Dan Chen headshot

University of Richmond Professor Receives Grant Support to Study Political and Cultural Power of Standup Comedy in China

Grant News

Funding Supported Political Science Professor Dan Chen’s Research Trip to China

September 20, 2023

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND ─ With support from the American Political Science Association’s Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs, University of Richmond political science professor Dan Chen spent the summer studying the political and cultural power of standup comedy in China.

Chen’s research examines the degree to which standup comedy moves beyond entertainment to influence public opinion about key social and political issues among Chinese audiences.

“Over the past few decades, standup comedy has emerged as a powerful and complex form of creative expression in China,” Chen said. “Party-state controls much of public discourse in China, but popular demand for transgressive content like standup comedy continues to grow.”

Chen visited Shanghai, Beijing, and other cities to observe comedy performances while also exploring the culture and operations of comedy clubs. She interviewed comedians, audience members, club managers, and investors to understand the shifting landscape of producing, marketing, and consuming standup comedy in China.

This research project is the first step in launching Chen’s next research program, which will use popular culture as a prism to understand grassroots dynamics of authoritarian rule. Chen’s travel and research is serving as the foundation for a book-length manuscript, which she aims to complete in late 2024.