Some lives are better than others. That’s just a matter of fact in this world of punchlines and acts. The show we performed at today in Ikebukuro may have been the worst I can remember.
It’s not like we bombed or anything (we didn’t) but the overall atmosphere of the night when combined with the zombie-like audience and harried MC made what should have been a relatively relaxed night to try out new material into a night ripped straight out of a horror story.
I should backtrack and explain a bit. As far as a young Yoshimoto comedian is concerned, there are two kinds of lives: jimusho official lives and those that are not. Today’s live, despite the incredibly demanding people who put it on, was one of the later.
The theater where we performed, located a few minutes from Ikebukuro Station in north central Tokyo, isn’t exactly brand new and, it being cramped and dark, with room for maybe 40 people at the most, no one can really blame the over 60 people who came for not exactly being in a laughing mood. That said, the last time I performed in front of an audience as listless and unresponsive as the one we encountered tonight was probably back in comedy school when the instructor told everyone not to laugh before class even began. Continue reading
I’ve been seeing a lot of head office of late. With my new part time job and increased first-thing-in-the-morning English lessons, I’ve spent far more time sitting around the offices of the biggest comedy entertainment company in Japan than I have actually being a comedian for the company itself.
I don’t really mind. I get more money doing menial office tasks and teaching English than I do with the all-too-often pay-to-play set up afforded to young comedians in the labyrinthian Yoshimoto Creative Agency bureaucracy. Today after my Yoshimoto work ended, I went to my ramen job. I’d like to say that I enjoy doing it but it turns out I enjoy eating ramen more than I do slinging noodles and taking orders from drunk assholes til the crack of dawn. Considering how much I’ve been working at Yoshimoto recently, I don’t really need to be working that job anymore. But (a) the ramen is good and (b) I live in constant fear that my cushy sit on my ass at a desk all day doing absolutely nothing gig is going to go up in flames sooner rather than later. Continue reading
So I’ve started trying to run more. Writing it down makes its seem like some sort of big life decision but really all it is is that I’m bored. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found life to be series of routines, a long river riddled with whirlpools in which one can get bogged down and circle aimlessly for years on end. This is all, of course, simply from my perspective.
On my end, whenever I feel myself start to get bogged down into a set routine, I do something to change it. Be it quitting my English job to go to Japanese comedy school, starting work at a Japanese ramen shop, or, in this case, taking up jogging again. Continue reading
Today was a desk day. I’ve been working part-time at Yoshimoto head office for about a month now, sitting at a desk in the Live Production Department under the guise of helping improve the entire department’s English on my free days. Really, this job mostly consists of me sitting around on the internet all day, occassionally shouting basic English greetings to people as they pass by on the way to some place or another.
The work’s much easier on the body than my normal parttime job at a ramen shop so I’m not necessarily complaining but, after spending a couple of years away from the officework lifestyle, I’m finding it rough getting back into the flow of things. Plus, getting paid (however little) to do literally nothing is better than not getting paid to do the same.
I went to work at ten and clocked out at six. Literally nothing happened during those eight hours. Yay me.
Walking home in the rain is probably never a good idea. And yet, there I was, struggling against the wind and rain as I tried to hammer out the hour-long walk to my apartment in Shinagawa from the wakate young comedian theater in Shibuya, trying desperately to not lose another umbrella to the wind whipping sheets of rain into my eyes. Continue reading
Today was the last day of Golden Week, the hellish week where every single Japanese person gets a week off of work. Normally owarai comedians, being based in an industry predicated on the leisure dollars of the employed masses, are incredibly busy on vacation weeks like this one but I, after a string of gig cancellations and whatnot, was not.
Unfortunately, I also happened to catch a cold this week so I spent most of today layign around my small Japanese apartment feeling very sorry for myself. I did get out for a walk (mainly just so my Apple Watch would stop yelling at me to exercise) but with it being the last day of Golden Week, my usual park of choice was supercrowded with families of people who either didn’t get out on their week of vacation or people who came back from their vacation a bit early. It was not, unfortunately, all that relaxing.
Also, a kid ran over my foot with a tricycle.
Tomorrow brings the return of the working week and I have an English lesson first thing in the morning to get things started off right. It’s my first lesson with a relatively higher up guy within the Yoshimoto corporate structure so we’ll just have to see how it goes.
Why am I writing this thing? Well, because I have to for a new live show we’re doing for one thing. (Even though the show’s in Japanese, I’m writing this in English because I feel like it’s easier to express myself like this.)
Why else? Well, why not?
So now that WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! PART 2 is finally out (though seemingly not in the US) and that part of my life is now completely done with, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the one place where you can hear me discuss Japanese showbiz on my own terms without a Yoshimoto staffer constantly whispering in my ear about not offending my sempai or making sure that I don’t say something about sponsor X, Y, or Z.
In case you were unsure about it or just went with the narrative of WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! that I am apparently the only non-Japanese person who ever thought about getting in Japanese comedy, there are others out there, and, starting a few months ago, a couple of us decided to get together and talk about our experiences as geinin in Japan because, quite frankly, you need an outlet for these sorts of things.
Those conversations kinda turned into regular thing that we decided to start recording and put out as the Big in Japan podcast, an uncensored, unfiltered, completely unendorsed by our agencies look at the Japanese entertainment world. I’d like to emphasis the uncensored part of this description because some of the stories shared on the show have been pretty darn raunchy (mostly because, as members of the Japanese entertainment industry, we haven’t had the chance to work blue in years). Continue reading
Well hello there. Long time no see.
This is Stephen just checking in here to let you all know that I am in fact still alive and that WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! (and it’s new sequel WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! PART 2) is, as of 12 AM on April 27th, back on Netflix.
When we shot WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! back in my manzai school days in those carefree innocent days of Spring 2016, the agency was so enamored with producing random English content that it immediately decided to go back for seconds before Part One had even begun post production.
While I’ve gone in-depth on my reservations regarding WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! before, I feel fairly confident in saying that PART TWO is a much better and more entertaining piece overall (low bar, I know) than its predecessor. Part one, for all its faults and jumps and fits, was hastily produced with nothing but a Japanese script that I had to translate on the fly. Part two, on the other hand, came with a team of bilingual people who worked together to translate the original Japanese script into something easier to digest for both me and hopefully the audience.
We shot part two almost exactly two years ago right after I formed my current combi and it shows in the material we put out on the screen as a young manzai act. (I’d also be remiss in not noting that since then Iruka Punch has largely shifted its focus from manzai to the Japanese form of sketch comedy known as conte, the audio of which you can hear here).
In the two years since we finished filming, I’ve learned a lot and, believe me, there’s a lot about my performance in these two “documentaries” that makes me cringe. But that’s all part of the learning process I guess.
I will just say that with WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! PART 2, I left it all out on the floor and I’m glad you all finally have the opportunity to see it.
I’ll try to post more blogs here when my schedule permits but no promises.