It is December 14th and I am sitting in a so-called “family restaurant” by myself typing this on my increasingly finicky laptop while lamenting the fact that I tore off a chunk of skin on my ass in the name of Japanese late-night television.
Pretty glamorous right?
My transition from faceless Japanese teacher to “entertainment talent” under the umbrella of the largest, most powerful entertainment agency in Japan has had its bumps and derailments but has certainly been, well, “something”.
The thing people reading this need to realize is that, unlike in America, where you generally are good at something and/or attract attention in some fashion before getting the attention of an agent or two and establishing yourself, getting your foot in the proverbial Japanese entertainment door means having to go to a youseijyo, essentially lame Japanese Hogwarts for people who want to be celebrities.
Having attended this school for over half a year now, I can say that while going to this school and having to do stuff (mostly presenting 2-minute chunks of your act to Theater Big Wig A or TV Producer B) definitely helps to hone your skills as a comedian, it doesn’t really do much to make you funnier. In other words, if you walk into this school with absolutely no comedic sense, you aren’t going to emerge a year later as the next John Candy. Also, there is a shitton of dancing. No, really, we have relatively useless funsuck of a dance classes twice a month and an incredibly fun but also pointless dance class once a month and I cannot for the life of me figure out why.
The Japanese comedy world is an incredibly competitive realm, with roughly two-thousand new names entering the fray every year, which apparently means you can’t do perverted stuff on the trains here without accidentally groping a fellow comedian. Of course, most of these people wind up throwing in the towel after one or two years but there’s also a huge chunk of incredibly funny people simply not getting noticed for gigs because there’s too damn much competition. Which is where being an American comes in really handy.
Over the past half year, I’ve had a lot of really great opportunities come my way by virtue of having been born in America. It’s ridiculous, not damn fair, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a huge plus. I’ve had various (incredibly hilarious) seniors in the industry come up to me and say that I’m getting more work than them. I’ve also had various big wigs and people at company headquarters come up to me and tell me that “you’re definitely going to sell here”, which I’m sure is meant to be a nice gesture but really only serves to compound the pressure on me to produce results.
I came into this thing with absolutely no expectations and the general thought that “I’m probably going to suck at this thing and leave for America by Christmas”, only to almost immediately (my entry interview generally turned into a five minute “Hey, you’re definitely going to make our company money so please come to our school” session) have heaps of expectations and pressure piled on me.
But, hey, I guess it’s all just part of the game when you’re a white dude in a 99.9% Japanese industry. More pressure than a deep-sea submarine ride but more doors open than a poorly constructed manor.
At this point, things at school are starting to wind down for me (graduation is at the beginning of March) and, aside from the part time job and occasional gigs provided by my agency by virtue of my American-ness I’m finding myself with a bit more room to breathe, which should hopefully mean more writing time. Seeing as how my life is now 90% Japanese, I’d certainly like to write in English more, if only because I’m confident in my ability to make Americans laugh than my ability to make Japanese people laugh (1 percent versus half a percent).
What sort of things would you like me to write about (certain showbiz things may be a bit off limits for all the obvious reasons)? Let me know in the comments or through Twitter or whatever.
Until my next post…