Jon Stewart is a hugely successful comic. “Well, of course,” you say. “Everybody loves Jon Stewart.” You’re right! but I’m talking about China.
The Daily Show host has millions of fans in China, where his political satire style is a breath of fresh air for many in the country where state-moderated media is the norm and such cultural humor is a rarity.
A Stewart-led segment on North Korea went viral on the microblog Sina Weibo, mopping up 4 million views, and even the state’s CCTV has used Daily Show segments in its reporting, even though a Chinese Jon Stewart would never be allowed in the country.
A big part of Stewart’s popularity in China is apparently his appeal to our Eastern friends with a penchant for Western culture. A big part of it is also the satire element, which according to David Moses, who studies and writes about Chinese humor, does not exist in China.
The closest they get in China are coded references and puns, which alter official pronouncements.
“That’s just shooting a finger at the government. But this is full-fledged jokes and routines about North Korea or about China and trade … It’s just what they wish they could do here,” Moses said.
Millions of Chinese love the idea of satire so much that they’ve even moved beyond Stewart recently. Though he’s still unquestionably top-dog in China, some say that they prefer rival Stephen Colbert, though there’s some suggestion that the humor isn’t the main reason.
“I think I like Stephen Colbert’s pronunciation more because it’s much clearer for me,” said Shanghai student Peng Cheng.”
Here’s a segment of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, talking about his big ratings in China: