“Laughter with Value” : Muramoto Daisuke Organizes an Unusual Evening of Giving Minorities a Voice
Tonight (12/13/2018) I had the pleasure to attend a very unusual event organized by Woman Rush Hour’s Muramoto Daisuke. In his continuing effort to demystify taboos and bring attention to marginalized voices in society Muramoto assembled a group of individuals who were for the most part non-professional comedians and gave them a venue to air whatever they really wanted to say. While billed as a stand-up comedy show, Muramoto made it clear at the beginning of the show that most performers were amateur and asked for the audience to be supportive. The audience, made up of Muramoto fans, many of whom support his recent bend toward political humor, did their part and were more than supportive to this unusual line-up or unlikely performers.
Many of the performers were indeed humorous while sharing their thoughts, experiences, and worries while remaining touching. One performer, Kawayoke Shizuka, who was born with a facial deformation that made breathing difficult, performed a deeply personal, griping one-woman drama that was based on her own difficult childhood and the reconciliation with a childhood bully as an adult.
In the one person act, she acts out a traumatic experience when a bully in junior high says that she should not be recognized as a human and is simply a monster. In a moment of weakness and anger the main character makes a deal with the devil to get revenge on the bully by having the bully’s first child be born with the same deformity that she is afflicted with.
The plan goes awry when the bully shows up years later to sincerely apologize for all the cruel things she said to her before. In a moment of regret the main character asks the former-bully if she would love her unborn baby if it was born with the same kind of deformities that she had. The former-bully replies, “Of course I would. She is my child and I would love her and think she is the cutest most precious person in the word, no matter what.”
In a moment of deep regret she calls the devil to rescind the contract and prevent the baby from being born deformed. Unfortunately, the penalty for canceling a deal with the devil carries the price of her own life, which she gives willingly. In a dramatic moment in the play, Kawayoke removes the mask that had been covering the her nose, mouth, and chin to reveal to the audience her true self to the audience. The short drama was perhaps the high point of a night which featured too many to count.
Other performers included a professional comedian, Suzumoto Chie, who has MS, two little persons (one of which is a professional wrestler!), a person with a severe stutter, a young man with Down syndrome, a transgender man who had transitioned from a woman, a Syrian journalist who lives in Japan and a female wheelchair-bound sufferer of MS who came all the from Hokkaido for the event.
The Syrian journalist, Najib El-Khash, warmed up the crowd worth humorous stories and observations of Japanese culture, manners, and even the adult video market before suddenly transitioning to his devastating and simple account of the atrocities occurring in his homeland, carried out by its own government on its citizens. While the abrupt shift from humor to Syria shocked the audience into silence, his honest emotion captured the moment and all of those watching. He hit the audience hard (but fairly) regarding how the Japanese media and general public (and other countries) are ignoring the cruel conditions in Syria.
In between the performances, the host Muramoto Daisuke, one of the top professional comedians in Japan today, came out with a humorous quip or interesting information about the performer before quickly introducing the next act. Throughout the evening I was struck by how humble and deferent Muramoto was. As one who is used to being the one in the spotlight, this night Muramoto made sure that he was but a supporter of these minority voices. One could really tell too, that this was not some act of charity or pity by Muramoto. He genuinely seemed in awe by all the performers and determined to let them shine on their own. In his final summation Muramoto also noted that although a TV performance on THE MANZAI MASTERS the week earlier saw him deliver a politically heavy routine that ended with a joke (because he is a manzai comedian) he decided not to end with a joke this time and just suggested that the audience let the night’s performance themselves linger with them and to think about what they saw this night.
In the end, it’s truly hard to properly recap every account of the night here as all were funny, touching, and thought-provoking in their own way. One thing is for sure, the sold-out audience of 217 will certainly not soon forget this special event. The night ended with a curtain call for all the performers with Muramoto asking Keiji, the young man with Down Syndrome, to close the night with a line that he had closed her performance with. Keiji joyously exclaimed, “この地球に生まれて満足です！” which can be roughly translated into, “I am happy to have been born on this Earth!”