Otaku Research I: Japanese Comedy [Orange Farm Archive]

I was re-watching some Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei earlier since the OVA ended and I barely remembered any of Zoku because I originally watched them on Youtube… when I came across a topic that might interest some of you guys interested in Japanese culture – comedy.


The episode in particular I am referring to is the one where Maria goes on a “tsukkomi” rampage through down karate chopping everyone with “shougatsu boke”. That sentence makes no sense if you don’t know anything about comedy in Japan, and the subtitles don’t really explain it well either(at least, not the ones I was watching).

The particular form of comedy this episode used as a base for its humor is called manzai (漫才, lit. “cartoon genius”), which stars a pair of people – a kombi, short for combination – in an environment much like that of Abbott and Costello, if you’re familiar with them.

Basically, the concept is that one person is the straight-man, called the “tsukkomi”, and one is the idiot, or the “boke”. In keeping with Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei’s style, they pull a pun on the meanings (or alternate meanings) of these words.

Tsukkomu is the verb meaning “to butt in”, and that’s pretty much what the straight-man does – makes jokes out of correcting the boke and often delivering a smack to the back of the head. However, “boke”  can also be used in a sense of “spaced out”, hence the theme of the episode – shougatsu boke, or “New Year’s Lethargy” or something similar.

It turns out that over the winter break, Maria was watching too much TV, and when Itoshiki-sensei arrived in the classroom with a spaced-out look, she delivers a chop to the his neck and explains that she was performing tsukkomi, or “butting in” – which, to her, means completely DESTROYING the poor guy instead of just smacking them on the back of the head. She dives through the classroom immediately, hitting anyone who looks spaced-out, and it soon extends out into the town.

Of course, it spirals out of control when Chiri tells her that there are many other kinds of boke, such as jet-lag and “love boke”. And eventually it degrades to “Peace-time boke”, and leads to Maria joining some kind of rebellious group looking to start wars because the Japanese people have gotten too used to peace and aren’t alert enough to threats.

In Japan, manzai is usually performed by two middle-aged men. Long ago, kimono was the traditional attire, but it’s become popular to wear a suit and tie instead. There are a few popular kombi where both performers are female, but usually women only have minor roles.

Back to the otaku-dom, the Touhou M-1 Grand Prix is a group of fan-animated manzai routines starring the Touhou characters. Youtube currently has a few subtitled ones up – the third competition took place at last December’s Comiket 75, and I think there might be one or two subbed, but I haven’t watched yet. If you have seen some of them, the routine with Remilia, Flandre, and Cirno should make sense now.

Japanese comedy of course consists of other things. As a whole, comedy is referred to as o-warai, which is the honorific form of the verb for “to laugh”. At the moment, owarai seems to be no less popular than anime and drama in the TV industry, having seen ratings for comedy programs increase over the last few years.

All sorts of comedy, including manzai routines, usually takes place on variety shows. Variety shows can be the normal kind, featuring all sorts of different things, but the popular ones are, of course, the funny ones. For example, that kind of variety show will usually have some guests that take part in all sorts of things like quizzes, physical challenges, comedic improvisation, and musical performances, all with comedic twists.

And then you have normal, funny game shows, such as that human tetris game(Brain Wall) and Ninja Warrior(SASUKE), a couple of which you can watch subtitled on G4. You can find plenty of this stuff on Youtube, so I encourage you to go watch some of it.

Human Tetris
Rube Goldberg-esque contests

Well, that’s my rant for today! See you guys.


4 Responses to “Otaku Research I: Japanese Comedy [Orange Farm Archive]”

  1. April 8, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    Stream Watching on my blog?

    How dare you, Darkslime…

  2. 2 darkslime
    April 8, 2009 at 10:03 AM

    Whaddaya mean stream watching? Like I’d ever be able to find this stuff anywhere else.

  3. 3 Ssuusshhii
    April 9, 2009 at 7:16 PM

    I stream watch all anime.


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