Going through the motions.

The updates and blog posts have been few and far between of late.  Of course, if you’ve been paying any attention whatsoever you already know this.  Life has a funny way of coming back around on you.  One minute you’re convinced that you have enough to say or write to put into words every day and the next you’re sitting around pounding your head into the wall trying to squeeze out a word turd through your prolapsed mental asshole. Continue reading

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The Obligatory It Sucks Being a Kings Fan Post

(Editor’s Note: So maybe some of you know but I occasionally write stuff for a biggish Sacramento Kings fansite.  That site happened to crash with the news that the franchise had just traded its best player to the New Orleans Pelicans for the equivalent of a bag of potato chips, and not even the good kind but sour cream and chives flavored.  With nowhere else to put my thoughts, I decided to just dump the damn thing here.  Sorry in advanced.)
So, here’s the deal, I had written a ten thousand word thing about how the Kings finally seemed to be getting on the right track and how we could finally start getting past the circus label.  It was all done and ready and I was just waiting for the All-Star “Game” to end before posting it… and then Vivek Ranadive and company found a way to somehow make their past blunders look good.
Jesus effing Christmas, what a clusterfuck.  Vivek, whose name is apparently Hindi for Clueless Shithead, not only decided to trade arguably the best player in Sacramento Kings history but trade him in the most undignified and stupidest fashion possible, apparently taking the first trade possible (a trade, by the way, not too far off from what the Pelicans were offering the Sixers, who have more common sense than the Kings apparently, for Jahlil Frickin Okafor!!!) several hours after telling Boogie’s agents they weren’t trading him!  To top things off, they did the whole deed during the game, resulting in Boogie learning he’d been traded DURING his post-game press conference.
Classy, Kings.  Very classy.
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Demarcus Cousins deserved better.  With all his faults, he seemed genuinely invested in the team, franchise, and, more importantly, the city of Sacramento.  Full disclosure here, Boogie was possibly my favorite player ever to play for the Sacramento Kings.  I had/have his rookie jersey and actually went out of the way to get it signed.  The only player I have ever done that for.  And the Kings just decided to discard him like a chainsmoker taking a coffee shit.  Good god, man.  How is this even possible?  I don’t think I’ll ever fully wrap my head around this.  I’m not even sure I want to.  It hurts too much.
So where does that leave the Kings now?
Well, we still have Dave Joerger at the very least.  A good coach who now has to take this radioactive wasteland of a roster and somehow, I’m guessing, coach well enough to not get fired.
You’d think that the Kings are now set to tank for the rest of the year but there’s actually a fairly good chance that the top brass actually expects the team to be better post-Boogie.  They’re in for a rude awakening.  Whether intended or not, this team is going to lose games.  Lots of games.
The current best player on the roster is Darren Collison, who, according to rumors, is also on the trade block. After that, who the fuck knows?
Here’s the depth chart (excluding Rudy, who is now probably gone):
Center: Kosta (probably also going to be traded)/Papa
Power Forward: Willie (I’m assuming we’re starting him now, seeing as he’s now our third best offensive player)/Tolliverse/Skal
Small Forward:  Matt Barnes/Afflalo  (Both guys are possibly gone as well)
Shooting Guard: Hield/Ben/Temple/Malachi/Rights to Bogdan (This is now the only position where we have any depth)
Point Guard: DC/Ty (Two solid pro role player point guards.  Probably gone soon.  Expect to see Isaiah Cousins and Kendall Marshall here in their stead soon.)
To compare, here was the roster over the last stretch of the 17-win Kenny Natt squad where we were the worst team in the league:
C: Spencer Hawes/Ike Diogu/
PF: Jason Thompson/Calvin Booth
SF: Andres Nocioni/Donte Greene
SG: K-Mart/ Cisco/Rashad McCants
PG:Beno/Bobby Jackson/Will Solomon
Look at that roster and tell me that this current squad of players wouldn’t have trouble beating the 2008-2009 Sacramento Kings.  I mean, Joerger can probably outcoach the Nattster in his sleep but this game would be far closer than any of us would probably like to admit.
And that is the state of our team as of now.  Not just back to square one, but back to square negative ten.  The Maloofs had the excuse that they were going broke.  What’s Vivek’s?
Oh…  That’s right…
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Buckle up guys!  The Suckitude Express has just left the station and things’ll only get bumpier from here.
As for me?  I might need to take a break from sports for a good long while.

Stephen’s Schedule: September 2016 Edition!

I realize now that I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my entertainment career while doing an absolutely awful job of actually giving anyone a chance to see what I do up close and personal.

Japanese owarai live events can give you a great view of a side of Japanese culture yet to really attract any international attention and I encourage anyone living in Japan to check one out at least one show during your time in Japan, even if you have little to no Japanese ability.  You don’t even have to come to my show (though I certainly wouldn’t object to that).  Just go to an owarai live.

With that said, here’s a list of my appearances for the month (at least the lives where we’re actually performing, rather than simply working warmup).  If you want to go, hit me up in the comments or on twitter and I can get you tickets at a slightly reduced rate (day of tickets usually have a several hundred yen mark-up that I can get rid of for you).

IRUKA PUNCH OWARAI LIVE SCHEDULE: SEPTEMBER

  • Thursday, September 15th: Trial Lesson

    • Shibuya Theater D
    • 3PM start time.
    • Tickets: 1000 yen.
  • Tuesday, September 20th: NEXT
    • Ikebukuro GEKIBA
    • 6:45PM start time
    • Tickets: 1500 yen (WILL CALL ONLY. Contact me for tickets!)
  • Wednesday, September 21st: Trial Audition
    • Shibuya Yoshimoto Mugendai Hall
    • 4:15PM start time
    • Tickets: 1000 yen.
  • Friday, September 30th: Satora Next
    • Shibuya Yoshimoto Mugendai Hall
    • 2:15PM start time
    • Tickets: 500 yen.
schedule

For you Japanese speakers out there.

 

Tickets are still available for all the listed shows.  All appearances will be as part of my combi, Iruka Punch.

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We’ll be waiting.

Japanese Comedy: An Introduction

So it’s almost been an entire year since I made the rather impulsive decision to uproot my (nominally) cushy life, quit my easy-to-do English teaching job, and moved to Tokyo to pursue a career in Japanese comedy.

As it turned out, joining the Japanese geinoukai (“entertainment world”) was both as simple as one, two, three and much much more complex than I anticipated.

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The main thing you need to understand about the Japanese entertainment system is that the agency rules all.  Whereas the wide-ranging perception of the western entertainment world is that of the managers and agents working for the talent, the reverse can be said of the Japanese system.

To get into the Japanese entertainment world, you need to get into a company.  And to get into a company, you need to go to school.  And so, go to school I did, a twenty four-old college graduate white dude in a world mostly unknown to the unwashed gaijin hordes (Take that, dude who just posted the five-thousandth weird-Japanese-ice-cream flavor reaction video on Youtube.)

I’ll possibly get into the different companies of the Japanese entertainment world somewhere down the line but for now, I’ll just tell you that I am on track to become a part of Japan’s largest comedy company by the end of the month after an arduous grind of a year at Tokyo NSC, Yoshimoto Kogyo’s school for aspiring comedians, wannabes, and people who have absolutely nothing better to do and drop out after three months (this constitutes a large chunk of the entering class every year).  It’s been a slog, some parts fun, a lot of parts varying degrees of infuriating and boring, but its almost done and I finally, FINALLY, find myself in a position where I’m allowed to talk about the stuff I’ve done, seen, and learned.

So here we are, tired, sick, with feet cold and wet from the rain.  What better time to start talking comedy.

Comedy in Japan

Japanese comedy has some similar traits to the American comedy that I grew up with and loved.  It also has inherently different traits of its own, the biggest being a general emphasis on small teams, opposed to the inherent “aloneness” of the Western stand-up comedian, which I guess makes sense, considering Japan’s inherent emphasis on team building and group harmony (Blatant stereotype alert!).  Sure there are solo acts but, for the most part, the comedians you see hosting TV shows, slumming it on stage, or bumming around train stations looking for loose change are doing it in pairs (known in Japan as owarai konbi).

In today’s modern Japanese comedy world, acts can roughly be broken up into three different categories.

Pin (ピン)

The broadest of the three categories, this category of Japanese stage comedy can simply be summed up as doing things on your own, be it traditional Japanese stand-up (or, more accurately, kneel-down) known as rakugo or doing things on stage in character or, and I kid you not this is sorta a thing, dancing around in a man-thong whilst doing poses that make you look naked.  Broad comedy, right?  I could get into the different kinds and styles of pin comedy but there’s a bit of overlap and by the time I’d finished explaining things, you’d all probably be bored out of your minds so let’s leave the nitty gritty off for another day.

Conte (コント)

Possibly the form of Japanese comedy most recognizable to people abroad, Japanese conte comedy has much in comedy with the sketch comedy of shows like SNL or half the shows being shown on Comedy Central when it’s not re-airing episodes of Scrubs that nobody watches (Sorry, Zach Braff).  In this form, the starring conbi or group in question gets their acting on to deliver a short scene of some comedic merit.  The audience, generally finding what they are seeing humorous to some degree, laughs, which is the action of exerting air through your windpipes in a manner that produces noise.

Really anyone who’s seen a episode of Saturday Night Live knows what a sketch is and if you don’t, well shame on you.

Manzai (漫才)

Two dudes (or three… or dudettes) and a mic.  Since I’ve come to be a part of the Japanese entertainment world, many a person has tried their damned hardest to convince me this is a style of comedy unique to Japan.  But as I see it, it’s unfortunately not.

Having much in common with vaudeville acts of old, manzai as it is commonly performed is a conversation between the boke (idiot) and the tsukkomi (straight man).  As a system of delivering jokes, it’s really fool proof and timeless and acts like Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy have shown us.

There is a certain slapstick element to the thing that can be a little hard for Westerners to swallow at first (along with the usual “cultural differences” problem that can make humor a little hard to go over for the foreign eye) but manzai can also be incredibly funny and is, more importantly, perhaps the most popular form of comedy in Japan, with countless theaters across Japan holding several manzai shows a day.

It is on this form of Japanese comedy that I will first focus.

That Time Superman Used Social Networking

On a bit of an end-of-the-year life break and decided to watch some of CBS’s new Supergirl series when this particular interaction via the internet between Kara Zor-El and her more famous cousin caught my eye and made me laugh more than it probably should have.

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Clark Kent, apparently hip enough to use instant messaging, not hip enough to not use grandpa emojis

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Bad dialogue writing 101

 

Between his use of instant messaging and use of cool “hip” emojis, this truly isn’t your grandpa’s Superman.  Am I wrong in really wanting this version of Superman to have a really, really bad official Twitter account?

 

 

Speaking of Twitter accounts, follow Stephen @STEPHEN_TETSU for more fun!

Oh, Japanglish 2015 Winter Edition

As the country gets more and more tourism oriented in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics, Japan’s collective English level has been slowly rising, which still doesn’t prevent the occasional awkward gem/ odd cultural misunderstanding.

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Think, for a split second, back to when you were a child, lost in the heat of the summer, alive and dancing, dancing and alive, all living on the edge of a moment that you never knew was coming, like a ballerina balanced on the edge of the stage, looming just over a faceless sea of spectators who knew what came next.  Think about how they never told you.  Think of all the moments you had to experience for yourself, all the pains and aches that came with them, the aching calling of something that both was and wasn’t there waiting for you.  Think about those times.  Think about how imprecise your memories are of them, like glass seen through the smoke of a fire that just won’t stop moving.  Think, if you can.  Try to place yourself back in those moments and remember just how much is missing from your memory.

Think about just how much is gone.  Think about how you will never have that back.  Think and remember that memories are like a pond someone forgot to skim, that no matter how hard you try, you can never quite see the bottom. Continue reading

Going to the Movies in Japan

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So unless you’ve been living under a rock with no connection to the outside world aside from this blog for the past two years (in which case, thank you and get a life), you may well know that this week saw the release of perhaps the most anticipated film of perhaps the last decade, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Part 4.

Since this is Japan, most new Western film releases generally show up in theaters after a several year delay (only a slight exaggeration), meaning that the new addition to the apparently lucrative Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise will show up in your nearest Tokyo theater around the time that I am married with several children.  So rather than watching everyone’s third favorite bunch of talking tree rodents, I had to settle for some movie called Star Wars instead.

Apparently, though I’m not quite sure, this movie was a sequel of some sort and just another cog in the Disney hype machine if I may say so myself.  Talking robots, spaceships, and laser swords, this movie will probably never catch on.  A box office bomb, I’m certain.

Anyways, even though I’ve been living in Japan for the past two years plus now, I broke my solemn vow of curmudgeonism and ventured for the first time ever to a movie theater in the hustling and bustling heart of Tokyo.

Now, if you’re ever planning on going to the movies, there are probably a couple of things you should know…

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Hello from the Japanese Entertainment Realm

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”.

R藤本 Guest Appearance

One of the highlights of my foray into Japanese showbiz? Guest appearing on a Dragonball-themed TV show. Yes. That’s a thing. And it’s fun.

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