Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is this a revival of comedy in Japan?

お笑い:「THE MANZAI」復活 面白芸人こんなに

いよいよ始まった「THE MANZAI 2011」の予選。ベテランも若手もない、熱い真剣勝負が繰り広げられそうだ=東京都新宿区で2011年5月、西本勝撮影 
  The legendary television programme "The Manzai", which created a boom in the laughter industry of the 1980s, is about to be restored. Last year however due to lower viewership many television comedy programmes were ended. After the major earthquake in eastern Japan there is also a strong feeling that we should stifle the laughter, BUT could this legendary television programme bring smiles and laughter back to Japan?

  The revival version of "The Manzai" will be a contest to choose "The funniest comedian in Japan". Only professional comedians will be allowed to enter, and by fall only 50 groups will have remained from the national preliminary rounds; In December the dozen or so finalist will have a championship round in Tokyo! The championship will be broadcast live on Fuji Television. Preliminaries have already begun in May, and famous comedy troupes including Naitu and Haraiti have already made their appearance.

 The original "The Manzai"  was broadcast on Fuji Television from 1980-1982. Many young comedians including Sinsuke Ryuusuke, Two Beat, and R&B showcased their fast comedy skills. The sets were designed like a disco, and this movement changed the image of comedy from simply sitting around telling funny stories to a major television talent, and captured the hearts of young people across Japan, it was a major factor in birthing the television comedian talents of today's comedy world.

 Behind the revival of this television programme is last year's announcement that the "M-1 Grand Prix" would be ending that year in the hopes of reorienting that programme to focus more on short timely gags. The " M-1 Grand Prix" is responsible for the birth of many comedic stars including Sandwichman, Black Mayonnaise, and Waraimesi. The annual new year's television event on Asahi Television garnered huge viewership, at its highest 23% of the television viewing audience, but was ended after 10 years.

 In fact, programmes like "Enta no Kamisama"(Television Japan), "The Iromonea"(TBS), and "Bakusyou Red Carpet"(Fuji Television) which centered around 1-2 minute short gags have also seen lower viewership recently and along with viewer's cries that "this isn't the time for comedy" have come to an end.


 Entertainment critic and Oosaka University of the Performing Arts Professor Akio Aiba has pointed out "There's no merit in this competition for these professional comedians who are already very well known, in the end it will only garner youth viewership".

 However many voices in anticipation have said "In these dreary times it is especially important to let loose and laugh." Even if you aren't a fan of comedy, it might be nice to get excited watching the championship finals in front of the television set for this year end event ... Only time will tell.

Let's Learn Japanese! 
漫才 manzai
A comedy act, usually performed by a duo  


  1. OOH! I wonder if I can get a subbed version of this act so I can see first hand. I don't think I have ever watched Asian comedy before!

  2. I really hope that this show does well. It's very important to smile through tough times.

  3. Nice, never saw asian comedy, i'll have to check it out

  4. Japanese comedy (Manzai) is a double act like Abbott and Costello; there is a straight man who feeds the lines and then a fool who comically misunderstand them.

    In Japanese we call them ツッコミ(tukkomi) and ボケ(boke).

    Often the ツッコミ役 will hit the ボケ役 to rebuke his foolishness.

    There is not much subtitled Manzai on the web, but I have found a Tomonori Zinnai performance for you on the web.

    Tomonori Zinnai is different from many Japanese comedians because he lets the world around him, inanimate objects(usually games), play the fool role and he gives them tukkomi.

    Tomonori Zinnai also speaks in the western Japanese accent which is well associated with comedy acts in Japan; it is like the northern accent in England.