I ran into a previous teacher I had had for a comic spirit class. After we said our greetings and small talk, he asked me if I had a chance to visit Japan, remembering I had asked about the Japanese comedy form called, manzai. I mentioned that I was moving there soon, in a year or so, and still hope that I will one day figure out manzai. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. He had received many term papers on manzai after I had taken the class. He said I was a “trend setter.” Well, I don’t know about that, but this chance reunion got me thinking about manzai again.
What is manzai? It was born in the Kansai region of Japan and contains a straight man, tsukkomi (literally to dig into, or retort), and an idiot, or boke (meaning stupidity.) The form was developed as a stand-up routine consisting of slap stick physicality, double talk, pun, and misunderstanding. The comedic form is analogous to the comedy of Laurel and Hardy. The only difference is manzai is much more frantic and faster paced.
Well I could explain the funniness out of a joke, but I would rather show you a typical manzai routine in a movie I had recently watched. The movie is titled Maiko Haaaan! Abe Sadawo as Onizuka, the man holding the ramen toppings in the background, is pitching a new instant ramen marketing strategy that will make a lot of money. I think who the tsukkomi and boke are is quite clear in this clip. Enjoy!
I still have a lot to learn about manzai. I don’t fully understand all of the jokes I come across in the comedic form, but all I need to do is just keep watching and learning. Until next time… Manzai!!! I mean… Banzai!