Saturday, April 21, 2012

ハイテンション ザ・ベストテン High Tension The Best Ten!

Continuing with the theme of Japanese comedy shows, I'd like to put the spotlight on yet another feature of ガキの使い, called ハイテンションザ・ベストテン. (High Tension The Best Ten) But first, in order to understand exactly what the crap is going on in the following videos one must first understand a little bit of Japanese.

In Japan, they have three different "alphabets", for lack of a better word, which are divided into two phonetic symbol systems and one pictograph system called kanji, which are the Chinese symbols that cool people get tattooed on their biceps.  The two phonetic ones are both identical in sound, but they look completely different and they are used for different purposes.

The first one, ひらがな(Hiragana), is used for Japanese words.  ALL Japanese words.  Some examples include りんご(apple), いぬ(dog), and くるま(car).  As you can see, it has a very rounded, flowing style and they all sort of match.

The second set, カタカナ(Katakana), is used for any borrowed foreign words that have made their way into regular Japanese speech such as ビール(beer), ワイン(wine), and ハンバーガー(hamburger). These things are not original to Japan so they didn't have words for them, which is why their original pronunciation is used. Katakana has a very angular "pointy" style that is very different fro Hiragana so foreign words tend to stick out quite a bit in written form.

Now, there are some borrowed Katakana words that have somehow gotten changed around in the mix.  Sometimes a stray foreign word comes to Japan, but its meaning gets totally remade in the minds of its new Japanese users.  For the native English speaker, these things can drive one a little crazy.  テンション(Tension) is one such word.

In English we all know that tension is usually related to ideas of stretching, balance and, in design, as a way to highlight something and make the viewer subconsciously uncomfortable, causing "tension".  In Japan, it means energetic... yeah.  I'm not sure how it turned out that way (any help with this would be appreciated), but that is what we are dealing with here...

Basically, they take ten comedians and have them act as hyper and energetic and crazy as they possibly can and they are voted on (I guess? I'm not sure where they get those numbers from.) and ranked.  If you want to see grown Japanese men make absolute fools of themselves, and turning on the TV should allow you this opportunity in a matter of minutes no matter the time of day, High Tension The Best Ten is probably the quickest and best way to do so.

Here are some more hyperactive weirdos for your viewing pleasure.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sugi Chan スギちゃん

I like to think of myself as being pretty up-to-date with regard to Japanese comedians.  I watch a lot of comedy shows online like ガキの使い, しゃべくり007, and アカン警察.  All of these shows prominently feature a wide array of comedians, young and old, so I have gotten a pretty good feel for who I do and do not think is funny within the realm of Japanese comedy. 

In this episode of ガキの使い, our hosts, Matsumoto and Hamada, have assembled a group of comedians to compete in a "freezing" competition. The rules are that they have to try to freeze in place as creatively and for as long as possible without the people they are around noticing that they're up to something. They are then given a score for various factors such as creativity, dry eyes, length of time, etc. This is part one of two, so if you would like to see the second half, click here.

I recently came across an up and coming comedian dubbed "Sugi Chan" (スギちゃん), while watching the ガキの使い New Year's celebration show, where they highlight new talent and Yamazaki Hosei judges them based on a score of 1-10 and in the end, picks his favorite.  I have never seen him give anyone a score under 8 and I'm not sure if that's because he really thinks they are all hilarious, he is just being nice, or if he really is just that easy to please. In the video below, Sugi Chan is competing in a stand-up show called R-1 Grand Prix, which is sort of similar to Comedy Central's Last Comic Standing.

He does this bit about being "wild" and proceeds to show examples of his incredible "wildness" like buying a 2 liter of soda and immediately throwing away the cap, not caring if it goes flat or that it might spill.  He also bought a bike lock and threw away the combo without looking at it, and now he has to guess as to what the combo is.  Yeah, he's THAT wild.  The jean vest/shorts combo should have told you that immediately.  He also ends all of his sentences with an ascending pitch ぜ!which is a confident, manly way of saying things in Japanese, although the high pitch just makes it strange and oddly feminine.

Anyway, I had no purpose in posting this other than to give you an idea of what I think is really, really funny.  Silly stuff like this usually goes a long way with me, which is probably why I like Monty Python so much.  I also like to support young(ish) comedians in whatever way I can, in this case, it's by posting about it on my blog.  I can't exactly go see him live, so this is the best I have to offer.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sophomore Review

There are many days throughout a person's life that they will remember as having defined the course of their entire life.  I've not been on this Earth for very long, relatively speaking, but even I have had many such days.  While many of them are fairly common and can be claimed by most people such as graduations, weddings, deaths in the family, etc, I have had a few in the past few years that have directly shaped the course of my life, mostly in the form of letters in the mail.  The most devastating one being the one I got from the FBI saying my foreign language skills weren't good enough to qualify as a special agent.