“Fat Brother” by Johan Pitkanen


I’ve been recently (mildly) obsessed with the controversy surrounding “Fat Brother“, the portly man that has been repeatedly spotted by Chinese netizens in the audience for the yearly CCTV Spring Festival Gala, always laughing, smiling, and clapping enthusiastically. I recall reading the article about him on chinaSMACK years back and decided to watch the opening to the CCTV Gala this year to see if I could spot him.

It didn’t take long.

Less than 30 minutes into the spectacle, there he was again, the cameras delivering the Big Guy to the viewing audience for yet another year.

I’m a musician (singer/songwriter) who also teaches English in Xi’an. I’ve been in China since 2006 and really have made it my second home.

So after spotting Fat Brother in the audience for 2015, I was inspired to create something which seems to have been missing: a song dedicated to the almighty “Fat Brother”.

It’s one of those awkward moments: “Was I actually inspired by this?”

From a morbid sociological curiosity to a songwriting reality, yes, I was.

Lyrics: (original English, with Chinese translation)

Fat Brother, who are you?
Fat Brother, tell the truth.
Fat Brother, it seems to me
Fat Brother, you’re a mystery.

The lights come on,
They take the stage
It’s New Year’s Eve
You take your place,

Fat brother.
Fat brother, what’s your name?
Fat brother, are you sane?
Fat brother, where’s your family?
Fat brother, you’re a mystery.

The lights come on,
They take the stage
It’s New Year’s Eve
You take your place,

2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Will you be there in 2016, Fat brother?

Tell me when to clap, tell me when to laugh

Tell me when to clap and laugh…

Fat brother

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  • mr.wiener

    Words fail me…

    • Edward Kay

      You’re lucky his clothes differs.

      • mr.wiener

        I see a green jacket with a purple shirt, and you?

        • Irvin

          It’s white and blue……….or maybe…..it’s gold and white.

          • mr.wiener

            Green and purple damnit!! What the f*ck is wrong with you!! If I ever meet you in person I’m gonna rip your throat out with my teeth!!!!!

            I came over all strange there for a bit…

          • Irvin

            We all have color allergies sometime. lol

          • Kai


    • Xia

      Looks like the songwriter is a 1984 fan.

    • mwal

      You’re obviously not the only one they failed.

  • NeverMind

    Reading between the lines here…

    “I’ve been obsessed. Portly man. Always laughing. Read about him years back. Decided to watch gala to spot him. I was inspired. Awkward moments. Morbid sociological curiosity.”

    In other words, in love with the fat brother? :D

    • Amused

      It’s an odd choice for a song topic, but I’m pretty sure Johan digs chicks man.

  • Cynic-Al

    I was also wondering if/when he’d show this year. Unlike you, I couldn’t sit through even 30 minutes of “The Gala.”

  • mwal


  • AbC

    I wonder what’s more sad… Obsessed with finding this portly man year after year, or actually watching the Spring Festival Gala from 2001 to 2015.
    Some call it dedication… I call that a fucking waste of time/life

    • Dolph Grunt

      I was in China for the New Year and we had the gala on. You could certainly see the trends of the last year in effect. A lot more focus on China, little to no mention of anything “foreign” and from what I saw, no foreign acts, although I didn’t watch the whole thing.

      However, the five minute segment on China’s new cult of personality hero, Xi Jinping was riveting. It inspired me to buy his book.

      • Zappa Frank

        I ve seen that five minutes segment of the new HERO too…. Gave me douchechills…

  • Lord_Helmet

    Don’t quit your day job teaching English to kindergartners.

    • Edward Kay

      The song and voice wasn’t so bad. Must be a Scorpions’ fan. The lyrics, well …..

  • mp

    This years gala was different. Very little negro dancing. There was more of that on the CCTV11 opera festival, which was depressing. Dong Qing must be preserved in plastic. I don’t recall Hu Jintao on previous shows, but Xi was there, looking calm, cool and collected. The skit against monkey business corruption was precious.

    • mr.wiener

      Just by the by. No one would say “negro dancing” in English. Race can be a sensitive issue, better to refer to the style of dance by its name .

      • Irvin

        lol what exactly is “negro dancing” though? was he refering to hip hop? krump? breaking? or traditional african dance?

  • Xia

    3… 2… 1. Initiate Chinese Internet manhunt search engine.

  • Gerhana

    its quite catchy I have to say, certainly more tolerable than kpoop/jpoop.

  • Markus P

    It adds a wheres waldo/wally element to the show. That extra bit of fun for those watching :)

  • donscarletti

    Youku video has 290 plays and 2 votes, probably all from Chinasmack.

    I thought this site was about translating things that are already popular, NOT to find an audience to some expat’s self expression.

    • Dolph Grunt

      The way Chinese news has reverted to it’s previous censored state, the only news you’re going to be reading is about billionaires giving away money, people shopping in foreign countries, and what kind of rice people buy. :)

    • Zappa Frank

      Censorship crack down China smack?

      • mr.wiener

        But I look so good in my shiny new jackboots!

    • hess

      The youtube version aint doing that well either

    • Kai

      We ocassionally post things that we subjectively find interesting enough to share with our audience. Those things are typically categorized as a “feature” instead of the usual categorizations of “stories, pictures, videos”, which are intended to give an idea of what format the trending Chinese internet content is (ex. a trending “story/text”, trending images, trending videos, etc.).

      Remember that chinaSMACK is about sharing Chinese internet phenomenon and culture, and the translation of what is “trending” is simply the methodology through which we generally do this. Fat Brother was something that has previously trended with Chinese netizens, and the Chinese internet played a large role in bringing his “infamy” to light for the general public.

      We were amused that one of our readers, acting upon something he learned through our work, sought to confirm an amusing phenomenon with the yearly Gala, which remains a big part of modern Chinese pop culture. We were amused he was so inspired as to use his passion and talents to create something out of it, similar to how we leveraged our passion and talents to create and maintain this website.

      Johan’s creation indeed isn’t something that is trending on the Chinese internet. Nonetheless, we think it is relevant to our subject-matter about Chinese internet phenomenon and culture. We didn’t think there was any harm, especially when we thought our categorization and Johan’s own introduction was sufficient to provide adequate context of what readers were about to see. We thought maybe some of our local Chinese readers might even be flattered and appreciative that there are indeed foreigners who are carefully learning what they can about Chinese internet culture and then producing potentially interesting creations about it that aren’t uniformly critical, judgemental, derogatory, or dismissive.

      This was a “foreigner”, an “outsider” to many of them, who was sharing their bemusement with Fat Brother.This was a guy who did a little something relevant to his life and interest in his second home, society, and culture.

      We support that, and we’re not above using the platform we’ve collectively built to ocassionally give some exposure to people or causes we support. Apologies for any misunderstanding and I hope you understand where we were coming from in sharing this with you all. Cheers.

      • mwal

        You don’t have to apologise or make excuses for having tried to do your job well; all the fault lies with the self-publicist.

        Too many native-English speakers in China get the idea that the country owes them its adoration. Such overinflated egos aren’t always easy to spot, but it never hurts to slap them down, once discovered.

        • Kai

          We didn’t see Johan as a “self-publicist” but merely someone who shared something he created with the expectation that it might be of relevant interest to us. I don’t think he spammed us or otherwise harassed us into giving him attention.

          As far as we’re concerned, he didn’t do anything terribly different from what we do maintaining this website by creating content or any of us do by posting public comments expressing ourselves.

          He didn’t give us the impression that he thinks China owes him adoration, and I wonder why you are so eager to read the worst into someone you don’t really know.

          Finally, it’s one thing to articulate reasonable and measured disagreement with another person’s expression, but it’s another to simply make unjustified accusations and personal attacks. Please review our comment policy.

          • mwal

            Well, if you’re willing to accept his smiling buddha act as if it isn’t an act of deception, carry on.

            But beware; his nasty, self-centred streak is too strong to be hidden by the poorly crafted words he uses.

      • ClausRasmussen

        It is ok with a feature now and then

  • Noyb

    singer/songwriter who just happens to teach English in China, huh? Man, your parents must be proud. Two tiers of fail.

  • mr.wiener

    Words fail me….temporarily.

  • Noyb

    Wow, happydust. I’m sorry to inform you that none of those medications exist. However, to continue your figurative line of thought, maybe you can also take your “Learn how to spell and construct coherent sentences ” pill. They’re in the pharmacy next to the “get a life”, “be realistic”, and “there’s no such thing as a soul” pills. You will likely need a prescription for the “stop using the word foreigner to describe people out of context” pill.

  • mwal

    He sounds like someone who can see quite clearly, to me.
    Why are you so vehemently defending such rubbish?

  • Good afternoon everyone,

    It has been interesting to observe the type of feedback/reactions the video has received.

    I was prepared for potentially negative feedback, and that’s ok. We can only be responsible for our own comments, and our communication, be it verbal or non-verbal, reveals to others a part of our character, or, at least, our online persona.

    In the past year, I have closed my Facebook and Twitter pages, and I’ve been reluctant to join many of the local social media fads like qq or WeChat / weixin. The irony of it all, is that once I passed the Youku link to one of my colleagues, it spread quite quickly on WeChat and received quite a few shares among a limited group of people; colleagues and friends.

    I’m content to have the song reach my intended audience and anything else, positive or negative, is outside of that spectrum.

    I have, and continue to, recommend chinaSMACK to 1-2-1 students who are of adult age as well as to my corporate students who are interested in practicing and improving their English independently.

    All of those to whom I’ve suggested the site, have found it to be useful and equally entertaining.

    This site has also served as a sort of ‘cultural bridge’ with not only my students, but with friends and colleagues in this country. They are often surprised that others take an interest in what’s going on inside the country and are aware of some of the controversial and ridiculous things that play out in the media. It has been an excellent tool to build a rapport with people and I’m quite grateful for that!

    Wishing you all a positive and constructive 2015!



    • Noyb

      Get a real job, stop writing terrible music, no more pseudoIntellectual posting, stop pretending anything you do in China matters. Seriously, it’s killing your father.

    • mwal

      So you’re saying that you didn’t write the original self-promotional posting, up at the top of the page? That someone else was promoting your nursery rhyme, not you?

      And if you want to say “I don’t teach kindergarten kids” then say it; don’t ramble on for half an hour about how wonderful one web-site or another is, just to insert “I don’t teach kindergarten kids” as hidden subtext.

      People don’t like being deceived, you know, and your methods are pretty primitive.

      • Hello mwal, nice to meet you. Thank you for taking an interest in me.

        Let me attempt a lighthearted reply to your alleged grievances.

        First of all – no, I’m not saying that. It was written by me. Perhaps that is something which you wanted to deduce, however, if it helps you in any way, I can settle that first point quickly.

        Secondly – I do, at times, teach kindergarten age kids, among many other age groups, but since they are so young and most don’t even properly speak Chinese yet, I found it counter-productive to direct them to this webpage. So, actually, the subtext to which you were referring, and also erroneously deduced, existed only in your imagination. It is rather clear what I said and my intentions for saying so. Perhaps you only could falsely recognize something as deceptive because you, yourself, have the habit of deceiving others? If I’m wrong about that, I sincerely apologize – I, too, could have deduced that in error.

        I hope the month of March finds you well.



        • mwal

          Bored with this, now.

          Go play your children’s games with someone else.

      • David

        Why are you so upset about this post? How is it hurting you? Every comment you have made is so harsh. Maybe try decaf.

        • mr.wiener

          Better than that, I want to see him do a better version of a “fat brother” song.
          @disqus_Rmewibayuo:disqus…I double dares you.

          • mwal

            I’ll give it ten seconds…

            Little orange bubble
            Sitting in chair
            Never causing trouble
            But you’re always there

            There’s a big difference between being creative and trying to con people into thinking you are.

          • mr.wiener

            I said “better” version didn’t I? …mind you the bar was set pretty low to begin with.

          • mwal

            Well, in ten seconds (maybe 20) I managed to insert a reference to the fact that he’s only ever seen for a short while and then disappears, and that he may be some kind of stooge — without actually directly saying any of that.

            And it also doesn’t read as if it were written by a seven-year-old.

            If you can’t see the difference between that and a nursery rhyme that someone took weeks or months to “compose”, then I won’t bother browsing through your bookshelf — there won’t be anything there that I’ll want to read (I assume you keep the pr0n in a less public location).

        • mwal

          When you see your people behaving badly, do you not feel shame?

  • Anonymous

    It was tolerable at first, but I cringed hard when you started counting up the years.

  • Good afternoon cS’ers,

    I would like to clarify, without any doubt, my above post/comment which relates to point 1 of my reply – to avoid any confusion for any other readers here.

    On Feb 26, a cS staff member replied to an email I had sent (sharing the song with them) on Feb 21, and, expressed an interest in posting the video as a feature. I was asked to do a little write-up which would be included with the post.

    When I wrote:

    “The irony of it all, is that once I passed the Youku link to one of my colleagues, it spread quite quickly on WeChat and received quite a few shares among a limited group of people; colleagues and friends.”

    I had just discussed de-activating my Facebook and Twitter accounts in the previous year. I also shared that I was not a WeChat or qq subscriber/user.

    I had created the Youku and YouTube videos on Feb 27 in the evening. (My wife and dog can confirm this testimony)

    After having completed the videos, I sent them to the chinaSMACK editorial staff.

    On Sat, the 28th, before the cS feature was published, I shared the Youku link with many of my Chinese colleagues and, throughout the morning and afternoon, many of them watched and shared the video.

    The irony I spoke of, was that even though I was not a fan or a user of popular social media portals, it was, via WeChat, that my song got primary exposure on Youku and was seen by friends and colleagues exclusively until 4pm when the feature was posted here.

    In the above post, I didn’t intimate that I did not write the introduction to this feature. I was not even, in fact, talking about the cS feature at the time.

    It would be reasonable for me to believe that the majority of the Youku views/hits (388 as of this afternoon) came from my colleagues, friends and their extended circles, however, I would be likely to believe that the majority of the YouTube views (872) came from the cS readership; and some from my and my wife’s Google+ circles.

    I am pleased that some of you have found my catharsis to be entertaining and enjoyable; maybe even slightly funny.

    Wishing you all a great day!



    • mr.wiener

      I want to see a picture of your dog to prove that you have one…In fact I want to see a picture of your dog wearing a pink tutu.

      I myself perform slam poetry..Usually I preface a poem with the words “I suffer for my art, and now it is your turn.”

      • If you have Alipay, I think we arrange a webcam showing. The pink tutu is being held in a forensics (furensics?) lab pending the verdict of an unsanctioned canine Angela Baby look-alike competition, but we’ve just bought her a stunning blue and gold frock on Taobao if that floats your boat? At least I think it’s blue and gold…

        • mr.wiener

          It’s white and black damnit!!

  • TheInconvenientRuth

    I tried to find this song in the Party Room KTV last night but I couldn’t find it….

    • In celebration of its 1000th YouTube hit today (and in good fun), Fat Brother: KTV Edition has been generated and uploaded.

      Now you, too, can annoy family, friends, co-workers – and complete strangers! :-)



  • Paul Shanahan

    I think the reason people are so upset by the post is because the lyrics are not remotely witty, they just read like something Liam Gallagher would write on the toilet before rejecting, utterly pointless.

    • Kai

      I think it’s fine to consider the lyrics subjectively unimpressive and even tactfully express that, but I do think it is poor form of some people to arguably cross over into shitting on the creator either because one is unamused, uninterested, or for some reason suspects the creator made this as some sort of publicity stunt.

      I think the internet word for this is “griefing”, which is slightly different from trolling. Offline, it can be likened to heckling.

      Feigned notions of such feedback being altruistic and for the creator’s own good aside, some guy spent some time (apparently an evening’s worth) composing some music and lyrics and edited together a short video about something that interested and amused him. He then shared it with the very people who originally introduced Fat Brother to him and with people around him (Chinese) who are likely to be familiar with the Gala and might be aware of and amused with the Fat Brother phenomenon.

      So what?

      Is this really damning evidence that the guy did this seeking internet or real-world fame? That he did all this with ulterior motives deserving of such censure and castigation? Is this worth the the presumptuous personal attacks and character assassintion that some have indulged in? What was the profit in doing so? Shouldn’t it strike us as at least a wee bit mean-spirited and bullying?

      To be extra clear, I’m not directing this squarely at you specifically, but at some of the comments and some of the commenters who are arguably guilty of this. I mean, the creator came on here and handled the hate and griefing with good humor, and still some people double-down going JK Simmons continuing to shit on him, as if they won’t let him go until he cries and begs for forgiveness or something.

      Yeah yeah, I get that there will always be critics and haters, and that anyone who dares to create instead of just consume should make their peace with it, but I think something should still be said with the hope that it’ll help us put things in a dare-I-say healthier perspective.

      My takeaway: Damn, this guy is still a plant in the audience at the Gala? Heh, yet another foreigner is aware of it and finds it just as bemusing as the Chinese. Holy shit, cS mission accomplished.

  • Hi there George,

    I’m sure you don’t sound like a dick. No worries, man.

    The song is a ‘joke’. I don’t think that everyone really gets that?

    Also, i do really believe that your heart is in the right place when you offer personal guidance, but let’s be frank together: Do you really know me from a hole in the wall? Have you asked me any questions in order to have further evidence as to how I’m happy with my life progressing or what ambitions I do or don’t have?

    TV production, I’m sure, is a hoot. I do have a background in broadcasting. At the risk of opening myself up to further pinata’ing from those under the bridge, I started a career in broadcasting at the age of 15 in Canada. I worked my way up to having my own morning show, and, after 12 years, I voluntarily left the business.

    I could equally suggest to you to ‘leave that evil business’ and not to ‘lose your soul being a sock puppet of the marketing industry’ – but, I have absolutely no right to do that.

    I have no idea what doesn’t make you happy or what does. I will say, though, that I do wish you and everyone else here to find a good level of contentment in their lives – actually discover what makes them content – and then run with it, because not everybody does…

    I’m quite content with the life I’ve created for myself. You couldn’t possibly imagine.

    I wish the same for you.



  • Dan

    Haters gonna hate.

    • I’d just like to add my 2 cents to this comments section. Johan and I are old friends (although we haven’t seen each other for many years) and I can tell you from personal experience that he has a unique sense of humour and a different set of eyes than most people. He no doubt finds Fat Brother fascinating and that in turn inspired him to create the song. Johan has been expressing himself like that for as long as I’ve known him. When I read some of these comments calling him out on his ‘self-promotion’, it just added to the surreal nature of the posting.
      Anyway, I thought the song and the character of Fat Brother were both entertaining / interesting. It’s like the first inescapable truth of teaching, eh YoYo? You can’t make everyone happy all of the time. Shine on you crazy diamond!
      Plus, I kind of agree with the dude who mentioned the Scorpions vibe…

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