Quyi is a general term which includes all kinds of talking and singing arts. It originated from ancient people's oral performances, daily talking and singing. Originally, it referred to a kind of storytelling where body language was used to express feelings and reflect situations at that time.
Today, there are still about 300 types of quyi being performed in China; comic dialogue, dagu, kuaiban, errenzhuan, tanci and shuanghuang included, with comic dialogue being the most popular.
Chinese comic dialogue is an art of creating laughter with the dialogue as the main form of performance. It evolved from ancient folk jokes. The modern comic dialogues came into existence in Beijing and Tianjin a century ago.
A comic dialogue performance normally includes talking, imitating, teasing and singing. The jokes are skillfully arranged in "packages", or "baofu" in Chinese. It's a phrase used by comic dialogue performers which means packing jokes like goods. When the time is right, performers will reveal their "carefully wrapped package", unexpectedly but appropriately.
Most of the content from comic dialogue comes from our daily life. There are also some jokes originating from ancient folk, historical figures, events and word games. The stage props are quite simple with only a table, a fan or a handkerchief. Base on the number of performers, comic dialogue can be divided into three categories; monologue comic dialogue, witty comic dialogue or group comic dialogue. The most common is witty dialogue which is usually performed by two, one responsible for asking straight questions and the other responsible for giving funny answers.
The best-known performers are Ma Sanli, Hou Baolin, Ma Ji, and Jiang Kun. Comic dialogue has been a national art popular among both highbrows and lowbrows with the efforts of performers continuing to be second to none after many generations of this tradition.