Stephen Starts a Diary: May 22nd

May 22nd Tuesday

So I suck at all video games.  When I was a high schooler, I had trouble beating Madden on Rookie mode.  Mario?  Only after a couple of years.  Zelda?  Forget about it.  What about first person shooters?  Forget about it.  Hell, I could barely beat Pokemon and that game is meant for grade schoolers.  Video games are fun, no doubt.  I’m just not all that good at them.

I mention all of this because, as I told you all yesterday, I got a Nintendo Switch.  I should say that I haven’t really played all that many video games since I moved to Japan, which meant that the graphical jump between the last time I played video games and when I played them for the first time today came as a major shock to me.

Playing Super Mario Odyssey, a couple of things hit me: (1) open worlds are now huge and open open and (2) years of not playing video games hasn’t made me any better at them.  My experience thus far playing the critically acclaimed game has gone somethign like this:  Stephen things “oh that looks cool”, Stephen gets distracted by cool thing, Stephen fails to succeed at basic game tasks, Stephen dies.  I think one of the problems about having an open world thingy is that it’s hard to find where the open world closes, leading to death after death.

Do you think Mario feels pain?  As graphics get better and better and programming improves to such a degree that artificial intelligence outpaces human intelligence, why is it hard to imagine a digital avatar feeling pain?

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 21st

Twitch is apparently a thing.  This probably isn’t news to anybody reading this blog, but to me, as a dude who hasn’t been in the states for four years, this came as a surprise.  It’s beyond me why people would spend time just watching other people playing video games or just walking around aimlessly online but apparently people do and more power to them.

I say this because recently one of the other American geinin has started to get into it and it made me get into it and I randomly bought a Nintendo Switch because of it even though I really don’t need it and then I bought a twenty thousand yen HD capture card which I really really really didn’t need.  Needless to say, I randomly got serious with the streaming thing.  Good thing I am horrible at video games and stuff.

For the first couple of years of the whole comedian thing, I was entire broke and entire out of money.  Now that I finally managed to scrounge together a few bucks?  Well, let’s just say that people enjoy living the lives they’re familiar with.

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 20th

May 20th Sunday

So there’s a football “controversy” “rocking” Japan, in so much as a football controversy could ever rock a country that gives approximately no damns about football as a sport or concept.

Apparently, some defensive end for a college team here laid a cheap hit on the other team’s quarterback to start off a game, knocked him out of the game, and it somehow exploded into a huge controversy that all the news shows are covering the hell out of for some reason (probably because it’s a slow news week). Continue reading

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 18th – May 19th

It’s starting to warm up.  The heat hasn’t gotten anywhere near summer levels, mind you, but it’s gotten hot enough to draw a sweat with a brisk walk.

Working, as I do, in a ramen shop, this change is represented by the change in the popularity of certain menu items.  Down go the sales of the thick, hearty ramen.  Up, up, up go the sales of the slightly (and I do mean slightly) lighter tsukemen dipping noodles.

Even working the graveyard shift like I did yesterday/today/tonight, you’re struck by how much people’s food preferences are affected by the weather outside.  

Working consecutive graveyard shifts whilst mostly maintaining a regular daytime lifestyle has a way of making feel like you’ve been “unstuck” in time, like you’ve gone down the rabbithole and when you pop your head back out again, you have no idea whether you’ll be greeted by sunlight or the stars.

In Japan, wages go up a mandatory 25 percent past ten at night so there is incentive to work the night shift.  Everytime I have one of those shifts, I feel like a part of me dies.  The faster I get out of the midnight shift lifestyle, the happier I’ll be.

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 17th

5/17  Thursday

When I first decided to become a comedian and went to my first owarai class, there were over 400 or so people there with me, all taking their first steps down the path of Japanese comedy at the same time as I was.  Time passed, people quit, and that number soon dwindled down: 300, 200, down to the one-hundred-something people that it is now.

Even among those hundred-something people, you have dozens of people who haven’t been active for months and are really just comedians in name only.  Since I’m, as the Japanese people like to say, tongatteru, most of my “friends” among my douki are in this category. Continue reading

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 12th

5/12 Saturday

“What do you do on your days off?”

It’s a question that people ask more often than not, blissfully unaware that as a brokeass young comedian, I have no days off. 

Today for example, was a “day off” where I had no official work but rather spent the day with my comedy partner working on stuff for our act at a local park.  The weather was great, the stuff we were coming up with was coming along well, I got beaned in the back of the head with some kid’s baseball.

I don’t know if it qualifies as work but I certainly don’t feel like I had a day off.

PS, even though it’s probably the city-est city in the world, Tokyo still has its charming places of greenery.

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Stephen Starts a Diary: May 11th

5/11 Friday

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

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 10th

5/10 Thursday

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

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 9th

5/9 Wednesday

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

Stephen Starts a Diary: May 8th

5/8 Tuesday

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.