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Letter from Lhasa: Laughing along at a Tibetan stand-up comedy show
update:February 26,2024

Nyanzin Drakpa's team record a promotion video in Lhasa, southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, Feb. 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Tenzin Nyida)
Feb. 26, 2024 -- I recently watched a Tibetan stand-up comedy show in Lhasa, the capital of southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region. Although I didn't understand the language, the infectious laughter of the audience was a joy to witness.
Stand-up comedies have become a popular form of entertainment in China in recent years, with comedians from web shows becoming household names. However, I had never heard of a Tibetan stand-up comedy before. So when a Tibetan colleague of mine, who is also a good friend, mentioned attending such an event, my curiosity drove me to join him.
The simple stage was similar to what I had seen at small theaters in other cities. It featured only a red curtain adorned with a logo and a microphone on a stand. The logo displayed the name of the performing team in both Tibetan and English -- Shwow.
When the show began, a man in his 20s took the stage. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but I was amazed by his marvelous stage presence. He talked confidently, interacted with the audience and threw out punchlines one after another, with the audience bursting into laughter.

Nyanzin Drakpa performs in Lhasa, southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, Feb. 4, 2024. (Xinhua/Tenzin Nyida)
Seeing my puzzled face, my colleague interpreted for me what the comedian said and I could get the essence of the jokes. Despite the language differences, the performance was on par with any others in other cities of China.
I was told that most of his sets are based on his life experiences and those of the people around him, so I assume he must be a very keen observer.
With the journalist bug stirring within us, my friend and I hurried backstage as soon as the show ended, where I met the lead performer -- Nyanzin Drakpa.
Perhaps due to our similar ages, I found it easy to communicate with the 22-year-old, who is currently a student at a university in Beijing.
Inspired by his father Dorje Drakpa, a renowned crosstalk comedian in Xizang, he aspired to carry on the comedian profession, setting up a team for stand-up comedies to attract young people.
Following in his father's footsteps, Nyanzin Drakpa practiced his art at home and in hotels, even in the shower, and memorized lines and scripts while on the go.

Nyanzin Drakpa (R) and a team member check scripts in Lhasa, southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, Feb. 4, 2024. (Xinhua/Tenzin Nyida)
His notebook is filled with Tibetan texts containing hilarious jokes collected from daily life. He frequently refers to the notebook and discusses punchlines with his teammates to ensure precise delivery.
"Some of our content is linked to the Tibetan culture, so telling them in Tibetan will make it easier for the audience to resonate," he told me.

Audiences laugh during a Tibetan language stand-up comedy show in Lhasa, southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, Feb. 4, 2024. (Xinhua/Tenzin Nyida)
Some 30 comedians have performed as part of the Shwow team, with the revenue of each show exceeding 30,000 yuan (about 4,222 U.S. dollars) during the holiday of the Tibetan New Year.
Nyanzin Drakpa told me he plans to become a full-time stand-up comedian after graduation. He said that Tibetan stand-up comedy is currently rare, but its growing popularity suggests an emerging market, inevitably leading to future competition.

Nyanzin Drakpa interacts with audiences during his show in Lhasa, southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, Feb. 4, 2024. (Xinhua/Tenzin Nyida)
In Xizang, the study and use of the Tibetan language and script are guaranteed by law. The Tibetan language is widely used in fields such as health, postal services, communications, transport, finance, and science and technology. Courses in both Tibetan and Mandarin are taught in primary and secondary schools in the region.
In addition to Tibetan operas, Guozhuang dances and traditional music, Tibetan stand-up comedy was another captivating art form I have experienced in Xizang.
I believe that with more and more young faces like Nyanzin Drakpa joining in, various forms of Tibetan art will become increasingly diverse and vibrant, and continue to flourish in this region.

By: Liu Zhoupeng
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