lose your own.— Zhou Libo

Zhou Libo:
Some comedians don’t care about what kind of jokes they tell because they only focus on their audience’s laughter. But humor and laughter are two different things. This is why I like meaningful jokes and playing with logic -- laughter is not my only trick.

I really like American-style comedy, especially when they play with words and double meaning. After the joke is delivered you have to think again about what’s being said and you realize there’s even more to think and laugh about.

CNNGo: Not too many people make fun of Chinese politicians. Why do you think they’re fair game?

Zhou Libo:
This is just my creative method. My comedic material always connects with current affairs to make it fresh; this way I won't run short of topics to play with. Also, in the past comedians would say good things about politicians, but now comedians are closer to people, their audiences.

I love my country. I make jokes about our leaders because I love them -- I’m very patriotic and I joke about them with good intentions.

CNNGo: Who is your favorite politician to impersonate?

Zhou Libo:
The politicians I grew up with as a child were strict. These days, our leaders are closer to people. Jiang Zemin is one of my favorites because he has a very strong personality. He can sing, play instruments, sing Russian songs, speak English and shows charisma. 
Zhou LiboZhou Libo’s tips on how to make a Shanghainese person laugh:
1. Observe. Watch for things that resonate with you, your friends and anyone else. Use these common feelings as the basis of your jokes.

2. Analyze. Make current affairs easy to understand, and make it interesting for any ordinary person.

3. Impersonate. Master the ability to impersonate others.

4. Language. Switch between Shanghai dialect and Mandarin well, and without any hesitation.