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Slaves to humor

Updated: 2016-09-12 07:34
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

A lot of Chinese movies would portray masters as symbols of tough love and their wives as gentle and kind. In not a single case has there been sexual abuse from the master. But the Peking Opera school in the classic film Farewell to My Concubine was deemed by Western critics as "worse than the orphanage in a Dickens novel".

Cao did not view himself as an apprentice who sold himself into servitude, partly because he paid tuition to Guo. He stayed in Guo's home, doing household chores for three years. But he said he had no complaints. His frictions with his master began when the latter dictated career choices that he deemed unfavorable for his growth.

For example, when Cao was given a 18-minute solo by CCTV, seen by many as a rare chance for a breakthrough, he was ordered by Guo to quit, who was not on friendly terms with the all-powerful television station back then.

Guo may call his comedy school/club Deyun Society, but it is by all means a business. When he himself was down and out, it was easy for his employees to accept little or no pay. After all, whatever percentage of earnings one gets from zero is still zero. But when he started to rake in big bucks, his feudal style of income distribution would soon run into the wall.

As his master-apprentice system does not leave room for a mutually respecting form of employee departure, it is only natural that the most talented ones would not stay with him for long.

Guo is just like one of those business founders who take it very personally when lieutenants or underlings he trusts find greener pastures. They did not threaten his survival because, unlike similar situations in high tech, the market for comedy is big enough to accommodate dozens of such organizations and hundreds of such entertainers.

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