In a move that's sure to make all the communist-wanna-be governments in the West drool, communist China fined comedian Li Haoshi and his comedy troupe, Xiaoguo Culture Media Co., 14.7 million yuan ($2.1 million) for one joke.
I'll repeat that because I'm having a hard time believing it myself: $2.1 million for one joke.
You might be tempted to think it was a real zinger, like
I started a list of the top 11 things I don't like.
But I made the mistake of using Roman numerals.
As soon as I wrote Xi, I was arrested.
But it was nothing like that.
It was a joke about the comics' two dogs chasing a squirrel.
"Other dogs you see would make you think they are adorable. These two dogs only reminded me of... 'Fight to win, forge exemplary conduct'."
"Fight to win, forge exemplary conduct" is the slogan of the People's Liberation Army, and while most people in the audience laughed, someone was offended (someone is always offended).
In the U.S., those people make TikTok videos.
In China, they call the police.
An investigation showed that Li and Xiaoguo had changed the script that they had showed the comedy regulators, slipping in the squirrel joke.
Needless to say, the government moved in and shut down the whole comedy troupe. Then they fined them the exorbitant fee, which I'd venture a guess that they will be unable to pay.
"We will never allow any company or individual use the Chinese capital as a stage to wantonly slander the glorious image of the PLA [People's Liberation Army]," said the Beijing arm of China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism Bureau.
Xiaoguo's official website showed that all of their performances had been canceled and Mr Li's cast profile page has been removed.
Mr Li has recanted being mildly funny, saying,
"I feel deeply shamed and regretful. I will take responsibility, stop all activities, deeply reflect, learn again."
We know this statement was made completely without coercion because Mr Li deleted all his accounts and went away somewhere for quiet reflection on how he needs to take life more seriously.