Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Taiwan’s Howard Stern comes out of hiding

May 6, 2009

Working-class folk who grew up with ad hoc, grab-a-mike-and-sing entertainment at theliang temple entrances and sultry night markets of industrial southern Taiwan found a hero in a local guy with an odd-shaped haircut and a gift for comedy skits about sex. Chu Ge Liang went on to become a home video sensation before cable TV, cheering up the haggard south by speaking the region’s animated  dialect and taking swipes at more mainstream Taiwan performers who would talk the official, but less intimate, Mandarin Chinese and weren’t very funny.

Like American radio “shock jock” Howard Stern, he would invite women to his shows – at their own risk. A run of films followed. The 62-year-old star’s real name is Hsieh Hsin-ta, but he is best known as “Chu Ge Liang,” which roughly  translates to he’s horny.

“Southern Taiwan identifies with him. He belongs to their community. His style is theirs,” says George Hou, a mass communications lecturer at I-Shou University in Kaohsiung, the south’s major city.

But about 12 years ago, Chu Ge Liang vanished. A lust for gambling – also a hallmark of working-class Taiwan – led to massive debts with some of the island’s shadier syndicates, widespread local media reports say. So he hid.

Meanwhile, cable TV took shape in Taiwan, capturing viewers across the island with movies, laugh-along shows and 24-hour news. Slowly the memories of Chu Ge Liang began to fade.

Then in February Chu Ge Liang turned up on home turf, still lying low but thinking about how he could reclaim the media spotlight. He was quoted in reports saying he had wanted to resurface, even holding a news conference, but lacked the courage to do it. But more recently, the  comeback comedian has made colorful headlines almost daily. Since May 1, he began appearing on outdoor banner ads for the Taiwan consumer electronics chain Tsann Kuen. “Our GM noticed he was back and thought that if Chu Ge Liang can re-emerge, then it’s a good reminder for Taiwan that there’s always hope,” said company publicist Shanon Hsieh.

For the unintiated, below are some links to comedy skits featuring Chu Ge Liang:

And here is one news clip on his re-emergence:



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