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).
So with the first month of 2017 almost over, I thought it’d be prudent to finally talk about what I hope to get done this year (not that any of you probably care anyways).
As I “covered” earlier, 2016 was a year full of change and random things and getting fired from your job waiting tables because you had to leave town a couple of woks for a job out in the boonies. The first month of 2017 has continued this trend. Not the getting fired part, mind you. You need to have a job first before you can get fired. Thus far, the new year has brought me a half dozen stage appearances, a couple of token television appearances, and a steady
succession of bad colds and flu-like symptoms.
Which brings me to my resolutions and goals for the new year. Everyone has them. Almost everyone makes theirs public. I’m just doing mine a whole month later than everyone else. Continue reading
As the hordes of old people in their puffy Michelin Man jackets would tell you, the dead of winter has come to central Japan. Surgical masks are flying off the shelf like magic. The ubiquitous vending machines all seem to have at least one row devoted to “hot”, well, more like lukewarm, beverages. There are more sniffles on the train than a whole movie theater of middle school girls watching The Notebook for the first time. Yes, it’s that time of year. Cold weather has arrived and with it cold season.
While there are definite benefits to living in the biggest city in the world, nothing can make you rue the day you moved to Tokyo more than the day some old drunk dude coughs right into your mouth on the train home. I’m sure you’ve heard about how crowded Japanese cities can be and no where is this more obvious than the country’s highly regarded public transit system, clean, on time (when there hasn’t been a suicide by train), and chockfull of sick people just waiting to get you sick.
Make no mistake, Japan might be sanitary on a surface level but it has a dark, dirty, stanky underbelly that’ll drag you down and knock you out with nary a second to spare. I was naive, too, when I first moved here but three bouts of the flu in two years and countless head colds later I am now a hardened veteran of the Japanese winter.
So Stephen, you ask, how does one avoid getting knocked down for the count by a winter cold in Japan? Continue reading
So we’ve beaten the whole Netflix horse for a while now and talked about introducing a manzai to the world (at least that was the idea) but what about my terrestrial career (i.e. the non-English language media)?
The Japanese new years holiday is one of shuttered shops and clogged transportation networks (interestingly enough, everyone is so busy getting out of Tokyo that the capital becomes an absolute breeze to get around for the week). It is also, most helpfully for me, a time for people to gather around and watch a shitton of TV. Almost every single popular program on television will put together a several hour long special show to be shown in the week around New Year’s Day as the Japanese public apparently still hasn’t figured out (a) how to use a DVR, (b) that you can watch almost anything you want on a streaming service, (c) the more time spent watching your favorite personality ham it up on screen means less spending quality time with your loved ones.
Yes, in Japan, on New Year’s, television is still king. And thanks to the national network’s ravenous need to fill airtime with original “special” programming, this means young struggling comedians such as myself find themselves with increased opportunity to see some airtime. Continue reading
This has happened to anyone who’s spent any time in Japan at least once. You’re sitting in a restaurant, enjoying your meal when the dude sitting at the table next to you, hell, maybe someone at your table, leans back in his chair, pulls out a pack of cigarettes and starts puffing away, totally stinking up the joint with that patented tobacco stank and ruining your evening because you are a self-respecting human who is entitled to the experience of first world problems, goddammit! Continue reading
Thought I was done with the whole MechaIke Onsen thing but a cool opportunity came up so I was back up there on Sunday. More info when I can share it.
(I do have a live show in Ikebukuro at 7PM tomorrow night, though, that I really need you all to come to. Tickets are 1500 yen. Contact me for more info!)