Pressure Turns on Yoshimoto After Shocking Tear-filled Press Conference
After a shocking press conference held by comedians Miyasako Hiroyuki and Tamura Ryo, the most popular of the group of comedians that were exposed in June for entertaining at a party organized by a criminal group, the focus of the press and the general public has shifted from their digressions to the shady handling of the scandal by their agency Yoshimoto Kougyou. The press conference was raw and emotional as the two comedians profusely apologized for their actions at the party and for initially lying about receiving payment for their services. The event soon turned into a shocking look at how Yoshimoto Kougyou tried to handle the scandal with some in the media calling it “power harassment”. The news continues to come hard and fast so here is an abbreviated timeline with some of the moments that stood out to me.
Timeline of Events
June 4th: Comedian Irie Shinya is released (fired) from Yoshimoto Kougyou.
June 6th: The magazine FRIDAY runs an article detailing that a group of (mostly) Yoshimoto comedians (including Miyasako and Ryo) worked as the entertainment for a party 4 years early that was organized by a criminal group. Miyasako denies that he received any compensation for this job.
June 8th: Ryo goes to Yoshimoto and confesses to receiving payment for the job. The company stresses that it wants to take a stance of “wait and see”. On twitter and radio, Ryo lies about receiving payment.
June 24th: It is revealed to the public that the comedians did get paid for the party. Yoshimoto announces that they have suspended the 11 comedians involved. Miyasako and Ryo go to Yoshimoto chairman Okamoto and ask to be able to hold a press conference to apologize for their actions. Okamoto responds by saying, “You can have the press conference, but if you do I will fire all of the comedians involved.”
July 7th: Miyasako and Ryo request again to hold a press conference to apologize.
July 8th: The two comedians meet with Okamoto. Okamoto states, “We’ll let you have a press conference but we have the right to decide when it takes place.” Without a specific date for the press conference the two comedians hire lawyers.
July 13th: Yoshimoto releases the amount that the two comedians received for their work.
July 18th: Without holding a press conference to apologize the two comedians are presented a choice by Yoshimoto, hold a press conference in which they announce their retirement or be released from their contract with Yoshimoto. Miyasako and Ryo decide to hold a press conference on their own.
July 19th: Yoshimoto sets up a press conference for noon of that day. It is set up as a press conference with Miyasako and Ryo.
July 20th: Miyasako and Ryo hold a press conference to apologize. Yoshimoto considers releasing the two from their contracts.
Stand-out Moments in the Press Conference
There were a lot of memorable moments in the two and half hour press conference. Here are some of the parts that stick out to me.
After Miyasako and Ryo and their lawyers were meeting with Okamoto and Yoshimoto’s lawyers, Okamoto asked the lawyers for both sides to leave the room. After the lawyers left Okamoto turned to the two and asked, “You’re not taping this now are you?” According to the two comedians in that meeting Okamoto also said, “You can do the press conference but I will fire all the comedians involved. I have the power to do that.”
Ryo also commented that after they had hired lawyers that Okamoto refused to meet with them, only going through the company lawyers who stated that, “Everyone is sad that you hired lawyers.” playing up on that they were just one big family.
Ryo later brought up again the philosophy of everyone at Yoshimoto being part of a family.
“There isn’t even a little bit of me that wants to attack Yoshimoto. The reason we hired lawyers was to get a third party in there. At first Yoshimoto say, “Sure. Go ahead.” But suddenly their attitude changed…. People that said they were my “family” changed so quickly that it was shocking.”
“To me if this really is a “family” than I would be the “child”. When a child is trying to apologize for doing something wrong and someone is trying to stop you from doing that that kind of person is not your “parent”. Once that happened I had nothing but mistrust (for Yoshimoto). There is no reason to stop me (from apologizing). I just wanted them to support me and push me to do that, to help me find a way to apologize best.”
Despite what many have been calling “power harassment” by the Yoshimoto Miyasako expressed his love for his company.
“Even if all of this is true I didn’t really want to do a press conference like this. I just wanted to apologize…For the company that brought up an idiot like me for 30 years I have nothing but gratitude. I didn’t want it to be like this.”
Reaction to the Press Conference
Not surprisingly, reaction from the comedy community to this press conference was swift and widespread with many big name comedians like Beat Takeshi chastising Yoshimoto for putting the two comedians in such a difficult and extremely sad position.
One reaction that stood out was that of Yoshimoto comedian Kato Kouji who is now a co-host for a morning show. Responding to the crisis with great passion Kato said the following on live television.
“To see these comedians who usually should be making people laugh be there at a press conference to apologize with tears running down really makes me sad. Along with that I feel anger toward the company. To let it get to this point. To deny the two the right to hold a press conference through the company and force them to contact everyone and find a place to do it on their own, I am really angry and disgusted with Yoshimoto.”
Then Kato dropped the hammer.
“Everyone is scared of Osaki and Okamoto. At Yoshimoto right now everyone is afraid of these two. Can you make people laugh with the management there is now? If you complain about something, no, if you share your opinion about something you’re afraid that they’ll get angry at you, that they will rub you out. The location managers are in the same boat. There are a lot of talented location managers at Yoshimoto and some of those talented people couldn't take it and quit. I know of some myself. But this has been going on for a long time with everyone being scared of Osaki and Okamoto. If this continues like this I can’t be in a company like this. I will quit. If this system continues with this president and chairman I will quit Yoshimoto Kougyou! The reason being with all these people at Yoshimoto trying their best something horrible like this is happening in the company and even if President Osaki says he didn’t know about all this he definetly knows! This is my opinion. I will quit if the president doesn’t change!”
Kato then turned his comments to Downtown’s Matsumoto who had an emergency meeting with Osaki and Okamoto after the press conference and then had a live broacast of his usually taped program “Wide na Show” on Sunday.
“On Wide na Show Matsumoto said, “if Osaki quits so will I.” Although it might anger him to have a comedian with less experience than him criticize him and I can understand Matsumoto’s feelings because he has worked with Osaki for such a long time but Matsumoto-san! As a kohai to you I don’t way this but he is the top of the company! Everyone is in pain and can a company where the top doesn’t take responsibility function?!…I don’t really want to say this but he’s not Downtown’s manager (any more), he’s the top of the company! There are employees and their families, young comedians and their families, and everyone’s livelihood depends on the company. The top of Yoshimoto, the president, chairman and the business side has to change! And if that situation doesn’t change I will leave the company.”
While Kato was making these explosive comments on camera fellow Yoshimoto comedian and morning show co-host Kondo Haruna could be seen breaking down in tears.
Note: There really is a lot more to this story and I will try to update you as soon as I can. As this article was being written Yoshimoto held press conference which lasted over 5 hours so I will do my best to recap that in the next few days.