Jon Stewart's humor a hit with millions of envious Chinese

Mon May 20, 2013 2:40am EDT
 
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By Jane Lee

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Humor may not always translate well, but Jon Stewart is picking up millions of fans in China, where his gloves-off political satire is refreshing for many in a country where such criticism is a rarity - especially when directed at their own leaders.

A recent segment on North Korea scored over 4 million views on microblogger Sina Weibo, and even stodgy state broadcaster CCTV has used Stewart's "The Daily Show" in a report, though they wouldn't let a Chinese version of him near their cameras.

Recent popular sequences have included one in which Stewart lampooned the Chinese hackers who hacked into the New York Times computer system earlier this year, wondering if that was the best they could do.

But far from squelching Stewart, CCTV even used one of his sequences on Guantanamo Bay to criticize Obama in a regular broadcast - a move widely derided by netizens.

In China, however, such criticism tends not to be welcomed by the government. Dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who regularly criticizes the government for what he sees as its flouting of the rule of law and human rights, was detained for 81 days in 2011, sparking an international outcry.

"There's nothing like political satire here," said David Moses, who studies and writes about Chinese humor.

Though the exact timing of Stewart's entrance to China is unclear, many have been watching him for four or five years, mainly through the Internet and Weibo.

"Being a journalist, you have to find out the truth," said Mao Moyu, a Shanghai journalism student who got hooked on Stewart four years ago.   Continued...

 
Comedian Jon Stewart speaks during the "12-12-12" benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson