"President Chen Shui-bian" (陳水扁) begs a pop star to write him cheerful songs to reverse his sagging approval ratings. Meanwhile a feminist "Vice President Annette Lu" (呂秀蓮) launches a campaign to purge sexist Chinese writing characters.
Welcome to the world of The Big Pressure Cooker (全民大悶鍋), a hugely popular satirical televion show incorporating a cheeky blend of comedy sketches, rap music and unflattering mimicry of politicians.
The show, broadcast five nights a week, reflects the nation's transformation into one of Asia's freest societies.
As late as the mid-1990s, the nation's conservative establishment would have dismissed spoofing local bigwigs as culturally inappropriate.
And the show also lampoons Chinese leaders -- though gently, with Chinese officials providing effective if authoritarian solutions to Taiwan's social headaches.
One figure parodied on the show is Zhang Mingqing (張銘清), China's spokesman on Taiwanese affairs, who is played by comedian Tai Chih-yuan (邰智源).
In one sketch, "Zhang" urges Taiwanese officials, perplexed by problems such as an unruly media, "to learn from the motherland."
"If our media don't follow orders, we don't shut them down," the "official" says. "We have them shot."
The show also targets US President George W. Bush, with a character playing the US leader frequently referring to Chen as "little brother."
He then proceeds to scold him for not being subservient enough to the US power.
Though the show's audience is mostly domestic, it also reaches China, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore.
Pressure Cooker producer Wang Wei-chung (王偉忠) says the show's success comes from turning politicians into objects of fun, rather than preaching partisan doctrines.
"We make the politicians look clownish," he said. "But we don't demonize them."
Endless political feuds leave many depressed, said one of the show's scriptwriters, Hsieh Nien-chu (謝念祖).
"We get the viewers to laugh their hearts out, and the politicians can't help but go along with it," he said.
The show has no shortage of material to draw on.
In one of the show's recent sketches, comedian Tang Chung-sheng (唐從聖) appeared as an effusive President Chen lookalike, revealing his insecurities to guests -- including pop icon Jay Chou (周杰倫), played by another actor -- in a corner of the presidential offices.
The "pop star" looked on bemusedly as Tang, sporting Chen's trademark perpetual smile, asked him: "Will you write me a song to help prop up my plunging popularity?"
In another recent satirical sketch wig-wearing male actor Hsu Chieh-hui (
She soon fastened onto the character for "concubine," which includes the radical for "woman."
With the flick of a pen, she replaced "woman" with "man."
Wang said that when he began his television career in the 1980s, censors kept satire far more moderate than Pressure Cooker off TV.
But now, he said, censors wouldn't dare be so intrusive.
"For thousands of years, Chinese have treated their leaders as saints, [and officials] have required that works of art serve political purposes," he said. "We've come a long way."
Filmmaker Khan Lee (李崗) -- brother of Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (李安) -- agrees with Wang's assessment.
"With its fast pace, explosive subjects and major events, the Pressure Cooker show epitomizes Taiwanese culture," he said.
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