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.
So I was talking to a kohai after a gig last week and was, to my surprise, informed that What’s Manzai?!!!, the “documentary” about my life as a manzai comedian in Japan was no longer showing up on Netflix. Being the petty, insecure bastard that I am, I immediately headed home and checked, only to find that, sure enough, the show had been pulled off of Netflix sometime over the last week.
So after apologizing for not posting many updates of late, I promptly fell off the wagon again and neglected the whole blog thing for another week plus. In my defense though, this time I’m busy!
In just a few days, I’ll be showing up in a play in Shinjuku in a bit part, the practices and rehearsals for which have taken up a huge amount of my time over the past month. Spoiler alert, I’m only showing up in one scene. It’s a fun change-of-pace role but it’s only like five lines and a couple minutes of standing around in the background as things happen with the main characters.
This being Japan, me being in one scene requires me to be present at every single practice, meeting, and rehearsal, even the ones where the scene in question isn’t even brought up. Being on the lowest tier of the Yoshimoto media conglomerate hierarchy, my primary duty in this place can best be described as a crazy mishmash of stagehand, personal assistant to the executive producer (lots and lots of sprinting to the convenience store to buy random shit), and general punching bag. You want to be a comedian in Japan? That’s what you’re gonna have to do.
Once all three performances of the play are done, I have a bunch of other live shows and appearances coming up in the month of July. Most of them are in Shibuya during the work week. All of them are in Japanese.
I’ll hopefully also have more exciting information to share with y’all in the coming weeks regarding the release of a certain part two of a certain manzai-centric Netflix show.
Stay tuned and stay in touch. You can find my live schedule below (along with the poster of my play)! Continue reading
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
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