Tickle Your Funny Bone with Chinese Style Comedy

HSK 3 quiz
In America, when you think of stand-up comedy, you might think of a comedian spouting anecdotal stories and off the wall jokes on stage alone.

While in China, the popular comedy styles include a type of comedic dialogue called “crosstalk” as well as witty skits which both are hilarious and clever forms of entertainment.

Crosstalk first appeared in 1983 during the annual Spring Festival Gala and has continued to gain popularity ever since. It features 2 comedians instead of one who exchange banter about a topic which either ends in a punchline or a ridiculous situation made to amuse the audience. Let’s take a deeper look into the world of Chinese comedy and learn associate words and phrases along the way.

Key Words

脱口秀 (Tuōkǒuxiù) Talk show

相声 (Xiàngsheng) Crosstalk; comic cross-talk; Chinese comic dialogue

小品 (Xiǎopǐn) Normally refers to a witty skit or short funny play or piece of writing

Incredible Technique for Improving Your Chinese Tones and Pronunciation


Nǐ kàn le zuótiān de tuōkǒuxiù le ma?
Did you see the talk show last night?

Xiǎo Míng zuìjìn duì xiàngsheng hěn gǎn xìngqù.
Xiao Ming is very interested in crosstalk recently.

Tāmen zài chūnwǎn biǎoyǎn le yígè yōumò xiǎopǐn.
They performed a skit in the Spring Festival Gala.

If you are still not sure what “相声 (xiàngsheng)” crosstalk entails it is a talk between comics also known as Chinese comic dialogue.

Crosstalk is an artistic performance that makes the audience laugh with jokes or funny questions and answers, rap, and so on. It is often used to satirize, and now it is also used to praise new things. It is made up of four skills – “说 (shuō) speaking”, “学 (xué) imitating”, “逗 (dòu) teasing” and “唱 (chàng) singing”. There are usually three forms of performance: “单口 (dānkǒu) single stand-up comedy, “对口 (duìkǒu) pair cross-talk” and “群口 (qúnkǒu) group cross-talk.”

Please watch one popular Chinese crosstalk
On the other hand, “小品 (xiǎopǐn)” short sketch normally refers to a witty act or short funny play or piece of writing. Sketches are typically short performances which depict unscripted characters. While skits are well-rehearsed. In China, the most representative is a comedy sketch or skit. For the purpose of simplicity, we can use the words interchangeably as most people do for “小品 (xiǎopǐn)”.

Please watch one popular skit of Chinese Spring Festival Gala.
If a TV drama is a portrayal of social life then the witty skit is a piece of comedy or a “哈哈镜 (hāhājìng) distorting mirror“. It is characterized by adopting funny acts and exaggerated language to reflect something. If dramas are a direct reflection of people through plot and character dialogue in order to give people insight about culture then the witty skit’s purpose is to activate one’s senses through imaginative acting to make people delighted with laughter.

Similarities and differences:

So what are the main differences between crosstalk and skits? Generally, crosstalk has the same humorous and funny characteristics as the witty skit but crosstalk emphasis speaking overacting. Crosstalk usually doesn’t use props or even disguises while the witty skit is full of rich content and a variety of props. It is like a simple TV show or movie which is focused on acting.
Now that you know more about “相声 (xiàngsheng) crosstalk” and “小品 (xiǎopǐn) sketches” take the quiz!

HSK 3 quiz
1. Read the dialogue and answer the question below.

Xiǎo Xīn: Lì Li, nǐ xǐhuan kàn tuōkǒuxiù ma?

Lì Li: Bǐ qǐ tuōkǒuxiù, wǒ gèng xǐhuan kàn xiǎopǐn.

You May Also Want to Know About “绕口令 (Ràokǒulìng) Tongue Twister (Beginner)”

Which of the following is true according to the dialogue? Please choose the best answer.
A. Xiao Xin prefers a talk show to a witty skit.
B. Li Li prefers a talk show to a witty skit.
C. Xiao Xin prefers a witty skit to a talk show.
D. Li Li prefers a witty skit to a talk show.

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