Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#17 Japanese TV stars at my island’s elementary graduation

on March 28, 2012

So, in the US we have the word “celebrity.”

It generally means an actor, actress, or singer/musician of some sort.  Of course sometimes there are just other people that are famous for other reasons, such as they’re super rich and/or they have their own reality TV show.  Also there are comedians and talk-show hosts that get some press too.

In Japan the situation is a little different.  Of course actors and singers are popular here.  But there’s two extra types of famous people that are admired, followed, and watched.

Type 1: Idols (アイドル)

Type 2: “Talent” (タレント) or (Gag-)Comedians (芸能人)

As for type 1, an idol is basically a pretty young girl who is a singer.  She may be a mediocre singer, but no one really cares as long as she is pretty and puts on a good performance.  Often they come in groups.  Idols not only sing, but dance and entertain when they’re in the spotlight.  Idols gain lots of fans, particularly among men, and even release calendars and special photo collection books of them posing in bikinis and other skimpy outfits.  Most idols have a short shelf life.

As for type 2, this is a situation that seems to be unique to Japan (or at least, not something present in the US), and that’s a genre of celebrities that are bred purely for peoples’ amusement.

They often appear on Japanese “variety shows” which often encompass a lot of celebrities chatting with each other about various topics, or something more along the line of an extreme challenge game show where these celebrities are forced into doing silly or ridiculous mini games for the amusement of the audience.  The long-time popular boy-band Arashi has a TV show every Thursday night (calles Vs. Arashi) for an hour where the members participate in these ridiculous mini games against other TV personalities or talent, amidst ridiculously colorful stage designs.

This second type of TV show personality usually has a “thing.”  That thing could be that they’re a transvestite, that they have a sparkling personality, or that they have some physical gag that they repeat over and over.  The people with physical gags usually last about a year or so, then are replaced by a new one.  They often have a particular outfit they wear, and/or a particular action they do along with a catch phrase.

Examples of previous gag-comedians:

1) Hard Gay:

Here’s a short clip where he just comes out on a variety show and does his thing.

This next one is about 5 minutes long.  Searching YouTube yields a ton more if you’re intersted.  This one (subtitled in English) that gives you a good feel of what Hard Gay’s gags are all about, in that he often took his extreme antics and tried to shake things up in every day life, such as here where he visits Yahoo Japan’s corporate offices.

2) Yoshio Kojima (popular while I studied abroad in 2007-2008):

Here is he on a classic variety show, doing his thing.  Unfortunately, no subtitles.

Kids around the country imitated this guy CONSTANTLY.  Would this kind of thing every fly in the US….?  Probably not.

Also in this second type is manzai teams, or 2-person stand up comedy groups.  This has a very set structure.  One guy is all tension and the more down-to-earth one, often getting frazzled with his partner who usually acts stupid like he doesn’t know what’s going on, and it’s this contrast which sets the theme.  There’s often hitting involved (the dumb one gets hit).

So last week was the graduation ceremony of the elementary school I work at.

Out of the blue (even unbeknownst to the teachers), two celebrities (I’ll use that word to basically mean the second type) randomly showed up to my island at the end of the ceremony.

I had never seen or heard of either of them, but then again I don’t want much Japanese TV, and when I do, I prefer to watch the news or human interest stories as opposed to the variety shows which often have people speaking at high speeds and cracking jokes that I don’t understand anyway.

After the two celebrities left I asked someone who they were, and apparently they were the “Talent” Suzanne スザンヌ:

I got to snicker at how out of place she looked, with her cute gestures and fashionable clothes.  It was a stark contrast to what I’m used to seeing on my island, as out here no one cares -that- much about appearances.

And one half of the manzai comedy team Garage Sale ガレッジセール:

The guy that came was the one on the right.  I have no idea why he didn’t come with his comedy partner, nor do I know why he was with that Suzanne girl.

All the kids and teachers were surprised and delighted to have them around.  There was a whole camera crew closely following them and everything.  I tried my best to stay out of the way because I, as the token foreigner, am likely to garner attention with this sort of thing and be included in the video if anyone had caught me on tape.  Fortunately the celebrities seemed more intent on interacting with the kids and left me well enough alone.  ::phew::  I’m not one to want to be in the limelight.

Happy Graduation 6th graders.


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