For several years, Japanese stand-up comedians have also found success on the domestic book market. Benefiting from their popularity and constant presence in the media, publications by comedians-authors often turn into media sensations. One of the most prolific and interesting comedian-authors in recent years has been Matayoshi Naoki. Years after Matayoshi had constructed and established his image in the media as an intellectual bookworm, his novel Hibana (2015, eng.: Spark, 2020) was awarded the Akutagawa Prize, a prestigious Japanese literary award. The book became a bestseller and was later adapted as a series on Netflix, reaching audiences all around the world.
Hibana focuses on the life of manzai stand-up comedians in Japan, such as Matayoshi himself. With autobiographical undertones Matayoshi scrutinises the aesthetics of comedy and the role of the comedian in Japanese media and society, while also creating or re-confirming audiences’ ideas about the life of a professional comedian. In my talk, I am going to examine the relationship between ideas of comedy presented in Hibana and the author’s on-stage/on-screen personae across different media. In doing so, we can better understand of how comedians’ images are constructed in Japanese show business.
Till Weingärtner is lecturer in contemporary East Asian Studies and director of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Languages and Cultures (CASiLaC) at University College Cork. He holds his M.A. and PhD in Japanese Studies, both from Freie Universität Berlin. Since his student days his research has primarily focused on Japanese comedy. During his postgraduate research on Japanese comedy at Kansai University (Osaka) he tried his hand at stand-up comedy even winning an award and hosting a local radio show with his Japanese comedy partner. These experiences in the Japanese entertainment industry had a big impact on his research interests and he remains interested in performance, not only from an academic position but also by organising performances for Japanese artists as well as at times still performing himself in Japanese, German and English.
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