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Jesse Appell: I am a different kind of Laowai

Because of his Laowai Style, a viral parody video of Gangnam style (in case you missed it, which I highly doubt, check out his video on Youku and Youtube), Jesse Appell, the young Fulbright Scholar is now a quasi-star in China. When I went to interview him right in the middle of Beijing’s week-long “haze crisis”, I had this impression of a big loud American boy in my head, as per his video. But instead, I got a nice surprise.

Dressed as the Laowai in Laowai style waiting to go on stage of a New Year Celebration program at BTV. Photo: Courtesy of Jesse

Jesse moved to his new apartment just outside the second ring road in central Beijing only a couple of days before our meeting. It is a typical apartment building in a typical modern-day Beijing neighborhood. As soon as I turn the corner on his floor, I see him waiting to greet me outside the security door of his one-room apartment. That is very Chinese, I think to myself as I shake his hand.

The room is nice and clean, albeit a little cold. “The electricity has gone out. Sorry.” Jesse says apologetically. “The apartment looked nothing like this when I first moved in. I replaced all the furniture. Now I am in the middle of putting up the wallpapers.” I look, and see that above the half-finished wallpaper, there is a painting of a black cat with a pink tiara and the words “my little girl” written above it. “I have to cover that up.” Jesse grimaces.

  Jesse poses for a photo after our interview. See that cute little cat on the wall? Photo:

The story of Jesse Appell, an American learning Chinese Xiangsheng (相声) in Beijing, coming up... Get ready to rumble!

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