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Cross-talk artist helps to spread the word

By Mu Qian  (China Daily)

11:10, April 20, 2013

Cross-talk performer Guo Degang signs his name at the launch ceremony of Deyun Co's first overseas branch, in Melbourne, on Monday. [Provided to China Daily]

"Melbourne is our first foreign market, and I feel the city's environment and strong Chinese community makes it an ideal place for our first overseas branch," Guo said.

It is also the first overseas city in which Guo and his Deyun Co performed, in 2010. The group returned in 2011 and will perform in the city again in September.

Cross-talk is a type of traditional Chinese stand-up comedy accented with puns and slangs.

"I believe the opening of Deyun Co's Melbourne branch will be recorded in the history of cross-talk," Guo said. "For overseas Chinese people, to hear cross-talk from home is surely a pleasure."

Guo said the Melbourne branch will comprise not only a theater where members of the troupe will give regular shows, but will also engage in hospitality, clothing, training and cross-talk research.

Initially, the performers will mainly come from China, but Guo hopes that in two to three years, locally trained performers will take the lead.

"When I toured the world, I often met overseas Chinese willing to study cross-talk," he said. "I believe many of them will become good cross-talk performers."

Although the Melbourne branch's target audience will be Chinese living in Australia, Guo expects Chinese-speaking foreign audiences to grow in the future.

Daniel Andrews, the Australian Labor Party state leader in Victoria, attended the news conference in Melbourne and congratulated Guo on the founding of the new branch. Last year, Andrews visited Beijing and toured the Forbidden City, accompanied by Guo.

After Melbourne, Guo plans to form a Deyun Co branch in Sydney before setting up branches in Southeast Asia.

In September, he will lead Deyun Co on an Australian tour for the third time, making his debut in some cities, including Adelaide and Perth. He also plans to tour the United States and a number of European countries this year.

"The basic structures of the works we perform in different countries are the same, but of course we will also create some jokes that fit into local environments," he says. "We do that even when we perform in different theaters in Beijing."

Tickets for Guo's US tour last year ranged from $68 to $398. The best tickets for his Australian shows in 2011 cost A$498 ($515). Nearly all his overseas shows sold out in advance.

Born in 1973 in Tianjin, Guo didn't complete secondary school, but has become the most successful cross-talk performer in China in the past decade.

He owns five theaters in Beijing where his contracted artists perform, and his micro blog has more than 36 million followers.

He ranks 32nd on the 2012 Forbes China Celebrities Chart, with an estimated income of 27.1 million yuan ($4.39 million) last year.

"When I started to perform cross-talk, I didn't expect to make money," he said. "I will feel at home in any circumstances."

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