Red Star

Li Xueqin

A popular stand-up comedian from Dongbei

Li-Xueqin-w

Who is she?

Born in Tieling, a coal-mining city in Liaoning province, comedian Li Xueqin, 25, did not have a happy childhood. Her parents divorced when she was young and Li was raised mainly by her mother. She worked hard so she would make her mother proud. She later went on to study at Peking University, one of the top academic institutions in the country, where she majored in journalism and communications.

College life was not smooth sailing. Her boyfriend dumped her and Li fell into a depression. She applied to study abroad and was accepted on New York University’s graduate programme. While she was there, Li felt homesick. Struggling with depression once again, Li returned home the following year.

In 2018, Li, with no real career prospects, started dabbling in comedy. She posted several short videos on Douyin in which she pretended to introduce famous landmarks to her idols, which included pop icon Kris Wu and basketball star Guo Ailun. Her videos proved popular, which motivated Li to create more comedy content on short video platforms. Her life changed when her idol Wu, amused by her videos, posted one of himself responding to her in the Dongbei dialect (from northeast China), which Li uses frequently in her routines.

Why is she in the news?

The comedian recently appeared in the third season of Rock and Roast, a talent competition for stand-up comedy that airs weekly on Tencent Video. In each episode, contestants perform their own stand-up routines. Afterwards, they are ranked by the celebrity judges and a live audience. The comedians with the most votes from the whole season go into a final round where a champion is declared.

With no stand-up experience, Li lost to another male comedian in the first round. Li Dan, one of the most famous Chinese stand-up comics and a judge on the show, used his one ‘save’ and brought her back. Since then, she has been virtually unstoppable. Last week, the comic became one of the two women to make it to the finals (she landed in fifth place).

After appearing on the show, which has been viewed over 1.2 billion times, her fan base has grown tremendously. Luo Yonghao, the smartphone entrepreneur-turned-livestreamer (see WiC490) and also a guest on the show, even went so far as to say that Li Dan’s biggest contribution this season was giving Li a second chance.

Joking about herself

Part of Li’s appeal is her regional Dongbei accent and dialect, both of which are often considered funny by Chinese from other parts of the country. However, fans also like her ability to make fun of herself and her appearance. One of her riffs on the competition went: “It is difficult for me to find someone. I always thought it was because I am not pretty enough. I asked a male friend of mine. He said, no, once we reach a certain age, looks don’t matter. I thought, that’s good news, now it’s going to be my turn? So, I asked him, do you want to date me? He replied, well, I don’t mean it like that…”

She also made fun of her alma mater’s admissions policy: “People ask me all the time, did you really go to Beida [Peking University]? I say yes. They go, but how do people like you get into Beida? I say, if I was any more normal; if I looked any prettier, I wouldn’t get in.”

“Li Xueqin’s popularity is by no means an accident. It is the accumulation of knowledge and her own life experience. Perhaps when a person is unlucky enough, her life almost becomes a joke. But how many people have the courage to embrace their own vulnerability and turn it into comedy?” observed Tencent Entertainment.


© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Exclusively sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.