Manzai ( 漫才 ) is a traditional style in Japanese culture comparable to double act comedy or stand-up comedy.
Manzai usually involves two performers (manzaishi)—a straight man ( tsukkomi ) and a funny man ( boke )—trading jokes at great speed. Most of the jokes revolve around mutual misunderstandings, double-talk, puns and other verbal gags.
In recent times, manzai has often been associated with the Osaka region, and manzai comedians often speak in the Kansai dialect during their acts.
In 1933, Yoshimoto Kogyo, a large entertainment conglomerate based in Osaka, introduced Osaka-style manzai to Tokyo audiences, and coined the term "漫才" (one of several ways of writing the word manzai in Japanese; see § Etymology below). In 2015, Matayoshi Naoki's manzai novel, Spark (火花) won the Akutagawa Prize. A mini-series adaptation was released on Netflix in 2016.
Originally based around a festival to welcome the New Year, manzai traces its origins back to the Heian period. The two manzai performers came with messages from the gods and this was worked into a standup routine, with one performer showing some sort of opposition to the word of the other. This pattern still exists in the roles of the boke and the tsukkomi.
Continuing into the Edo period, the style focused increasingly on the humor aspects of stand-up, and various regions of Japan developed their own unique styles of manzai, such as Owari manzai (尾張万歳), Mikawa manzai (三河万歳), and Yamato manzai (大和万歳). With the arrival of the Meiji Period, Osaka manzai (大阪万才) began changes that would see it surpass in popularity the styles of the former period, although at the time rakugo was still considered the more popular form of entertainment.
With the end of the Taishō period, Yoshimoto Kōgyō—which itself was founded at the beginning of the era, in 1912—introduced a new style of manzai lacking much of the celebration that had accompanied it in the past. This new style proved successful and spread all over Japan, including Tokyo. Riding on the waves of new communication technology, manzai quickly spread through the mediums of stage, radio, and eventually, television, and video games.
The kanji for manzai have been written in various ways throughout the ages. It was originally written as (萬歳, lit. ten thousand years or banzai, meaning something like "long life"), using 萬 rather than the alternative form of the character, 万, and the simpler form 才 for 歳 (which also can be used to write a word meaning 'talent, ability'). The arrival of Osaka manzai brought another character change, this time changing the first character to 漫.
Similar in execution to the concepts of "funny man" and "straight man" in double act comedy (e.g. Abbott and Costello), these roles are a very important characteristic of manzai. Boke (ボケ) comes from the verb bokeru (惚ける/呆ける) which carries the meaning of "senility" or "air headed-ness" and is reflected in the boke's tendency for misinterpretation and forgetfulness. The word tsukkomi (突っ込み) refers to the role the second comedian plays in "butting in" and correcting the boke's errors. In performances it is common for the tsukkomi to berate the boke and hit them on the head with a swift smack; one traditional manzai prop often used for this purpose is a pleated paper fan called a harisen (張り扇). Another traditional manzai prop is a small drum, usually carried (and used) by the boke. A Japanese bamboo and paper umbrella is another common prop. These props are usually used only during non-serious Manzai routines as traditional Manzai requires there to be no props in terms of routine and in competitions. The use of props would put the comedy act closer to a conte rather than manzai.
The tradition of tsukkomi and boke is often used in other Japanese comedy, although it may not be as obviously portrayed as it usually is in manzai.[ citation needed ]
Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Ltd. is a major Japanese entertainment conglomerate. It was founded in 1912, Osaka, as a traditional theatre, and has since grown to be one of the most influential companies in Japan, employing most of Japan's popular owarai (comedy) talent, producing and promoting the shows they appear in. The two main headquarters are stationed in Osaka and Tokyo.
Downtown is a Japanese comedy duo from Amagasaki, Hyōgo consisting of Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada. Formed in 1982, they are one of the most influential and prolific comedy duos in Japan today. They are best known for their stand-up acts, hosting numerous Japanese variety shows and their sarcastic, short-tempered stage personas.
Football Hour is a Japanese comedy duo (kombi) consisting of Terumoto Gotō (tsukkomi) and Nozomu Iwao (boke), both from Osaka. They are performers for the entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo. They graduated from the Yoshimoto NSC Osaka 14th generation class.
Jichō Kachō (次長課長) is a Japanese comedy unit (kombi) consisting of two comedians, Jun'ichi Kōmoto (河本準一) and Satoshi Inoue (井上聡). Sometimes also known as Jikachō (次課長), they are one of the most popular owaraikombi coming from Yoshimoto Kōgyō in Tokyo. Their name literally means "Vice manager, Section manager", and is a reference to the titles of two visitors at the bar in which they were working part-time before they were discovered by Yoshimoto. They were originally a three-man group with the name Jichō Kachō Shachō (次長課長社長), or "Vice Manager, Section Manager, President", but after the third member of the group left, the name was reduced to its current version.
Savanna (サバンナ) are a Japanese comedy duo consisting of Masumi Yagi and Shigeo Takahashi. Both attended Ritsumeikan University High School and created the manzai team as a joke during their years at Ritsumeikan University, having first met in the school's judo club. They then decided to join Yoshimoto Kogyo as a professional kombi. Their act is heavily based on observational humor, and Yagi frequently being confused as the boke of the group.
The following glossary of words and terms are related to owarai. Many of these terms may be used in areas of Japanese culture beyond comedy, including television and radio, music. Some have been incorporated into normal Japanese speech.
London Boots Ichi-gō Ni-gō are a Japanese comedy duo (kombi) that originally performed manzai-style stand-up, but now are mainly known for their TV appearances and as hosts of a handful of off-the-wall variety shows.
Cowcow is a Japanese comedy duo managed by the entertainment conglomerate Yoshimoto Kogyo who perform manzai comedy. The members, Yoshi, the tsukkomi of the group, and Kenji Tada, the boke, are both from Osaka Prefecture. They have been guests on quite a few TV variety shows, such as Mecha-Mecha Iketeru!.
Ninety-nine, or Nainai (ナイナイ) is a Japanese comic duo from Osaka working for the entertainment conglomerate Yoshimoto Kogyo. The duo (kombi), consisting of Takashi Okamura as boke (stooge) and Hiroyuki Yabe as tsukkomi (straightman), formed in 1990.
Fuminori Ujihara is a Japanese comedian best known as the tsukkomi half of a popular owarai duo Rozan (ロザン) alongside Hirofumi Suga. Given his 158 IQ score, bachelor's degree in law from Kyoto University, and championship titles from a number of TV quiz shows, he is also widely known as one of the most intelligent comedians in Japan. He is 177 cm tall and weighs 59 kg.
Rozan (ロザン) is a Japanese comedy (manzai) duo (kombi) from Osaka consisting of Hirofumi Suga as boke and Fuminori Ujihara as tsukkomi under the entertainment agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo. Formed in 1996, they are best known for their stand-up acts and TV tarento activities in variety and quiz shows. Ujihara is known as one of the most competitive quiz show contestants.
Non Style is a Japanese owarai duo of Akira Ishida as boke and Yūsuke Inoue as tsukkomi, formed in 2000. The duo has won the championship title in the M-1 Grand Prix 2008 competition. The duo belongs to the management company Yoshimoto Kogyo.
Taka and Toshi is a Japanese manzai (stand-up) comedy duo (kombi) from Sapporo consisting of Takahiro Suzuki a.k.a. "Taka" as boke and Toshikazu Miura a.k.a. "Toshi" as tsukkomi. They are under contract to the entertainment agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo. Formed in 1994, they are best known for their stand-up acts and as TV tarentos in variety shows.
Ryō Tamura is a Japanese comedian who performs tsukkomi and writes the gags for the comedy duo London Boots Ichi-gō Ni-gō. His partner in the duo is Atsushi Tamura.
Chidori is a Japanese comedy duo (kombi) consisting of Daigo (だいご) and Nobu (ノブ). They are employed by Yoshimoto Kogyo, a comedian and talent agency based in Tokyo. Both were graduates of the 21st generation from the Yoshimoto NSC Osaka Comedy School.
The Yoshimoto New Star Creation, commonly called NSC, is the comedy school established by Yoshimoto Kogyo in Japan.
Nakagawake is a Japanese comedy duo (kombi) consisting of Reiji (礼二) and Tsuyoshi (剛). Reiji and Tsuyoshi are actual brothers and their last name is Nakagawa, hence their unit name Nakagawake. They are employed by Yoshimoto Kogyo, and are mainly active in Tokyo. They have appeared in many television shows and are the winners of the 1st M-1 Grand Prix in 2001
Wagyu is a Japanese comedy duo (kombi) consisting of Shinji Mizuta (水田信二) and Kenshirō Kawanishi (川西賢志郎). They are employed by Yoshimoto Kogyo, and are mainly active in Tokyo. They were the runners-up of the M-1 Grand Prix for three years in a row from 2016 to 2018.
Ryota Yamasato, also known as Yama-chan (山ちゃん), is a Japanese comedian and television and radio personality. He rose to fame in the 2000s as one half of the manzai comedy duo The Nankai Candies. Outside Japan he is best known as one of the commentators on the reality television series Terrace House.
Shimofuri Myojo is a Japanese comedy duo (kombi) consisting of Seiya (せいや) and Soshina (粗品). They are employed by Yoshimoto Kogyo, and are mainly active in Tokyo and Osaka. Although they did not attend Yoshimoto NSC, their debut coincides with the 33rd generation class from Osaka. They are the winners of the 14th M-1 Grand Prix in 2018.
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