Kung Fu Komedy Club started in Shanghai back in 2010 and now it tours all over China to cities like Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing. Last weekend it held the grand opening of its new venue at 1 Xiangyang Bei Lu near Julu Lu, so Shanghaiist has decided it’s time to catch-up with the Laoban – Andy Curtain. He’s a comic himself and you can hear his podcasts on the Kung Fu Komedy Club website or read his daily jokes on Twitter.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Tell us something about yourself. How did Kung Fu Komedy begin?
My pleasure! KFK was born one dark night after a clown got drunk and made passionate love with an English teacher and VOILA! Expat comedy. It was originally just a one-night thing. There was no local standup scene at the time so a bunch of us got together and put on a comedy night at the old Beedees on Dagu Lu. The place somehow packed out and we just kept doing it. The event gods were good to us in the early days.
Why did you choose to come to Shanghai and how’s your experience of doing standup here?
A passion for spring rolls and a burning desire to get the hell outta Dodge. I graduated and had the prescient sense of now or never. Little did I know China would be an absolute gold mine of comedic experiences. If we’d known any better, we might have assumed there is little common ground among the extremely culturally diverse audience. By a stroke of luck, both locals and foreigners connected with the expat experience perspective and that was a great launching pad for comedy.
Tell us about the recent changes you’ve been having at KFK.
There’s lots going on in the comedy world at the moment. We’ve just opened our own venue, the first dedicated comedy club in mainland China. We’re also about to announce the first ever stand-up comedy festival to be held next year.
So how does it feel like finally having your own place?
Incredible. It feels like we’ve been living under a bridge for 12 months, trying to keep ourselves warm using a torn up newspaper with the headline “Comedy Has Uncertain Future” strewn across the front. There was always a lot of extra stress having a bar partner because you have two businesses with occasionally competing interests trying to survive. The new club has been designed with the singular goal of making shows even better.
On your podcast series ‘Stuck in the Middle’, you play a game called “Anti Social Media” where you pull apart news stories that give a negative slant on China. What do you think has been the biggest story we’ve seen this year?
Haha, we screwed ASM up a bit. The first headline we brought up was the motivation for the game, and despite our low score it was probably the most egregious we’ve seen. The New York Post published the article “Explosion leaves China in ‘post apocalyptic’ state”. Joe and I were both blown away by the visual imagery created. There’s such a pervasive negative position on China in western media, the whole thing is ripe for the comedy picking.
KFK now goes on tour to other 1st tier cities outside of Shanghai, what do you see in the future for standup comedy in the People’s Republic of China?
We’re actually performing in 15 different cities around China with some level of frequency and comedy is slowly establishing itself in more and more cities. The English scene is never going to take the country by storm simply because of the language barrier, whereas I think there are big things in store for the guys performing in Mandarin.
You’ve also been doing Chinese open mics at KFK. How has that been coming along?
Awesome. It’s so exciting watching the open mics and that whole scene come together. There are some huge talents brewing. Last weekend we had Dashan perform at the club; it’s a really cool time to be involved.
What can we expect this weekend at KFK?
Some of the best KFK has to offer: it’s our second weekend and the first of our montly internationally touring headliners to land in the new club: Glenn Wool, Canadian powerhouse and favorite of the UK festival scene. As always we’ll have opening sets by Shanghai’s best local acts. We’re doing three shows: Saturday 8pm show is already sold out, but tickets still on sale for Saturday 10pm late show, and Friday 8:30pm. These great acts plus the lingering energy and excitement of having just opened should make for another fantastic weekend!
Where: 4/F, 1 Xiangyang Bei Lu, near Julu Lu // 襄阳北路1号4楼, 近巨鹿路
When: Wednesday to Sunday every week.
by Daniel Cunningham // photos by Rasmus Daniel Taun & Alessio Avezzano