Irish-American Bishop learns Chinese to break down comedy walls

Thu Aug 14, 2014 10:22am EDT
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By Philip O'Connor

(Reuters) - An Irish-American stand-up comedian has dramatically increased the size of his potential audience by learning to perform his act in Mandarin Chinese.

Des Bishop, 38, left his home in Dublin and moved to China in 2013 for a year to immerse himself in the language spoken by almost 15 percent of the world's population.

The result is "Made in China," a stand-up show in English that Bishop is currently performing to packed houses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, where he says he can now enjoy "democracy, milk and sarcasm".

Bishop told Reuters that his interest in China came from "a childhood obsession with kung fu movies".

"The people are hospitable and great fun, and I thought this would be a great format to tell the story of modern China to the world," he said in a telephone interview from Edinburgh.

He dedicated himself full-time for a year to studying the language and spoke as little English as possible. His biggest problem was the tonal pronunciation, especially when he began performing.

"In conversation you can repeat yourself, but onstage you have one chance and then the joke is gone," Bishop said.

It took 8-1/2 months to get to the first gig, but since then he has performed extensively in Mandarin.    Continued...