Be­tween the laughs, an education about Iran

TV pre­sen­ter gives a dif­fer­ent take on the world, re­ports Yan Dongjie.

China Daily (Canada) - - EXPATS -

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@ chi­


Ira­nian Arash Esti­laf ap­pears on a TV pro­gram in China. He hopes to dis­pel many mis­un­der­stand­ings about his coun­try.

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