And so another year has passed, and a big one at that.
2016 was a year of great change, both worldwide and personally.
In December, I hit the three year mark of living in Japan, roughly two years longer than I had initially planned on being here. I had initially planned on doing the whole teach English in Japan for a year while I got my “real” adult life together thing. Make some money, pick up some Japanese, then move on to bigger and better things. That certainly didn’t happen. That one year of teaching English turned into a year and a half and then turned into a whole other thing.
We’re past a whole year and a half of the geinin thing and eight months out of the year of “training” you need before actually becoming a full-fledged member of the Japanese entertainment machine. So while last was my first year as a comedian, this year was my first year as a comedian.
And what a year it was.
This year saw my debut in the Japanese comedy circuit, my first solo show, and, perhaps the single biggest reason why you’re even reading this blog, the release of a “documentary” about my life in Japanese comedy school worldwide on Netflix.
Making What’s Manzai?!!! was an ordeal on its own. The production crew numbered over a dozen people, with a pre-production committee of another handful of so-and-sos and whozits changing and rewriting the script on a daily basis well up through post-production (I found out the hard way that dubbing new dialogue to fit you mouth movements may be the single hardest thing ever). Making the process even harder? Absolutely no one spoke English, with all of the higher-ups not even thinking about how to appeal to an international audience as opposed to the Japanese public that they already knew how to appeal to.
Nothing horrified me more than seeing a couple of bad takes make it into the finished film as the post-production staff did an admirable job of editing together a forty minute thingy without knowing what was being said or in what order.
But that’s life.
After the film’s release, I’ve been reached out to by people all around the world. Some of these interactions have been negative, but overall, people’s reactions to what we put out there have been positive and I learned a hell of a lot from the experience.
Aside from that several month chunk of my life, my 2016 was largely spent trying to get my footing in a ridiculously competitive, top-weighted entertainment industry which is heavy on the work-til-you drop thing but light on the pay-for-your-work thing (a problem prevalent in Japanese culture, as highlighted by the whole Dentsu controversy dominating Japanese news media to this day). Being a member of the largest entertainment company in the third most powerful media market in the world has given me insight into the larger workings of show business and, perhaps more importantly for myself, a stage on which to perform (even if those shows are at three PM on a Tuesday). They say that the only way to get better at something is practice and these monthly shows have definitely provided an avenue work on my craft although I wish there were more than three or four people in the audience.
I can only hope 2017 will provide even more opportunity. Lord knows it can only provide less celebrity death.