Chinese Cross Talk

Definition: Cross Talk is a comic dialogue, characterized by two actors, humorously talking back and forth; the contents of this performance always include jokes and funny dialogues to amuse the audience.
History: This form originated in Beijing. The original cross talk was not like today’s performances; it was more like a vocal mimicry. This show became popular and has evolved gradually the Qing Dynasty. Now monologue comic talk has replaced vocal mimicry and also developed into the modern form of cross talk.
Types of cross talk
The general principle distinguishing different types of cross talk is the number of performers involved.
  • Monologue comic talk only involves one performer on the stage. Jokes and speeches are the main styles.
  • Comic cross talk engages two performers to communicate with each other. One is the comic who delivers the lines that make the audiences laugh while the other one plays a supportive role to carry on the dialogue. Recognize the genre? It is similar to vaudeville or slap-stick comedy in the Western theatrical tradition; bringing to mind performers like Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello.
  • Group cross talk refers to a performance with more than two people involved. This is usually a dialogue among the actors, presented more or less as a depiction of the Beijing people’s leisure activities.
These acts are narrated and performed in the heavy Beijing dialect. There are also Cross Talk performances spoken in different local dialects, particularly in northern China.
Good cross talk performers develop an expressive speaking technique with animated body language and fine singing skills. The performance forms include joking, exaggeration of facts and demonstration of kindness and beauty through satirical medium.
Four basic skills
A successful cross talk artist will be a skilled raconteur, a mimic of personalities, dialects and characters, an excellent comedian and a fine singer.
Famous performers
  • Hou Baolin is a master of the cross talk art. He devoted himself to developing the modern cross talk and has earned a reputation as a language master. In his 60 years of performances he has achieved fame, entertained millions and has raised cross talk performance to a recognized art form.
  • Ma Sanli is a humorous artist. He likes to talk in the first person and plays the main role in the stories as well as making himself a target for his own satire. The wit, variety and creativity in his style make him an influential and much-loved performer with his audiences.
  • Modern performers: With the influence of television, cross talk has increased in popularity as more and more people devote themselves to this art. The modern performers are numerous and varied in their personal styles. In the South of China, Cross Talk is also developing rapidly during this year and some elites have emerged.

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