Manzai Shinjin Taishou 2015: Tokyo Manzai's New Stars
Tonight I was able to attend the Manzai Shinjin Taisho (Manzai Newcomer Award), a Manzai contest held every year by the Manzai Kyokai. The Manzai Kyokai is an organization of Manzai comedians that operates in Tokyo and mainly performs in the Toyokan in Asakusa. The contest pits 6 pairs of performers from the Manzai Kyokai against 6 other pairs of comedians who come from outside agencies. I have an affinity with the Manzai Kyokai since much of my research in my Masters thesis centered on some of their comedians. They were very open to my research and as helpful as possible. Unfortunately due to the birth of my first child, a personal sickness, school and work I hadn't been able to drop by the Toyokan and say hi to the comedians that I had befriended. So, naturally I was looking forward to seeing them perform and have a few words with some of the more veteran performers working the show. Also, as purely a comedy fan I was looking forward to an interesting mix of known and unknown comics. The show I attended two years earlier featured many funny comedians as well as a few famous guest performers.
This years performers turned out to be a much more uneven bunch with very few examples of the traditional Manzai style of a humorous conversation between a straight man and a fool. Even worse, the Manzai Kyokai comedians that had made it to the finals of this contest (there was a qualifying round for both groups of comedians at an earlier date) universally bombed. The comedians that were able to amuse the audience included the somewhat famous Baka Yo Aikata Wa (馬鹿よ貴方は), the truly bizarre Ranjatai (ランジャタイ), and as the last pair to perform, Shonan Desutoraade (湘南デストラーデ). Shonan Desutoraade really brought down the house with a routine centered around one comedian trying to guess which country the other will go to for his first trip abroad. While not a standard Manzai routine the pair effective used repetition, over reaction and rhythm to entertain a somewhat tired audience. It was this routine that won them the contest and the winners of this years Manzai Shinjin Taisho (the Manzai newcomer award).
During the award ceremony they were somewhat overshadowed as the judges, especially Sawada sensei, openly criticized the Manzai Kyokai for the weakness of their comedians. Not one to mince words Sawada sensei called it a complete loss for the Manzai Kyokai in the contest that they founded 14 years earlier. Clearly the organization's young comedians will have to step it up next year if they are to be competitive. In general the contest seemed a bit down in level of skill and fan attendance this year. Still, there were many laughs to be had between the newcomers and the veteran guest performers that took the stage while the judges were determining the winner. Last years champions, Haha Kokoro, especially brought their "A " game with a polished routine that the once again make the deficiency of this years crop of Manzai Kyokai comedians painfully obvious. Never-the-less I look forward to coming again next year.
(Photo courtesy of Owarai Natalie, http://natalie.mu/owarai/news/151830)