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My Weekender is a weekly column written by changing authors selected from the Shanghai community. According to the various tastes, interests and backgrounds of its authors, My Weekender serves as a window into what residents in the city are doing with their time off.

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[My Weekender] with Butch Bradley

Jul 27, 2012

Butch Bradley is an American stand-up comedian who's in Mainland China for the first time this weekend for three shows with Kungfu Komedy. He's appeared on a string of big-name comedy programs in the US, he's a regular on Comedy Central and for the next two nights he'll be at Malone's on Tongren Lu.

The first thing my mother said to me when I told her I was going to Shanghai was: "I have eaten there before. The food is great." I said, “Mom, I'm going to Shanghai, China, for stand-up comedy… not the restaurant down the street.”

Her reply was very American: "Oh well, be safe and don't get kidnapped."

As a traveling comedian, it’s funny all the "be safe" advice fellow Americans offer me. The only time I feel in danger of being robbed or mugged is in my home state of New Jersey. And if someone is reading this and thinking about kidnapping me, I'm a terrible choice. I'm carrying a Visa debit card with a maximum draw amount of 444rmb, so there’s not much to shake out.

My weekend started on Thursday night, as I dumped my bags at the Renaissance in Suzhou and jumped on stage at Goodfellas in Li Gong Di. After visiting Hong Kong for years this was my first gig in mainland China. Sometimes I think I’ve seen it all, but as I write this I realize I had nooooo idea what to expect. Packed to the rafters with Chinese guys killing themselves laughing? Definitely.

Friday I zipped around on trains back to the Kerry Hotel in Shanghai. My South-East Asian tour is coming to an end with two big shows, Friday and Saturday, at Malone’s. I’ll be hitting the mic with Kung Fu Komedy who have been carving out a comedy scene here for the last couple of years. I’m told this tour will be a big step forward for the local stand-up scene.

On Saturday, my buddy Jami Gong from Takeout Comedy in Hong Kong will be running a stand-up class for first-timers at Masse, kicking off at 1pm. I’ll be in the back sipping piña coladas. The class is free and Jami really knows comedy. Get there, funny people.

I’ll be following up with an advanced class for comics based in Shanghai, also at Masse, starting at 3pm. One of the things I really enjoy about hitting new cities is plugging in with the local scene and finding out who’s doing what kind of comedy and seeing what sort of talent is kicking around.

Then it's back to Malone's to prep for the final show on Saturday night. People have asked me what it’s like doing stand-up outside the US and if I have to change my style and the answer is, not really. Sure, some cultural references need to be tweaked and, being from the East Coast, I need… to… slow… down… how I speak a bit. But, at the heart of it, everyone likes to laugh at the same crazy shit.

The only real fear I have of coming to China is that I have to fly. It’s 18 hours in a plane, which, for me, is very frightening. That's a great deal of faith in human technology. On the way over here I was searched three times at the airport and had to remove my shoes twice. When you’re searched three times you start to wonder "maybe I have something in there?" Then your mind switches to: "You know what, I don't even want those bags anymore.”

Sometimes I listen to the engine of the airplane and try to guess if it’s a good engine or a bad engine. But there's nothing worse than when you hear something you don't recognize. A noise that doesn't sound like it’s helpful to keeping you in the air.

It seems whenever my anxiety is almost at a peak the pilot tells us how high we’re flying. "We are flying at 36,000 feet." What???? Bring it down, show off! Or at least lie to me so I feel better.

"Correction, we are flying at six feet." Good. If something happens at this height at least I can jump and roll.

I read the safety manual to help prevent myself from passing out. It said there was a life jacket under my seat. What? A life jacket? Well that would be real handy if we were in a boat. Every time I see a plane crash there is always an ocean full of people laughing and splashing. "Marco?" "Polo!"

And what is the oxygen for? Oxygen? Who was the evil genius who thought as we were diving towards the face of the earth we wanted to be awake. If something happens in this plane, do me a favor and knock me out. Pump some nitrous in here and send me out laughing. Forget Disney Land, now that would be a ride.
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