Few would disagree that Tat Man-sai is one of the most memorable characters in Stephen Chow’s movies. Appearing in the Hong Kong director’s 1994 comedy thriller From Beijing With Love, Tat is an unorthodox scientist with a knack for creating absurd contraptions. His inventions include a solar-powered torch and a shoe that doubles as a hair dryer.
Reminiscent of Tat, an inventor called Geng Shuai has become a huge sensation in China – even gaining the attention of the Washington Post.
Who is he?
Dubbed the “Useless Edison”, Geng grew up working at his family’s pump factory, working in all kinds of odd jobs before landing his current gig inventing things that seem to deliver more entertainment value than practical benefit.
Tired of life in big cities, the 30 year-old Hebei native and father of two went back to his hometown of Baoding last year to work as a welder making handicrafts. He subsequently posted a video online showing him making an iron grasshopper out of a pipe wrench. The video drew over a million viewers. “I was so encouraged that I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt that I was going to hit the big time,” Geng recalled.
Since then he has started a full-time career broadcasting his “creative” moments. His inventions include cellphone cases designed to look like meat cleavers, an earthquake-proof bowl for noodles (it swings in its stand during vibrations) and a hammer-cum-bag that can be used for lashing out at pickpockets.
Why else is Geng in the news?
Geng posts his videos on Kuaishou, a Tencent-backed livestreaming platform, where he has garnered over 2.2 million followers. Demand for his quirky creations has surged to a point where Geng says he needs a break before accepting new orders. While sales of his product line – the first was a slingshot made of nuts – generate a few thousand yuan each month, the bulk of his income now comes from gratuities made by his fans after watching him at work (see WiC401 for more on the “tipping” culture in China’s livestreaming world). Busy as a beaver, Geng told Newrank, a news portal, that he did not have time to file for patents for his work but that he is in discussions about endorsing other firm’s products.
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