First Taiwanese to perform U.S.-style stand-up in national arts center

TAIPEI (CNA) – A Taiwanese standup comedian launching the first Taiwanese comedy inspired by U.S. late-night talk show hosts will become the first of his kind invited by Taiwan’s national performing arts center to stage a comedy show in mid-March.

Brian Tseng (曾博恩) will be the first Taiwanese comedian to perform an American-style stand-up routine in Taiwan’s National Theater and Concert Hall (NTCH) March 16-17 as part of the 2019 Taiwan International Festival of Arts, according to the NTCH website.

Different from Xiangsheng – also known as Chinese crosstalk, which usually includes two performers talking back and forth – Tseng’s stand-up is a one-man show speaking directly to the audience based on a monologue of humorous stories and jokes.

The 28-year-old Tseng is the host of “The Night Night Show with Brian Tseng.” It is Taiwan’s first-ever political satire show inspired by the late-night talk shows that originated in America, structured around humorous monologues about daily news, guest interviews and music performances.

In August 2018, Tseng said in the first episode of his talk show that he aims at raising political awareness.

The show has since gained more than 340,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel and has interviewed prominent political figures, including Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).

Tseng told CNA that his original career plan was to stay in academia after studying brain science and integrative biology in the United Kingdom and France.

However, when he was about to apply for a Ph.D. program in Taiwan, he worked as a producer of “Taiwan Bar,” known for its informative and entertaining video lessons on Taiwanese history and culture, and started to perform at open mic nights at a comedy club in Taipei.

As a stand-up comedian, Tseng had quite a bumpy ride. “In the beginning, people told me that I sounded like a foreigner and was not funny at all. When I failed to deliver jokes well in the first two minutes of a performance, it usually ended up ugly.” Tseng’s popularity began to grow rapidly thanks to a video of his performance mocking the use of pointless abbreviations among young people.

The video, hitting 1.7 million views on YouTube, made him think about walking away from his planned academic career and focusing on the production of entertaining programs and channels online.

Although Tseng became famous as a YouTuber, he does not like the embedded advertising prevailing over online videos. “Embedded advertising does not look after the quality of a video but only cares about its exposure rate. In this way, companies regard Internet celebrities as disposable,” Tseng said.

“I am not interested in making money and would like to position myself as an artist or originator,” Tseng said. “With this attitude, it is unlikely that I can run a profitable business, but I find a sense of achievement simply by making people laugh.”

By Sabine Cheng and Chi Jo-yao