Manzai (漫才) is a style of stand-up comedy in Japan, which usually involves two performers—a straight man (tsukkomi) and a funny man (boke)—trading jokes at great speed. Most of the jokes revolve around mutual misunderstandings, double-talk, puns and other verbal gags.
In recent times, manzai has often been associated with the Osaka region, and manzai comedians often speak in the Kansai dialect during their acts. Yoshimoto Kogyo, a large entertainment conglomerate based in Osaka, first coined the term manzai in 1933, as well as introducing the form of comedy to Tokyoitesites.
Originally based around a festival to welcome the New Year, manzai traces its origins back to the Heian period. The two manzai performers came with messages from the gods and this was worked into a standup routine, with one performer showing some sort of opposition to the word of the other. This pattern still exists in the roles of the boke and the tsukkomi.
Continuing into the Edo period, the style focused increasingly on the humor aspects of stand-up, and various regions of Japan developed their own unique styles of manzai, such as Owari manzai (尾張万歳), Mikawa manzai (三河万歳), and Yamato manzai (大和万歳). With the arrival of the Meiji Period, Osaka manzai (大阪万才) began changes that would see it surpass in popularity the styles of the former period, although at the time rakugo was still considered the more popular form of entertainment.
The spread of manzai was largely put to a halt after the conclusion of World War II.
With the end of the Taishō period, Yoshimoto Kōgyō—which itself was founded at the beginning of the era, in 1912—introduced a new style of manzai lacking much of the celebration that had accompanied it in the past. This new style proved successful and spread all over Japan, including Tokyo. Riding on the waves of new communication technology, manzai quickly spread through the mediums of stage, radio, and eventually, television.
The kanji for manzai have been written in various ways throughout the ages. It was originally written as 萬歳 (lit. ten thousand years or banzai, meaning something like "long life"), using the archaic form of the character 万 (to which it was soon changed). The arrival of Osaka manzai brought another character change, this time changing the latter character to a simpler 才, which carries the basic meaning of "talent".
In 1933, Yoshimoto Kōgyō—promoting its own new style of manzai—felt it right to bring on yet another character change. Thus manzai took on the form that has remained to this day, 漫才, which has the slightly more interesting meaning along the lines of "involuntary talent".
Boke and tsukkomiEdit
Similar in execution to the concepts of "funny man" and "straight man" in double act comedy (e.g. Abbott and Costello), these roles are a very important characteristic of manzai. Boke (ボケ) comes from the verb bokeru (惚ける or 呆ける) which carries the meaning of "senility" or "air headed-ness" and is reflected in the boke's tendency for misinterpretation and forgetfulness. The word tsukkomi (突っ込み) refers to the role the second comedian plays in "butting in" and correcting the boke's errors. It is common for tsukkomi to berate boke and hit them on the head with a swift smack, often with a pleated paper fan called a harisen (張り扇).
The tradition of tsukkomi and boke is often used in other Japanese comedy, although it may not be as obviously portrayed as it usually is in manzai.
- ↑ Hiragana lesson through Japanese culture - manzai
- ↑ Manzai (Double-act comedy)
- ↑ Japanese yose theater - Japanese comedy shows
- ↑ WWWJDIC
- "Commodified Comedians and Mediatized Manzai: Osakan Comic Duos and Their Audience" by Xavier Benjamin Bensky. A study in the cultural effects of manzai.