No laughing matter

Comedy series triggers share price spike, despite failing to spark with viewers


House: moved the market, not so much with his humour but with his stock selection

Over the years, the reality competition Rock and Roast, which is exclusive to Tencent Video, has launched the careers of a few famous stand-ups, including Dongbei comedienne Li Xueqin, one of the breakout stars in the third season, which aired in 2020.

Yang Li, another female contestant on the show, also attracted a loyal following with routines that focused on poking fun at men.

How the show works is that the contestants – in the current season, the fifth in the franchise, there are 53 of them – each perform a 5-minute routine, which is ranked by the celebrity judges. Competitors with the most votes enter the final round to become the ultimate champion.

The latest season has lost a few of its fans, however, as the most poorly rated series to date. On Douban, the TV and film review site, Rock and Roast 5 scores just 5 out of 10. But much of the blame is being apportioned to the selection of judges, not the comedians themselves.

The show has tapped actress Zhou Xun and singer Na Ying to join the judging panel, for instance. The camera zooms in on their reactions and they are asked to tap their buzzers to show approval of the performances. As a result, China News Weekly says, it is important for them to grasp the punch lines properly during the routines and buzz at the right times (after all, the secret to comedy is timing, as much as anything else).

But Zhou and Na seem to have paid little attention to their job specs prior to taking on roles in the show. “Na Ying only shows interest when the comedians talk about parenting or topics relating to parenthood. When it comes to other topics, she shows minimal interest. Zhou Xun, meanwhile, just smiles politely the whole time. In other words, she seems emotionally checked out. When she has to critique their performances, she can’t even string a sentence together. Li Dan [the main host of the show] has to help her out,” China News Weekly complained.

Fans of the show largely agreed. “I really like the two ‘sisters’ (Zhou and Na) but they are not suited for stand-up comedy shows,” one wrote. “It is obvious that Zhou’s understanding of stand-up is limited. In fact, her interest in comedy is probably less than the average fan. Whether it was her reaction to the sets or just her critiques, they just don’t seem right.”

Despite the poor word-of-mouth for the series, there have been a few noteworthy jokes this season. And at least one of the routines has had far-reaching consequences, after a contestant called House shared a story about his first experiences of stock trading in a recent episode.

In his spiel House talked about buying a company share that quickly went up in value. The increase in price boosted his confidence as an investor, he said. “I was certain that the gain wasn’t just a fluke and that every day from here on out, I would only make more money than the previous day, with an annualised rate of return of 46,000%,” he joked in remarks that were met with a ripple of laughter from the audience.

Soon, however, the stock had started freefalling and the comic said he lost six months of his savings in a single day. In total, he ended up down nearly Rmb100,000 on his investment, which he identified briefly by the stock code 600759.

The following morning, #600759# emerged unexpectedly as one of the highest trending topics on Weibo. The company concerned, Geo-Jade Petroleum, also jumped straight to No. 1 position in the hot stocks under discussion on various financial platforms like Xueqiu and EastMoney.

Netizens joked that it had inadvertently become the first ‘comedy-show concept stock’, promising to pay close attention to the company’s shares when the market opened for the next day of trading. House sounded a little concerned, however, putting out a statement reminding his fans to be sensible in their investment behaviour.

“The intent of creating this content is to bring happiness to people. Neither myself nor my family currently own the stock and have no plans to do so. There are risks in the stock market so investors should be careful about their investment decisions. Please be rational,” he begged.

Yet despite the clarification, the stock rose sharply on Tuesday, the first trading day after the three-day holiday, at one stage jumping more than the daily price limit, with trading halted as a result.

“The price trend was abnormal this morning and Shanghai Stock Exchange has taken self-regulatory measures,” the exchange announced.

The company, which focuses on oil and gas exploration, also spoke out, saying there had been no major change in its operations and reminding investors to pay attention to risks. Beijing Youth Daily went further, describing Geo-Jade Petroleum as “a problem stock” and noting that the company had a record of outstanding debt worth more than Rmb1 billion.

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