For an academic taste

Discuss everything Gaki no Tsukai here.
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For an academic taste: http://dtr-subs.tumblr.com/post/1213085 ... emic-taste

I was once subbing and searching for a reference made in a Gaki episode, which sent me down a rabbit hole into some academic papers about manzai that mention Downtown. They are fairly easy to find by Googling, but here is a link to them. For those interested, they’re not hard to read but familiarity with Japanese culture helps. Unfortunately, none of them delve really deep into the humor of Downtown, but 2 out of 3 of the papers use Downtown to illustrate some characteristics of Japanese manzai especially as a contrast to American stand-up. All the examples used from Downtown are from Gaki :) (specifically their “free talk” segments).

(Continues...)
I love how Downtown don't always adhere to formalities of being seniors. Housei mentioned when he first met Downtown they were very casual with him.

I wonder if there are better Western examples than used in the studies to compare to Manzai though.

I haven't watched them much (I'm British) but I think Seinfield and Cosby are American situational comedies that mostly focus on how they deal with situations put upon them by things around them. That doesn't fit so much, but if we look at the more character-focused aspects of sitcoms, then there is the concept of a straight man and a fall man.

From sitcoms:
Dougal (boke) and Ted (tsukkomi) from Father Ted.
Baldrick (boke) and Blackadder (tsukkomi) from Blackadder.
Maybe Morris (boke) and Roy (tsukkomi) from IT Crowd.

American stand-up doesn't require an environment but it tends to be solo comedy, so it'd be more similar to what I've learnt to be the "Makura" of Rakugo, the intro talk before the story with funny anecdotes or recounting personal experiences, which is kind of similar to solo stand-up which often revolves around funny observations on life. For example, Housei will talk about a funny incident that happened whilst on a train etc. before leading into the traditional rakugo story.

I'd liken Manzai more to actual comedy double acts in the Western world e.g.
Laurel (boke) and Hardy (tsukkomi).
Morecambe (boke) and Wise (tsukkomi).

But Downtown of course don't always follow the mold and likewise there have been some double acts that have not been as pinable e.g. French and Saunders, Rik and Ade, Mitchell and Webb, both can be the wise-ass or the dumbass. I'm not that familiar with them but people also cite Cook and Moore.

Outside rakugo, I liken Housei to self-humiliating solo acts like Norman Wisdom, Lee Evans. :lol:
The articles used Cosby and Seinfeld's solo acts as examples of American stand-up comedy, and not their sitcoms, even though these two are definitely more known for their sitcoms. The articles, unfortunately, don't go into trying to analyze and compare, say, modern American sitcoms and Japanese comedy shows. It's limited to stand-up comedy (or "sit-down" comedy, in the case of rakugo).

That said, for Seinfeld, definitely the funny man/boke or funny people were the characters surrounding Jerry: Kramer, George, and Elaine. Kramer especially is the funny man, but the other two were as well. Jerry would be the straight man/wise man/tsukkomi. His comments to the other characters were very often tsukkomi, basically making fun of and chiding their crazy lives and decisions. For Cosby, I'd say the kids and sometimes Cosby was the boke and the mother was the tsukkomi, since she seemed to be the most "together" character. It's interesting that American (or Western) comedy, sitcoms do seem to have a funny man and straight man dynamic but in solo stand-up, according to the articles, the stand-up comedian is the tsukkomi and society is the boke.
Ohh I see, thank you for the explanation! I was pretty clueless about Seinfield and Cosby, it makes more sense now. Yeah, despite being British and never seeing an episode of either, I still knew of them by their sitcom fame.

but in solo stand-up, according to the articles, the stand-up comedian is the tsukkomi and society is the boke.


Haha, that's an awesome way of looking at it, makes perfect sense. :nod:
On the flipside, for the down-on-their-luck style comedians, society is the tsukkomi making them look the fool / boke. :lol:
I try to equate Downtown to Abbott and Costello, particularly when Matsumoto answers letters from viewers during free talk. Hamada plays the straightman, only occasionally interjecting and lets Matsumoto riff. Sometimes Matsumoto really digs himself a hole though, and Hamada lifts him out like a good straightman would.
As for rakugo, I always think of The Two Ronnies - the short one, I can't recall his last name. He used to sit in a red fauteuil, and tell elaborate funny stories. Although my memories of him are fuzzy, Dave Allen was also a funny raconteur. Nowadays, his stuff might not be easy to find, but I should probably try that before discouraging everyone else. I sometimes wish I understood more Japanese so I could attend a rakugo gig. I reckon there's quite a bit of nostalgia in the dialogue which helps get people laughing.
I've heard a lot about Morcambe and Wise, (my mate's favourite comedy team), but I've only seen the Breakfast sketch which is of course without dialogue.
Ibaraki Dave wrote:
As for rakugo, I always think of The Two Ronnies - the short one, I can't recall his last name. He used to sit in a red fauteuil, and tell elaborate funny stories.

Ronnie Corbett. Personally, I don't really enjoy his stuff though, I guess because his style seems very dry / droll... There was a Two Ronnies special on recently and I found Ronnie Barker's random backstage ad-libs funnier than Corbett's entire solo talk. That's just me though, humor is so subjective.

Although my memories of him are fuzzy, Dave Allen was also a funny raconteur.

Someone told me about him and we watched a special here on UK TV, it was my first time seeing him and he was really funny. He's got a charm about him that's inviting. :nod:

For a guy sitting in a chair telling stories, I love Rik Mayall's Kevin Turvey character, though it's more surreal comedy, because he never actually talks about what he says he will talk about. Most the time he never even manages to get out of the front door in his stories, it's genius though. :rofl:

I've heard a lot about Morcambe and Wise, (my mate's favourite comedy team), but I've only seen the Breakfast sketch which is of course without dialogue.


I'm not that into them, maybe it's because they mostly stuck to their straight man-fall man roles and so felt a bit predictable (something that can't be said of Downtown of course!). But admittedly I haven't watched tons of their stuff and they're undoubtedly iconic in the British comedy world.

I sometimes wish I understood more Japanese so I could attend a rakugo gig. I reckon there's quite a bit of nostalgia in the dialogue which helps get people laughing.


Well the intro stuff at the start is more modern and akin to stand-up comedy. Some of it is stuff that would fit in a Suberanai Hanashi episode for example. If I remember right, this anecdote I subbed also appeared in one of his rakugo gigs. He'll even talk about stuff like the Chono slap, at one gig he said "The countdown to the slap has begun" and that got a laugh for obvious reasons. :lol:

Those initial anecdotes then lead into the actual traditional rakugo story, which is basically like a funny folk tale. People may have heard them before many times but they are classics and also the way that each comedian tells the story is what gets people coming back. They play each character in the story and to represent each one they pull faces, make gestures, change their voice etc. That fake exaggerated laugh Housei did in the Prison batsu to test if the "no punishment" card was working, I saw him do that kind of laugh when he was playing a rakugo story character, it got a laugh I think because it's over the top (and also like in the batsu, it's a pride before the fall thing I think).

I'd liken it to Rik Mayall's Grim Tales, where he reads classic fairytales, but the way he tells them, with silly faces, voices and such really makes it funny. Like when he does the frog the princess has to kiss, he does it so grossly, you can kinda see why the princess didn't wanna kiss him :rofl:
Well, Rik Mayall was a very talented comedian though I don't believe he received the acclaim he deserved. I knew him as Flasheart from Blackadder, and other characters therein. Later I was reintroduced to him in replays of The Young Ones, and finally Bottom. I never found The Young Ones funny, even though it was loaded with comedic talent. Frankly, Bottom put me off. Pretty much scared me in my anti-drug, disillusioned, politically naive youth.
Ah I loved The Young Ones, but like his Kevin Turvey character it is pretty surreal comedy-wise and won't be everyone's cup of tea. Bottom is definitely a mixed bag and extremely anarchic, slapstick on steroids. I like aspects of Rik and Ade's banter but then other times I do find it uncomfortable to watch.
soudou wrote:
On the flipside, for the down-on-their-luck style comedians, society is the tsukkomi making them look the fool / boke. :lol:

That makes a lot of sense!
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