I had always wanted to talk about this, but somehow missed it. I think it is appropriate now. You see, in addition to being a big fan of Jazz and electronic music scene and anime in Japan, I also follow Japanese comedy shows with great interest. Japanese humor is absolutely brilliant. Conventional comedy programs from the US for example, have these rigid set of rules that define what comedy is and how it should be approached. In Japan though, those things don’t exist. Anything goes. As a result, what comes out is absolutely fascinating, sometimes weird and ridiculous, but will result in stomach cramps from laughing your ass off all the time. If you start following Japanese comedy shows, it is highly likely that you would find run of the mill comedy programs from elsewhere pretty boring. One such comedy show is called Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! (ダウンタウンのガキの使いやあらへんで!!). It is a very popular show that has been running since 1989 on Nippon TV. Downtown is basically a comedy duo of Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada. Later, another duo called Cocorico, comprising the comedians, Shōzō Endō and Naoki Tanaka and finally, Hōsei Yamasaki joined Downtown, resulting in a group of five comedians.
Gaki no Tsukai’s skits are legendary and extremely clever. One of the most famous and legendary aspects of the program is the so called Batsu Games, roughly translated to as punishment games. The members of the group get involved in bets, mostly concerned with baseball games or singing competitions and whoever loses the bet has to endure a batsu game. The winning member decides on the game, which most of the times turn out to be something totally silly, but at the same time full of awesomeness. The largest and most complex of all batsu games is the annual “No Laughing Game”, which is currently in its 10th year. The premise of the game is as follows – Each year a theme is chosen and the cast have to perform their roles as dictated by the theme. They will be thrown in totally ridiculous situations, where it would be very difficult not to laugh. Ones who laugh will be immediately punished by hangmen, who slap the cast on their butts with a cane or some other type of S&M punishment gear. Often times, their efforts in trying not to laugh is more hilarious than the situation they are in. For instance, have a look at a small part of the No Laughing High School game from a few years ago. It is just a tip of the iceberg.
As you could see, the above video is subtitled, so it should be no problem understanding. If you crave for more, then you should totally check out gakifiles.blogspot.com. This is one of the most definitive source for everything related to Gaki no Tsukai. Many batsu games are available there for watching online, and even download. You could download both raw versions of the program and ones that are subtitled. It is pretty exhaustive. All No Laughing games are available for watching and downloading. Trust me, you will be blown away by the humor. The link below will take you directly to the clips section of the website. All clips are subtitled of course.
No Laughing game is normally broadcast on December 31st every year and the one from 2011 ran for nearly six and a half hours! It starts at 18.30 on Nippon TV in Japan. I know what I will be doing on 31st. This year’s theme is “Enthusiastic Teachers”. The five cast mates will dress up and teachers and will be put in totally ridiculous situations and should control their laughter. They shot this year’s series in the middle of this year at the Kanto region. In addition to engineering the show, the crew also use a host of celebrities, sports personalities and other comedians to aid in the screwing up of the cast. If you watch them religiously as I do, you would know everything about the support cast and that helps in appreciating the program even more. Here’s a picture of the cast from a press conference from a few days ago, advertising the upcoming No Laughing game.
Here are a couple of pictures of the cast just prior to starting their training as teachers. I can’t wait for the program!
Kansai and Kanto – Osaka Humor
If this post has managed to get you get interested in the Japanese comedy scene, you should read up about the general status of comedy in Japan. You would find out why there are many comedy duos in Japan and what does each half of the duo signify. One more thing – You would often find that many comedians come from the Osaka region of Japan. It is no accident. Japanese spoken in Osaka and its neighboring regions like Kyoto has a special dialect. It is called, Kansai dialect. The region in general is called Kansai region. Tokyo and its neighboring areas on the other hand, is the Kanto region. My best friend from Osaka tells me that the Kansai dialect involves an emotional aspect in the language that is normally not the case in Japanese, as spoken in the Kanto region. Such an emotional element, ups and downs in the tone of the language naturally make humor more accessible. Especially, Osaka humor is very direct. I love spending time with my Osaka buddy. Although direct, it is never offensive. I also know a lot of other Japanese people here in Stuttgart who, overtime have become some of my best friends. They come from areas like Tokyo, Shikoku, Kanagawa, Tohoku, Gunma, Kyushu, Kyoto, Hiroshima, to name a few. They are all very receptive to my friend and his jokes and tell me it is no surprise for them since he is from Osaka. Of course there is a subtle regional chauvinism in place as well. But, hey, it exists everywhere. In my motherland, there is always a Northie-Southie divide (Southies rule!) and here in Germany, its Bayern against everyone else. Personally though, it is easier for me to start a conversation with someone from Kansai than someone from say, Tokyo.
Anyway, my point is in Gaki no Tsukai, you will hear a lot of Kansai dialect. And if you understand the jokes, you would exactly have an idea about Osaka humor. Have a look at the gakifiles website and I am sure you will be laughing your asses off.