Between the laughs, an education about Iran
TV presenter gives a different take on the world, reports Yan Dongjie.
Arash Estilaf, an Iranian actor and TV presenter in China, hopes that through his small-screen work Chinese get a bigger picture of his homeland.
Estilaf, 27, from Teheran, has become a big name in China in recent years thanks to humor.
Better known by his Chinese name, Hua Bobo, he is one of 12 international presenters of Informal Talks, an entertainment show on Hubei TV that covers current affairs and culture.
Before President Xi Jinping began a visit to Iran on Jan 22, the country had been much discussed in the Chinese media. Many misunderstandings about the country persist, Estilaf said, and he hopes he can help dispel many of these.
“The Iran Chinese know is the one they get through the media, and it is a very incomplete picture.”
The accurate picture is of a country that is “secure, enthusiastic, beautiful and independent”, he said.
Before he started working for Informal Talks in late 2014, he appeared on The Funniest Home Video, broadcast on International Channel Shanghai and Dragon TV’s Comedy Star.
He has also played in TV dramas, as an American doctor in Hot Mom! in 2014 and as a lawyer in Silent Separation last year.
“He’s the joy of people,” said Mohamed Osama, an Egyptian, who is another Informal Talks presenter. “He’s always making people laugh, and I know he enjoys it.”
Estilaf ’s pet refrain, ai ya ma ya, (Holy cow!) which he utters with goofy facial expressions and body movements, gets plenty of laughs from his audience.
This kind of humor makes Estilaf one of the program’s favorite presenters, said Wang Ziting, who works on Informal Talks.
Estilaf, with his family, moved to Shanghai in 2006 and began studying Chinese at East China Normal University. He was a contestant in the first Chinese Bridge language competition for foreign students in 2008, and he finished in the top 10.
In 2010 he enrolled in the Shanghai Theatre Academy in a master’s degree course in broadcasting and presenting, something he has now completed. He is now studying for a doctorate at the academy.
Estilaf said his father, a merchant, had expected that his son would follow him into that field of work.
Estilaf ’s TV career gained strong momentum when he appeared in Comedy Star, a series that scouts for and promotes amateur comedians. His depiction of how Indians and Koreans and people in Shanghai and Guangdong province react when their children fail exams was particularly well received, and one of the judges, Song Dandan, a Chinese comedian, was in stitches throughout.
Estilaf said the working lives of Chinese people are highly stressful, and with his humor he aims to bring light relief.
“After they knock off and get home and turn on the TV there’s a need to relax, and I’m proud I can help in that regard.”
Although millions of Chinese appreciate his humor and his proficiency in Chinese, he is not short of detractors.
“I get more than 30,000 likes and more than 10,000 comments when I post a picture on Instagram,” he said.
For every highly critical comment he gets 99 positive ones, he said, and he simply ignores the negative ones.
“It’s enough for me to see myself improving day by day.”
Estilaf now has enough TV work to keep him busy and is happy his fans in China appreciate learning about Iran from him and that Iranians are learning about China through the show online.
After they (Chinese) knock off and get home and turn on the TV there’s a need to relax, and I’m proud I can help in that regard.”
Iranian actor and TV presenter in China
Contatct the writer at yandongjie@ chinadaily.com.cn
Iranian Arash Estilaf appears on a TV program in China. He hopes to dispel many misunderstandings about his country.