Comedy Schools, Booming Business in Japan

January 25, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. contemporary (adj.) [kuhn-tem-puh-rer-ee] –  something that belongs to a present time
Example:  Some contemporary artists use technology in their crafts.

2. conglomerate (n.) [kuhn-glom-er-it] – a large organization composed of companies that do various businesses or commercial activities
Example:  The companies joined together to establish a conglomerate that captures a wider market.

3. antic (n) [an-tik] –  a playful and funny act that often draws attention
Example: As a comedy actress, Amanda easily made audiences laugh with her different antics on stage.

4. wacky (adj.) [wak-ee] – something that does not appear serious; strange and out of this world
Example:  Her role in the stage play was a wacky student who talked and laughed loudly.

5. live on (v.) [liv on] -  to continue to live or exist despite difficulties or the passing of time
Example: The movie was about a man and a woman whose love lived on despite the hardships brought by World War I.

Read the text below.

Actors in the booming comedy business in Japan learn their trade in a school built especially to help them become professional comedians.

The New Star Creation (NSC), established in 1982, has produced a number of famous actors—from Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada of the duo Downtown to more contemporary acts like Peace and Hannya.

With comedians making up 70 to 80% of TV personalities in Japan—cracking jokes and hosting in various shows, many Japanese are trying their luck in this career. Taiki Momino, instructor at NSC, says some 700 students enroll in their school every year.  

Before, comedians would train and live with a master. This would include doing chores for the master like cooking or cleaning, said Hiroshi Osaki, president of entertainment conglomerate Yoshimoto Kogyo, Ltd. — the largest agency of Japan’s most famous comedians. It soon became clear that this method no longer worked for modern actors. This paved way to the establishment for NSC in the 1980s. NSC allowed beginner comedians to share their humor and antics with teachers and fellow students.

There are five kinds of classes in the school: manzai (duo performance where one actor plays a wacky character, and the other a serious one) and sketch classes, acting, voice and music, dance, and special topic classes. Momino admits teaching people to be funny is not possible. But he and other teachers can still give advice on the students’ performances and help them improve.

But only a few of the hundreds that enter NSC each year truly become successful comedians, says instructor Masanori Honda. For the past three decades, NSC has been teaching discipline and the right attitude to aspiring artists, and Honda hopes these values live on in them.

With branches in Tokyo and Osaka, the NSC school continues to prepare students for their future occupations as comedians.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         In your opinion, is it difficult to become a comedian?
·         Do you think comedy can be learned?

Discussion B

·         What kind of programs do you think should be shown on TV more often? Why?
·         Do you think that television networks in your country offer high quality shows to their audiences? Why or why not?


January 25, 2012