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.
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
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
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
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?
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
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).
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
“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.