Chinese Comic Who Compared Military to Dogs Discovers True Meaning of Canceled
Chinese comic Li Haoshi, who performs as ‘House,’ just pulled off what American comedians do all the time — he stepped in it on social media. His offense? House compared a military slogan used by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the behavior of his adopted dogs. Er, bad idea.
Let’s start with the joke. House described the behavior of two stray dogs he adopted as “having a good work style, being able to fight and win battles,” which happens to be the motto Mr. Xi adopted for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). A clip of the joke went viral on Weibo, a sort of Chinese Twitter. It’s one video that Li Haoshi probably wishes stayed under the radar.
Despite laughter and applause in the clip, many social media users were not amused. Most sided with the army, which in China, seems like a good idea. The PLA took to its official WeChat account to condemn the comedy, calling it “provocative and insulting.”
“The PLA soldiers have a very tolerant attitude toward diverse cultures,” said the post, “but we cannot stand for this stupid joke.”
Li quickly backtracked in a statement of his own: “I am deeply ashamed for using a very inappropriate metaphor during my performance. I take full responsibility and will stop all shows to reflect on my actions.”
While it was considerate of House to stop all shows, it turns out he didn’t have a choice. Shanghai Xiaoguo Culture Media Co, the “comedy troupe” that employed Li, was slapped with a 14.7m yuan fine for the joke, which Chinese authorities say “humiliated the people’s army.” (That’s more than two million dollars for those of you who don't have a conversion calculator handy.) Shanghai Xiaoguo immediately gave House the ax.
But that might only be the start of House’s cancelation. Beijing authorities are still investigating the comic. Shanghai Xiaoguo operations in the Chinese capital have been shut down indefinitely. And after House apologized on Weibo, his account was also yoinked.
The weird thing: Chinese comics are having a moment. CNN reports that “a new genre of talk shows featuring quick-witted stand-up comedians pitting themselves against one another in televised contests” have become a huge hit, with breakout stars like House moving on to live tours. But this comedy comes with a caveat — the jokesters work from preapproved scripts that cover only non-political topics. While some point out he didn't seem to be trying to insult soldiers, House took a huge risk by even referencing the PLA — and who knows how long he’ll pay the price? Last year, a journalist who called Chinese soldiers portrayed in a movie about the Korean war “stupid” got seven months in prison.
Please, nobody tell Joe Rogan, who is afraid our own culture wars will create an environment in which “straight white men are not allowed to talk.” If trending on Twitter after an anti-vax rant freaks him out, House’s dilemma is going to blow his freaking mind.