When we last left off, we were talking about the rise of a new batch of Japanese comedy stars, dubbed by the media as the Seventh Generation of Japanese Comedy, a term determined more by savvy marketers than by any actual generational shift in how comedy is crafted in Japan.
I had originally planned on introducing some of the “top” members of this “new” group in a new post but while writing it, I had a long and deep conversation with my podcast co-host and actual Japanese comedy researcher Nick about manzai and its various evolutionary shifts as a comedy form. More specifically, we spoke about the act of performing manzai in the era of remote lives and plastic shields aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. (Side note, it was a great and really deep conversation about the craft of being a manzai comedian that probably only five or six people in the entire world would probably enjoy hearing.)
A long long time ago, Yoshimoto attempted to introduce the world to manzai via a Netflix “documentary” that I still have crazy stress nightmares about being in. In it, we said that manzai was one mic, two people, and the “Japanese Dream” (Note: I really wasn’t lying about those stress nightmares.). But is that really true? In the four years since then and in the last several months, I’ve given this idea a lot of thought.
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 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 →
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 →
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 →
So, yes, I am that dude from that one thing you might have watched on Netflix and, yes, I am an actual struggling comedian with actual struggling comedian problems, problems that a Netflix film debut and the subsequent slight surge of recognition that came with it did nothing to really alleviate.
I’m writing this blog post in a Starbucks bathroom. Why? Because I’m an internet freeloader but also don’t want to pay three hundred yen for coffee. Also, I’m broke, which I’m pretty sure is simply a rite of passage for anyone going down the career path that I am. Also, Japanese toilet seats are super comfy so I could literally spend hours here without feeling too much rectal distress.
So it’s done! Over! I can finally take a step back and breathe! After a long month plus of preparation, practice, and figuring out how exactly to fill an entire hour of stage time, Iruka Punch’s first solo live show went off with minimal hitches and nary a tear to be seen.
Here’s the general order of our show, for those of you who can read Japanese.
The thing you learn the most when doing a solo comedy show in Japan? Pacing and tempo is everything. When working as an owaraiconbi in Japan, you generally have two different categories of comedy to work with: manzai, Japanese “stand-up” comedy, and conte, a sort of minimalistic take on sketch comedy. My conbi, Iruka Punch, happens to have a foot in both pools, which makes doing a solo show a bit harder than it would have been if we had just simply have done an hour of manzai. Continue reading →
It is hot. It’s rather obvious but it’s still hot out.
Here in Japan, most stores switch into autumn gear almost as soon as the clock hits 12 AM on September First despite the fact the weather often fails to make the same sudden transition to cool nights and fair days. Really, the only difference here between the “late summer” (August) and the “early autumn” (September) is all the typhoons that conveniently decided to strike the Japanese mainland this month rather than the last. What the hell’s up with that? (That’s a rhetorical question, you humorless meteorologist. I don’t need an actual explanation regarding high and low pressure systems.) Continue reading →