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Summer Cicadas in Japan

A Note on “What’s Manzai?!!!”

So I was talking to a kohai after a gig last week and was, to my surprise, informed that What’s Manzai?!!!, the “documentary” about my life as a manzai comedian in Japan was no longer showing up on Netflix.  Being the petty, insecure bastard that I am, I immediately headed home and checked, only to find that, sure enough, the show had been pulled off of Netflix sometime over the last week.

Continue reading

Hey hey, it’s summer.

So after apologizing for not posting many updates of late, I promptly fell off the wagon again and neglected the whole blog thing for another week plus.  In my defense though, this time I’m busy!

In just a few days, I’ll be showing up in a play in Shinjuku in a bit part, the practices and rehearsals for which have taken up a huge amount of my time over the past month.  Spoiler alert, I’m only showing up in one scene.  It’s a fun change-of-pace role but it’s only like five lines and a couple minutes of standing around in the background as things happen with the main characters.

This being Japan, me being in one scene requires me to be present at every single practice, meeting, and rehearsal, even the ones where the scene in question isn’t even brought up.  Being on the lowest tier of the Yoshimoto media conglomerate hierarchy, my primary duty in this place can best be described as a crazy mishmash of stagehand, personal assistant to the executive producer (lots and lots of sprinting to the convenience store to buy random shit), and general punching bag.  You want to be a comedian in Japan?  That’s what you’re gonna have to do.

Once all three performances of the play are done, I have a bunch of other live shows and appearances coming up in the month of July.  Most of them are in Shibuya during the work week.  All of them are in Japanese.

I’ll hopefully also have more exciting information to share with y’all in the coming weeks regarding the release of a certain part two of a certain manzai-centric Netflix show.

 

Stay tuned and stay in touch.  You can find my live schedule below (along with the poster of my play)! Continue reading

Going through the motions.

The updates and blog posts have been few and far between of late.  Of course, if you’ve been paying any attention whatsoever you already know this.  Life has a funny way of coming back around on you.  One minute you’re convinced that you have enough to say or write to put into words every day and the next you’re sitting around pounding your head into the wall trying to squeeze out a word turd through your prolapsed mental asshole. Continue reading

Something I saw in Shibuya

Sitting around Shibuya, killing time at a Starbucks before my show tonight. A half-dozen college age Americans come in, probably exchange students. Also probably drunk.

They order their drinks, wait, pick up their orders and move en masse to a couple open tables smack dab in the middle of the store. Right away, I can tell something’s a little off.

All is calm for a couple of minutes as everyone enjoys their beverage with minimal conversation and I, way back in the corner of the shop, settle in for a bit of writing. That’s when things get hot.

A couple of chicks start jawing back and forth about being “backstabbed” and “just wanting to talk”. It gets louder and louder and all the Japanese people in the place go deathly silent (even the baristas and random people waiting for their milkshakes disguised as coffee drinks). One of the chicks pushes the other. Their friend tells them to go outside.

“I don’t want to go outside. F*** that b****. I just want to f***ing talk.”

“You just f***ing pushed me, b****. Don’t tell me you want to f****ing talk now.”

They’re practically screaming at each other now. A Japanese couple gets up to leave. One of the dudes waiting in line just sorta back-shuffles out the door like he’s decided now is the best time to learn to moonwalk. Continue reading

What’s So Funny? Comedy in Japan versus America

Comedy in Japan versus America

On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of appearing on abemaTV’s live late night show, Muramoto Daisuke’s The Night, to participate in a discussion about comedy in Japan versus comedy in the rest of the world (namely America).  While the whole fact that I showed up on Japanese TV is a story in its own right, the discussion that we had on the show really struck a chord with me.  What is it about Japanese comedy that makes it hard to enjoy for foreigners and, on that same note, what is it about American comedy that makes it hard for Japanese people to enjoy?

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Obviously, there is a language gap that has to be leapt between the two forms but the gulf between comedic cultures and understanding of how humor works goes beyond that.  This whole discussion of Japanese comedy versus comedy “elsewhere” stems from a tweet by scientist and writer Ken Mogi.  In it, he calls out “major” Japanese entertainers (not by name, mind you, but as an entire class) as being far off from the international standard of comedy and, thus, “finished”. Continue reading

The Obligatory It Sucks Being a Kings Fan Post

(Editor’s Note: So maybe some of you know but I occasionally write stuff for a biggish Sacramento Kings fansite.  That site happened to crash with the news that the franchise had just traded its best player to the New Orleans Pelicans for the equivalent of a bag of potato chips, and not even the good kind but sour cream and chives flavored.  With nowhere else to put my thoughts, I decided to just dump the damn thing here.  Sorry in advanced.)
So, here’s the deal, I had written a ten thousand word thing about how the Kings finally seemed to be getting on the right track and how we could finally start getting past the circus label.  It was all done and ready and I was just waiting for the All-Star “Game” to end before posting it… and then Vivek Ranadive and company found a way to somehow make their past blunders look good.
Jesus effing Christmas, what a clusterfuck.  Vivek, whose name is apparently Hindi for Clueless Shithead, not only decided to trade arguably the best player in Sacramento Kings history but trade him in the most undignified and stupidest fashion possible, apparently taking the first trade possible (a trade, by the way, not too far off from what the Pelicans were offering the Sixers, who have more common sense than the Kings apparently, for Jahlil Frickin Okafor!!!) several hours after telling Boogie’s agents they weren’t trading him!  To top things off, they did the whole deed during the game, resulting in Boogie learning he’d been traded DURING his post-game press conference.
Classy, Kings.  Very classy.
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Demarcus Cousins deserved better.  With all his faults, he seemed genuinely invested in the team, franchise, and, more importantly, the city of Sacramento.  Full disclosure here, Boogie was possibly my favorite player ever to play for the Sacramento Kings.  I had/have his rookie jersey and actually went out of the way to get it signed.  The only player I have ever done that for.  And the Kings just decided to discard him like a chainsmoker taking a coffee shit.  Good god, man.  How is this even possible?  I don’t think I’ll ever fully wrap my head around this.  I’m not even sure I want to.  It hurts too much.
So where does that leave the Kings now?
Well, we still have Dave Joerger at the very least.  A good coach who now has to take this radioactive wasteland of a roster and somehow, I’m guessing, coach well enough to not get fired.
You’d think that the Kings are now set to tank for the rest of the year but there’s actually a fairly good chance that the top brass actually expects the team to be better post-Boogie.  They’re in for a rude awakening.  Whether intended or not, this team is going to lose games.  Lots of games.
The current best player on the roster is Darren Collison, who, according to rumors, is also on the trade block. After that, who the fuck knows?
Here’s the depth chart (excluding Rudy, who is now probably gone):
Center: Kosta (probably also going to be traded)/Papa
Power Forward: Willie (I’m assuming we’re starting him now, seeing as he’s now our third best offensive player)/Tolliverse/Skal
Small Forward:  Matt Barnes/Afflalo  (Both guys are possibly gone as well)
Shooting Guard: Hield/Ben/Temple/Malachi/Rights to Bogdan (This is now the only position where we have any depth)
Point Guard: DC/Ty (Two solid pro role player point guards.  Probably gone soon.  Expect to see Isaiah Cousins and Kendall Marshall here in their stead soon.)
To compare, here was the roster over the last stretch of the 17-win Kenny Natt squad where we were the worst team in the league:
C: Spencer Hawes/Ike Diogu/
PF: Jason Thompson/Calvin Booth
SF: Andres Nocioni/Donte Greene
SG: K-Mart/ Cisco/Rashad McCants
PG:Beno/Bobby Jackson/Will Solomon
Look at that roster and tell me that this current squad of players wouldn’t have trouble beating the 2008-2009 Sacramento Kings.  I mean, Joerger can probably outcoach the Nattster in his sleep but this game would be far closer than any of us would probably like to admit.
And that is the state of our team as of now.  Not just back to square one, but back to square negative ten.  The Maloofs had the excuse that they were going broke.  What’s Vivek’s?
Oh…  That’s right…
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Buckle up guys!  The Suckitude Express has just left the station and things’ll only get bumpier from here.
As for me?  I might need to take a break from sports for a good long while.

A Good Ol’ Slice o’ Life Post: Taking Down the Lights in Osaki

So one of the many office complexes by my apartment is finally taking down its Christmas decorations.  Of course since it’s Japan there was a half dozen random people and heavy machinery involved.  It’s currently Valentine’s Week, which sort of begs the question:  How late is too late to take your Christmas lights down?

 

 

Slight parenthetical here but Christmas lights here are a purely aesthetical thing that seem completely detached from even the faintest Christmas connection so I suppose you can say that the office complex or whoever is in charge of these things is taking down the winter lights.  Even though winter here seemingly lasts until April.  Tis not the season, I guess.

 

PS:  Here’s a shot of the lights in full bloom (from a different angle).

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Japalentine’s Day

Japalentine’s Day
Semi-based on a true story

“I got you chocolate.”

“Why?  It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uhh, because it’s Valentine’s day.”

The girl frowned, brow curling with the starting pangs of sudden confusion. He felt his own “Look at me being all grown up and buying chocolate for people on Valentine’s Day” grin beginning to subside.

“It is Valentine’s Day, right?”

He reached into the breast pocket of his suit to retrieve his cellphone. He liked to keep his phone there, he was an adult now, after all.

The Bossman cleared his throat and nodded towards an empty classroom. Without a word, he let the chocolate sit.

“First year in Japan, right?” the Bossman asked, shutting the door as he followed his bemused subordinate in.

“Yeah.”

“So you don’t know then.”

The Bossman took a swig of coffee from a paper cup. When he pulled it away his mustache was dripping.

“Know what?”

The bossman paused, looked him over through thin barely there glasses.

“Better if you find out for yourself. I’m sure the staff’ll let you know what you need to know. Hell, they’ll enjoy it.”

Of course, explaining Japan’s various customs, rituals, and odd practices started by well-planned retail campaigning to the resident dumb gaijin seemed to be everyone’s favorite pastime here.

“Uh huh.” He always hated being explained to and hated the Bossman more for setting him up for it every time.

“Anyways, I was actually checking your file just the other day and it said you used to play football.”

“A little, I guess.” Small talk. He hated small talk. It was already what he did for a living. Make small talk in English. Make sure there were no horrible errors being made. Give the customer a nice list of new words to be digested, just to make sure they felt they were getting their money’s worth.

“What position?” The Bossman always kept his questions short and concise. Like he was teaching a class and the teachers under his supervision were his students.

“Linebacker.”

“Oh. Linebacker. Right right.” The Bossman nodded in full acknowledgment even though He knew that the Kiwi probably hadn’t the faintest idea of what that position entailed. “Anyways, your next class assessment will probably be next month.”

“Right. Awesome. Is that all?” He got up, ready to show himself the door.

“Yeah. Let’s get a drink next time I come to town.” He had said the same thing the last five times he had made the rounds to this branch school and every time there had been no drinks.

“Can’t wait.” He let the door slam shut behind him.

The receptionist had been eagerly awaiting his return, no doubt anticipating the chance to tell the dumb foreign person more about how Japan worked. His chocolate gift sat unaccepted atop cheap plastic countertop.

He gave a resigned sigh and let her take command.

“Mister Stephen, boys don’t give chocolate until White Day.”

“White Day?”

“Yes. Next month. Today is girls only.” The receptionist handed the unopened box of department store chocolate back to the dejected teacher.

“Oh right. Cool.” It wasn’t.

He ate the chocolate alone in his classroom before going home that night.