Cui Yongyuan (崔永元, born February 20, 1963) is a Chinese television host and producer. He is known for his affable and natural sense of humour, pioneering a brand of relaxed and unscripted presentation style that marked a departure from the rigid and staid nature of many Chinese talk shows.
Cui rose to fame hosting the show Tell It Like It Is on China Central Television from 1996 to 2002. After a battle with depression, Cui returned to CCTV to host Talk with Xiaocui. From 2012 to 2013 Cui hosted the show Thank the Heavens and the Earth that you are here. He left CCTV in 2013 to work at his alma mater, the Communication University of China.
Cui was born on February 20, 1963 in the Beichen District of Tianjin. His father was in the military. The family moved to Beijing when Cui was three years old, and he attended primary and high school in Beijing. Cui graduated from the Communication University of China in 1985, then began working for China Central Television as a reporter shortly thereafter. Starting in 1993, Cui became involved in the planning for the Oriental Horizon (东方时空) program.
The show Tell It Like It Is (实话实说) began in 1996, and was conceptualized as a Sunday supplement to Oriental Horizon, with Cui as host. The first show aired on April 26, 1996. Soon after Tell it like it is gained a following in its own right, in large part due to Cui’s personality. Cui’s brand of television spurred a host of copycat shows in other networks attempting to emulate Cui’s natural and humorous presentation style in a Chinese TV world that is full of staid and scripted presentation.
With the success of Tell it like it is, Cui became a national celebrity. He was invited to host the 2000 edition of the CCTV New Year’s Gala. Beginning in 2001 Cui was diagnosed with clinical depression. He reported severe trouble falling asleep. He left Tell it like it is abruptly in 2002.
After a battle with depression, Cui returned to CCTV to host Talk with Xiao Cui (小崔说事). Cui was named as one of the Top Ten Best Hosts of CCTV for 2005. In addition, during the 2007 National People’s Congress he hosted a talk show where he met with regional Chinese leaders to discuss everyday issues of concern to the people, the first of its kind in the PRC.
Cui has made several appearances at the CCTV New Year’s Gala. He appeared twice in skits featuring Zhao Benshan and Song Dandan entitled Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow in 1999 and again in 2006. He also danced and sang with Taiwan actress and My Fair Princess star Ruby Lin in 2000.
In November 2013, Cui Yongyuan embarked upon a two-week journey to the United States to film a documentary on genetically modified foods. In the documentary Cui aimed to explore the debate on whether genetically modified food is safe to eat. The documentary was widely viewed in China and was criticized by anti-pseudoscience crusader Fang Zhouzi as being unscientific and misleading. Cui and Fang then exchanged a series of increasingly personal comments on a public micro-blogging platform, attacking each other. After the heated and widely publicized exchange, Fang sued Cui in a Beijing court demanding compensation of 670,000 yuan, alleging defamation. Chinese-language media has cited fallout from the conflict as a reason Cui has decided to leave television for a position to teach at the Communications University of China, his alma mater.
In January 2015, Cui signed on with Shanghai-based Dragon Television to host the program “Eyes on Dongfang” (东方眼). At the 2015 National People’s Congress, Cui bantered with Central Commission for Discipline Inspection chief Wang Qishan, remarking “I don’t think I did anything wrong, but I’m still pretty nervous when I see you,” ostensibly a reference to Wang’s work in the anti-corruption campaign. Cui also shot a mobile phone video with Wang.