Remembering Chance Aoki
This last week the news of the sudden passing of comedian Chance Aoki (72) of a heart attack shocked and saddened the Tokyo comedy community. Don't know who Chance Aoki is? That's okay. I don't blame you. His television appearances were few and far between and even those who knew of him would be stuck to identify a signature joke or routine of his. This isn't to say he wasn't funny on stage. He certainly was and his over 45-year career would attest to that. But I believe that what myself and most others that interacted with him will most miss is his kindness and sense of responsibility when it came to helping young comedians in the Manzaikyokai (a union of comedians that perform at the Toyokan in Asakusa) develop into professionals. He was actually made well-known by the popular manzai duo Knights (also in the Manzaikyokai). When appearing on various TV shows they would gently make fun of the fact that he had changed his stage name from Aoki Chance to Chance Aoki.
I was lucky enough to meet and talk with him several times while conducting research on manzai during my masters degree and I always came away with the impression of a humble, kind man who cared for those who dared to try manzai. My relationship with Chance was limited to the few times we talked but judging from the reaction of the comedians (especially the young ones) of the Manzaikyokai he will be deeply missed. To find out more about Chance I purchased a book about him written by author Yamanaka Ichiro. I'm only partway through the book but it is confirmed my impression of him as a quiet but vital part of the comedy community in Asakusa. I really appreciate the work of the author in highlighting this comedian, who while never finding far-reaching fame, still deserves our attention and admiration. Chance, you will be missed and those who were lucky to have known you were better off for it.