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David Wertime

Chinese Talk Show Host to Conan O'Brien: It's Your Move Punk

As Americans like to say, turnabout is fair play. On the February 27th showing of the late show “Conan” (here with Chinese subtitles), Conan O’Brien called out Chinese host Da Peng of “Da Peng’s Chatter” for “ripping off” his show’s opening sequence. “To make matters worse,” the host complained, “[Da Peng's show] is a really weird show.” Conan then ran selected footage from Da Peng’s show that made the claims of plagiarism and weirdness both hard to refute. 

O’Brien then struck back. “For years now, China’s been ripping off America with cheap knockoffs. Let’s see how you like it!” The show then pasted colorful if completely nonsensical Chinese character graphics while Conan prodded, “Stings, doesn’t it?” He then led the uproarious crowd in a chant of “USA! USA! USA!” 

Not surprisingly, Da Peng and his crew were watching. His latest show (available here with a Tea Leaf Nation original English translation) begins with only the words “opening sequence” set on a black screen. Looking subdued, Da Peng begins, “Welcome to viewers of our local rip-off talk show. I am Da Peng without an opening sequence. Sorry, I’ve embarrassed the Chinese people.” It quickly becomes clear, however, that Da Peng is not too broken up about it. “My first girlfriend just sent me a text message saying she regrets dumping me back in the day, because she saw me in an American TV program…Aiya, I’m ‘International’!” 

To Da Peng, turnabout to turnabout is also fair play. He goes on the offensive, but not without the requisite niceties up front. First, he apologizes profusely, repeating his “deep apologies” and promising never to run the offending opening sequence again. He then invokes a classic saying that is both an olive branch, and a cudgel: “If you don’t come to blows, then you don’t truly know each other.” 

Realizing that “here I’m in a dialogue with an international superstar,” Da Peng takes full advantage of his larger stage. “You say we are a ‘weird show.’ Pardon me for being presumptuous, but I cannot agree. … You describe us that way because you don’t understand Chinese.” Da Peng then gives an on-air tutorial on how to pronounce the full name of his show, Da Peng De Ba De (one which seems confusing even to many Chinese celebrities). 

Da Peng argues that the United States has gotten exactly what it wanted. “For many years, you Americans have tried to push your culture and values onto the entire world. In one respect you’re probably very happy; ‘All of the hundreds of millions of netizens in China all watch our programs.’ .. In another respect you’re always saying, ‘Oh bulls**t,’ this is a knockoff.” Da Peng then goes for the kill: “You see in this respect, we are a bit kinder. China buys so much of your debt, [but] in this program we’ve never made fun of the fact that you owe money everywhere.”  

The sequence ends in more lighthearted fashion. Characters pop up all over the screen as Da Peng boasts, “you see that?” He then calls all of his extras up onto the stage, and dares Conan to find enough people to imitate the scene. He finishes the seven and a half minute sequence by saying, “Brother Conan, it appears that you pay a lot of attention to China. Brother Conan, welcome to China!” He then leads the crowd in a chant of “China! China! China!”

Was Da Peng’s response just the right way to bridge the culture gap, or a bridge too far? So far, most netizens seem unimpressed by the response. Commenting via Sohu Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, @简见-卢瑟星人 complained that Da Peng’s apology was “obviously insincere,” to which @月冷星沉 added, “brazen.” @路人甲的甲人 asked, “You’re notorious, and you’re happy about it?” @辉姑娘S added, “I really don’t like this host’s character.” But Da Peng had his defenders; @下一站pipiending praised him for “admitting [he] made a mistake, [but] with an attitude that was neither haughty nor humble.” 

Meanwhile, commenting on the same platform one day earlier, netizens either found Conan’s bit hilarious, or were ashamed at Da Peng’s plagiarism.  @保佑KLKP wrote, “I laughed until my stomach hurt.” @突破 representing many commenters, wrote, “I’m so embarrassed that I’m dizzy.” Many commenters agreed that it was “awkward” or a “loss of face” that Da Peng had, ahem, borrowed so heavily from Conan’s oeuvre. 

With preliminary reaction giving Conan the game and perhaps the match, will the exchange end there? Your move, Conan. I mean, 下一步由你,柯南。 

 

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
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  • http://www.ryan-mclaughlin.com/ Ryan

    Kudos to Da Peng. I think it was well delivered. These are talk show hosts and comedies after all, I don’t think the bar of international peace brokering should be set too high. :)

    • Chris

      Ryan, I agree with you inasmuch as these are comedy
      shows, so their aim is to help us laugh at often “un-funny” matters.
      Yet, I also understand why most Chinese don’t find Da Peng’s response anything
      to crow about.

       

      The nonsense about debt is an obvious deflection
      and grows tiresome as a fallback in any discussion about China and the U.S.
      (China didn’t buy American debt as a gesture of charity or solidarity with the
      U.S., they bought it for their own political and commercial reasons, and if it
      turns out to be a bad purchase, they only have themselves to blame). 

       

      The thing that is maddening to me is this is just another example of
      Chinese trying to rationalize or talk their way out of a pervasive habit of
      copying rather than creating as evidenced by the cult hero status afforded
      shanzhai. I am not taking the high road here, and disagreeing with IP-pillaging
      on principle. I believe this approach, and the fact that perpetrators can
      “get away with it” creates a major barrier to Chinese innovation.

  • http://www.ryan-mclaughlin.com/ Ryan

    Kudos to Da Peng. I think it was well delivered. These are talk show hosts and comedies after all, I don’t think the bar of international peace brokering should be set too high. :)

    • Chris

      Ryan, I agree with you inasmuch as these are comedy
      shows, so their aim is to help us laugh at often “un-funny” matters.
      Yet, I also understand why most Chinese don’t find Da Peng’s response anything
      to crow about.

       

      The nonsense about debt is an obvious deflection
      and grows tiresome as a fallback in any discussion about China and the U.S.
      (China didn’t buy American debt as a gesture of charity or solidarity with the
      U.S., they bought it for their own political and commercial reasons, and if it
      turns out to be a bad purchase, they only have themselves to blame). 

       

      The thing that is maddening to me is this is just another example of
      Chinese trying to rationalize or talk their way out of a pervasive habit of
      copying rather than creating as evidenced by the cult hero status afforded
      shanzhai. I am not taking the high road here, and disagreeing with IP-pillaging
      on principle. I believe this approach, and the fact that perpetrators can
      “get away with it” creates a major barrier to Chinese innovation.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EURFUDD6HZ6GUA7JTE73FLTDJA Lucifer

    This kind of slapstick humor was originally ripped off from Taiwan anyway. Chinese culture does not promote creativeness or innovation, just copying….I feel sad for them as a society.

    • Anarchy

      First of all, screw this Da Peng show, Conan FTW. Second, if you are referring to the “character jumps” on screens trick then I might say it was originally from Japan, coz they been doing this since like early 90s or something.

      • Vitahu113

        A large amount of characters in Japanese I might say they were originally form China, coz Chinese been using them since 2000 years ago. So, screw all the Japanese?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EURFUDD6HZ6GUA7JTE73FLTDJA Lucifer

    This kind of slapstick humor was originally ripped off from Taiwan anyway. Chinese culture does not promote creativeness or innovation, just copying….I feel sad for them as a society.

    • Anarchy

      First of all, screw this Da Peng show, Conan FTW. Second, if you are referring to the “character jumps” on screens trick then I might say it was originally from Japan, coz they been doing this since like early 90s or something.

      • Vitahu113

        A large amount of characters in Japanese I might say they were originally form China, coz Chinese been using them since 2000 years ago. So, screw all the Japanese?

  • http://www.monster-island.net/ kushibo

    Conan got Pengked. 

  • http://www.monster-island.net/ kushibo

    Conan got Pengked. 

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  • Jaycasey

    Conan and Da Peng should become friendly rivals.  As long as they don’t get too serious I think this is great fun.  I thought Da Peng’s copying Conan’s opening was more flattery than ripoff.  It’s not like they will ever compete with each other.

  • Jaycasey

    Conan and Da Peng should become friendly rivals.  As long as they don’t get too serious I think this is great fun.  I thought Da Peng’s copying Conan’s opening was more flattery than ripoff.  It’s not like they will ever compete with each other.

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  • Ashley

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34eP2GQDd5k&feature=g-u&context=G2121fdeFUAAAAAAAAAA

    I think Conan won this round. He not only didn’t try to “go there” in terms of the jabs, but openly offered DaPeng a brand new opening sequence. Da Peng’s reference to his ex-girlfriend and his internationalism for being called out on just seems like a cheap shot.

    • tealeafnation

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Ashley.   We love Conan’s ‘you don’t have to say you’re sorry dance’.   It’s great to see both comedians acting so big about this.  

  • Ashley

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34eP2GQDd5k&feature=g-u&context=G2121fdeFUAAAAAAAAAA

    I think Conan won this round. He not only didn’t try to “go there” in terms of the jabs, but openly offered DaPeng a brand new opening sequence. Da Peng’s reference to his ex-girlfriend and his internationalism for being called out on just seems like a cheap shot.

    • tealeafnation

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Ashley.   We love Conan’s ‘you don’t have to say you’re sorry dance’.   It’s great to see both comedians acting so big about this.  

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  • AaronPeachtreePhillips

    I wonder if da peng and fans are aware of the irony of the “weird” accusation – that being that conan’s shows have always been considered very weird, even by fans.

  • AaronPeachtreePhillips

    I wonder if da peng and fans are aware of the irony of the “weird” accusation – that being that conan’s shows have always been considered very weird, even by fans.

  • GlobalVillager

    That Da Peng needs to bring America’s debt to straighten up his face in the altercation  is just embarrassing. It is about Conan’s show and his show – not American ans China politics – and it is sad he can’t come with anything better than ‘Americans are evil and bankrupt’ slogan. But hey, what ingenuity can you expect from someone who can’t even make a 10-second opening sequence? A master warrior can attack with more than just one kind of swing.

  • GlobalVillager

    That Da Peng needs to bring America’s debt to straighten up his face in the altercation  is just embarrassing. It is about Conan’s show and his show – not American ans China politics – and it is sad he can’t come with anything better than ‘Americans are evil and bankrupt’ slogan. But hey, what ingenuity can you expect from someone who can’t even make a 10-second opening sequence? A master warrior can attack with more than just one kind of swing.

  • Qwerty

    Can’t we all just get along.

  • Qwerty

    Can’t we all just get along.