Not all Japanese comedy’s performed by manzai duos, or solo superstars. Some of Japan’s longest-running gags need a whole team of entertainers to get right.
The ‘origin’ of ‘joy’ (yay for kanji)
So maybe you’ve heard of Yoshimoto Kogyo (吉本興業). It’s a massive entertainment agency, Japan’s biggest, repping some of the most famous comedy and performance talents.
‘Yoshimoto’ is written with the kanji for ‘joy/good luck’ and ‘origin’. It could’ve been clever naming, but it’s a coincidence – the founder’s last name was really Yoshimoto. Great name for a talent agency, anyway.
The clout Yoshimoto holds in the entertainment industry’s big enough that it runs talent schools and theatres all over Japan. New stars often come straight from Yoshimoto’s own ‘New Star Creation’ (NSC) entertainment school courses. It’s competitive, and you have to pay to study there.
Some of those rising comedy talents get their big break starring in Yoshimoto Shinkigeki (吉本新喜劇) shows.
(Pics from the Yoshimoto Shinkigeki official Twitter account.)
Home-grown Kansai comedy that everyone knows
Shinkigeki – literally ‘new comedy’ – is an ironic name for something that’s been around for 60 years. It’s theatre comedy, with wordplay, OTT slapstick, and ‘slice of life’ stories that get too real. Japan loves that stuff.
The comedy teams put on performances almost every day, at Osaka’s iconic Namba Grand Kagetsu theatre. (Plus 1 in Umeda and 1 in Kyoto!) There’s a different show, with a different cast, every week.
Okay, they’re not all 100% original. A totally new show every week’s a big ask. Maybe you’ll hear a joke and wonder if you’ve heard it before. But the important bits change, like the scenery and characters.
The location’s always a normal, everyday place in Japan (think hotels, shopping streets, and the takoyaki stand on the corner). Makes the story way easier to connect with – we’ve all been there. You can identify with the people on stage, and feel their pain when they fall over.
On Saturdays, the show’s broadcast around lunchtime on local Osaka TV. Watching Shinkigeki while eating lunch is a weekend ritual for loads of people, and has been for years and years.
We could write more about how crazy popular Shinkigeki is in Osaka (and the rest of Japan). Or maybe we’ll show you that time BTS showed up as special guests.
Yeah. This show’s kind of a big deal.
They’re funny, and they want your money
With fame and recognition comes the chance to sell official merch with famous, recognisable faces on it. Make people laugh all the way to the gift shop checkout!
Theatre regular Suchico got a feature on the Yoshimoto x 3 Coins (300-yen store) home and stationery goods collab in 2018. Or maybe we should say Suchico’s most famous gag – the ‘nipple drill’ – got featured…
Yoshimoto’s smart enough to run their own online shop for comedy goods. (And to use more than 1 URL – there’s another shop link to check too.) We’ve linked the Shinkigeki items, but you’ll find more when you look around. The ‘search by talent’ list has over 200 options.
Shinkigeki items include stuff like keyholders, candy, T-shirts and towels, and a memo pad that looks like the theatre stage. They’ve got a kawaii cartoon-ish style (sooo Osaka) to keep you giggling.
DEJAPAN brings the Japanese comedy to you
Okay, maybe you don’t know enough Kansai-ben to watch a live Yoshimoto Shinkigeki performance in Osaka. That shouldn’t mean you miss out on the fun!