“I don’t want to be a famous man,” Liang Xiaozhi, comedian, producer and owner of Wit Moment, said after finally sitting down for a moment. That calm wouldn’t last long.
Since we arrived at Liang Xiaozhi’s office in Yunhe (Canal) Creative Park, the part-time comedian, toy maker and film producer had been bursting with energy as he showed us all kinds of toys and books with a rare, youthful enthusiasm.
His toy company, Wit Moment, has figurines and toys spread here and there across the office space. These, however, pale in comparison to his living—and continuously growing—collection of countless action figures, games and vintage toys.
“I still love collecting the things that I remember from my childhood,” he told us while we were examining a mask for which he paid several hundred Hong Kong dollars. Growing up with few friends, his imagination was stirred through the connection to comics and cartoons. It has had a profound effect on his life.
“Of course not! I am a very normal person,” he returned. Glancing around the room, I had conflicted thoughts, but he was one of the most energized 40-year-olds I had ever met.
After graduating with a degree in film production from Shenzhen University, he joined a massive film project that worked to create Thru the Moebius Strip. After years of effort and nearly 200 million RMB investment, the movie ended in disappointment, unable to live up to lofty expectations.
“The failure of this movie caused a slowdown in the Chinese movie industry because other companies watched our movie lose money and they didn’t want to do the same. Only now, after so many more theaters have opened, is the industry is finally growing,” he explained. At the time of release in 2006, box office totals in China were hovering around 2 billion RMB per year. Today, that number has grown to over 40 billion.
Though disappointing, the colossal failure ended up changing his life in a big way: bringing him stand-up comedy.
“I got into comedy after I was already working on other movies. We worked continuously for five years with 300-400 people to produce this one, 90-minute movie and the production barely made any money. On the other hand, a very famous stand-up comedian in Hong Kong made a 90-minute show by himself and earned the same amount of money for one month of work. It was easy to jump into it because I already liked telling jokes.”
For inspiration on stage, he collects humorous anecdotes from the oddities of everyday life.
“I often use one story when I start show. In 2008, my idol, Hong Kong comedian, Wang Tze Wah, came to Guangzhou to perform. The production company invited three people to open the show and warm up the crowd, and I was extremely excited because they chose me as one of the three. The show started and the first person came up and no one laughed. Then, the second person came up and tried his hardest, but again, no one laughed. When it was finally my turn to perform, I was ready to go up. Then, the host suddenly announced, ‘okay, now, everyone please welcome Wang Ze Wah to the stage!’” he recounted, amused.
As a reserved person myself, I often wonder how people can just go up on stage and tell jokes for fun. I asked him if comedians are strange people.
“Of course not! I am a very normal person,” he returned. Glancing around the room, I had conflicted thoughts, but he was one of the most energized 40-year-olds I had ever met. Maybe, it’s me who’s the weird one.
Previously, he had picked up some additional repute since he often told jokes purely in Dongguanese. This tactic both isolated outsiders, but reinforced his appeal for local fans.
“At my shows, whenever I use the Dongguan dialect, people usually love it. I feel like it’s me hitting the g-spot of the audience during the entire show,” he commented, beaming proudly.
These days, he rarely has time for stand-up, but instead, spends most of his effort working on writing and producing TV shows and movies. I asked about his favorite productions.
“For anyone trying to get into stand-up comedy, I recommend five movies: The King of Comedy, Annie Hall, Funny People, Man on the Moon and Sleepwalk with Me.” He offered to take me to a club to do some stand-up. I thought about it, but suggested that I better just enjoy the show.
“Maybe before—when I was young—I would have liked to be famous, but now, I appreciate the simple life. I just want to express what I want to say, and then disappear.”