China’s most famous foreigner is Canadian multihyphenate Mark Rowswell, known to hundreds of millions of people in the world’s most populous nation as Dashan, and beloved for his mastering of the wildly popular xiangsheng (crosstalk) comedy style.
Walking down the street with Dashan is an experience, with everyone stopping to wave or shout from their cars. So popular is he that a large percentage of China’s English speakers learned the lingo from Dashan, who has been working in the Chinese media for more than 20 years.
A highlight for the performer this year was CCTV’s 2009 New Year’s Gala, the most-watched annual TV event in the world, where he won kudos for his sketch with xiangsheng legend Ma Ji.
Another phase of his career is about to begin. He’s been appointed Canada’s Commissioner General to Expo 2010 in Shanghai. He’s also the face of a Ford marketing campaign aimed at Chinese Canadian consumers.
“My career has always been quite eclectic, so in that sense change is normal. It’s very hard for me to predict what kind of opportunities will come up in the future, and I try to keep open and flexible,” he says.
Most of his TV work is with CCTV, and while he also works on regional channels, he says the huge reach of the giant state broadcaster means the regional pubcasters are only supplemental to his CCTV work.