Monday, May 9, 2011

(Subbed) Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents: SASUKE

Because I still can't seem to detach myself from Hitoshi Matsumoto, here's a documentary which chronicles how Matsumoto created a short comedy film targeted for an American audience.

I don't necessarily agree with Matsumoto's view on American comedy, but it's certainly interesting to observe how Japanese comedian (a great one at that) analyzes American comedy. I also understand it's not fair to criticize Mr. Matsumoto since he didn't have enough time to do serious research. Case in point, the movie "Lost in Translation" had a scene where Bill Murray appears on a Japanese TV show. The show had a lot of flashy prime colors with wacky faces yelling and screaming in Japanese. When I first saw it, I didn't think much of it, but I suppose that's how she and many people outside of Japan perceived Japanese television shows.

With the exception of physical comedy, I don't think you can truly appreciate a different country's sense of humor unless you understand, in addition to their language and culture, all the different nuances associated with their comedy. A couple of years ago, I watched a video of British comedian, whose name I won't reveal, and not only did I have hard time understanding his accent, but even when I did understand his jokes, I wasn't laughing as loud as his massive audience. I know it's because I'm not a British citizen, so I don't have the same "funny bone" they do--just as Matsumoto references in the documentary.


(Subbed) Matsumoto Hitoshi_Sasuke 01 by ShibataBread

(Subbed) Matsumoto Hitoshi_Sasuke 02 by ShibataBread

(Subbed) Matsumoto Hitoshi_Sasuke 03 by ShibataBread


  1. That was interesting. I have been exposed to Japanese humour for a while and never really contemplated the difference between American humour and Japanese humour, but they definitely have different "feels" to them. When I watch Japanese shows I sometimes don't understand a reference or I say something like "I could see how that could be funny to a person living in Japan" but then I do not laugh out loud.
    Thank you for working on this and sharing it with us!~
    By the way, I have a suggestion for your next podcast Japanese lesson. The most useful Japanese phrase I've learned it "Kore ha eigo de nan desu ka" It's a fairly simple phrase, very useful, and builds on a phrase you've already been teaching (kore/sore/are)
    Thank you!~ ^-^


  2. thanks for this.
    very interesting to see Matsumotos idea of what American Humour is.
    it's got quite a Disney feel to it....?

  3. Interesting... As for me, Japanese humor is much more funnier than my native humor hahaha.

  4. Thanks for this! Definitely interesting.

    About Lost in Translation though, the TV show host that Bill Murray visits was a real host and that was his real show. I haven't seen it,however, so I can't say how similar it is to the film version.

  5. Thank you for the info. I'll make some correction accordingly.

  6. It's funny that you should mention the Japanese comedy show in the movie Lost in Translation. Zurui has been posting the show on his blog, it's called Matthews Best Hits TV.

  7. Cool podcast idea. We'll use that. That's very useful. Thanks.

  8. WOW I think this was truly a fantastic experience for Matsumoto. But I have to say...having been in the U.S for a while and getting exposed to their comedy...I just can't laugh at it. I can't laugh at all.

    If the U.S were to have a Waratte ha Ikenai - it would actually be "Warawanakute ha Ikenai" THAT IS JUST MY OPINION.

    I just feel more in tune with Japanese comedy for some reason. I just do. Thanks for your hard work Shibata! AS ALWAYS!

  9. thanks for the subs

  10. i love the japanese humor even though i dont understand any of the references. im norwegian so all of our humor is the same stuff thats in america. their sitcoms. i think the reason i find the japanese humor funny is because it's silly (some of it anyway) and everyone can laugh at that regardless. just like everyone laughs when someone falls on their ass :P

    i honestly cant remember the last time i laughed so hard i cried watching a sitcom but these batsu games makes me do that all the time. one of the few american shows i laugh at is "whose line is it anyway"

  11. Whose Line (when it was on) and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are the only American comedies I laugh at out loud, myself. But I love the Batsu games and a lot of the sketches from Gaki even though a lot of the cultural stuff goes over my head. I watch the raws as much for the obvious shared humor among the comedians and audience as for the physical humor. I just wish I were fluent in Japanese.

    But Japanese and American humor are so different. The closest thing we have to a long-running variety show like Gaki No Tsukai is SNL. While the stand up culture might be similar, we don't really have a community of comedians doing crossover shows and such like they do in Japan. I'd love to have an ongoing variety show of the caliber of Gaki to tune into every week, but all we have is reality shows, crappy game shows that are usually remakes of old shows or knockoffs of Japanese or British shows, a bunch of dull, formulaic sitcoms, and tons and tons of procedural dramas. 

    A lot of their shows just won't work for the broad American audience because they rely on cultural expectations we don't have (like the junior/senior dynamic), but I think MTV's Silent Library would have been infinitely better (for me personally) if it had been a group of comedians like Drew Carey's group or Judd Apatows, or even just known actors rotating, than the random teens they use.

  12.  I agree. It felt like some kind of throwback parody. Half 80s kid movie, half asian-exploitation flick. It also felt like a 5 or 10 minute sketch stretched out too far. Of course, some of Gaki's sketches feel like that too.

  13. They actually dared to play a Beyond song in the beginning.  Still won't forget how the Japanese entertainment industry killed Wong Ka Kui.

  14. watching this made me realize that at one point in my life 10yrs ago, matsumoto was 20min away from me.... dang!!!!! of course... i didn't know who he was at the time. but stil!!!!!!!

    thx Shibs!

  15. Wow, didn't expect it to be this long !
    Thanks for subbing.

  16. I thought at the end he would become ultrasasuke, wearing full body tight.

  17. The fuck are you talking about ?
    From what I read on wikipedia (I've never heard his name before, so I had to look it up), it was an accident.
    It could have happened anywhere. Even on a train station that just got mopped. Would you have blamed the "railway industry" too ?

  18. Are you saying the the Japanese entertainment industry did not cause his death?  Using your analogy,  hell yeah I blame the railway industry.  Is the train station not part of the railway industry?  Why wouldn't it be their fault?  Their negligent caused the death of a man.  Accident does not mean no one is at fault. 

    I could use an analogy too.  Playing their songs in a Japanese entertainment show is like a drunk driver in a PSA talking about the victims he killed.  Yes it might be good in nature, but no one wants to hear it, especially fans of the band.
    I might be bitter, but his death brought the death of Hong Kong music industry.  Every damn song is about love now, nothing about problems in society.  This man was a lyrical genius and was at the height of his career, and it was all taken away from him by negligent.  You can call me ignorant, but this is what the Japanese entertainment industry caused in 1993.

    The fact is, I'm not saying the Japanese people are at fault.  Any entertainment industries which have safety problems is to be blame, it just happens to be the Japanese industry that caused his death.  I mean watch a episode of Takeshi's Castle, do you think it's safe in the things they do? I sure as hell don't.  Fact is, safety standard in the past are awful, and it's part of the reason that cause Wong Ka Kui's death. 

    I admit, I overreacted a bit in the beginning.  I love the Japaneses culture and I love Gaki, that's why I'm here.  But I didn't expect any Beyond song in a Japanese program.  It's my opinion that their songs should not be played by comedy shows, it's just insensitive.

    So before you TL;DR
    To answer your question, yes I know what the fuck I'm taking about.

  19. i dont know if youre going to continue to sub "the real matsumoto" but can you please sub this
    http://www(.)youtube(.)com/watch?v=TvPgi5aNkwY it seems to concentrate on the relationship with hamada but im not sure...

  20. Zurui has already finished subbing that episode.

  21. im not a japanese but i sure love matsumoto's humor i think he is the best comedian in the planet 

  22. Really interesting, thanks for translating =)

  23. I hope you never see that early Gaki episode where the guys go to shoot an episode in HK. Pretty offensive if you ask me. There's one part where Yamazaki walks around at night and asking totally oblivious HK women "how much?" (stupidly acting as though they were prostitutes for laughs, although clearly the women weren't prostitutes). From what I remember there were a lot of racist jokes about HK stereotypes and such. Disappointing and disappointed in GnT after that. I still love them and all, but it kind of sucked seeing such blatant racism from them.

  24. Since people laughed at Sasuke I have lost the last remaining faith in America. I laugh at both Japanese and American humor (I'm American). The comedy in Sasuke was the just about the lowest American humor. That makes me sad that after all of Matsumoto's research that is what he came up with. I love Matsumoto's comedy btw.

  25. I think everyone needs to calm down here.  I must admit, I was surprise a Cantonese song was chosen for the film, but do we need such a knee-jerk reaction to this?  Perhaps there was other reasons why the song was chosen.  Perhaps it was an acknowledgment in some way for Matsumoto who appreciated Wong Ka Kui and felt sorrow for?  Perhaps he's trying to apologise on behalf of the Japanese Entertainment industry, and hopes this film will bring a way to remind the Japanese and people of Hong Kong of Wong Ka Kui.  Who know's, perhaps write a letter to the man himself and ask.  Just thought there was no need for such a knee-jerk reaction and be offended so easily.  Deaths happen, and loss, will always bring sadness.  But why concentrate on the loss and sadness?  Why not look at what the incident brought about in the entertainment industry?  For example, better security measures and checks when stars are overseas?  More employment of procedures for safety for such people in public places?  I always believe there is always another side of the coin to every incident or issue, and it is not always black and white.  You say you blame the Japanese Entertainment industry for his untimely death, but I pretty sure the Japanese Entertainment industry has brought other good things to you and others.  

    I have to agree, today's music in HK are pretty much alike, and often don't highlight society's struggles and grief.  Perhaps you start your own band and write songs you like people to here?  Do something!And to comment about racism, can you really say to yourself and be sure that you never showed any prejudice to anyone or anything because of their culture and colour?  I highly doubt so.  Why?  Because we are merely humans, and humans are usually afraid of differences.  What Matsumoto is doing here is to study the differences and experiment the combinations.  He doesn't reject the differences, he tries to embrace them and work with them and try to get a result which every is happy with and also to help him self develop too.  I thought he was rather brave and creative in that way in taking this challenge.

    Toleration and forgiveness is the path to pave a better future!

    Chill out people!

  26. Thanks! interesting way to see how they see american comedy

  27. i love internet comedy, that stuff makes me laugh out loud, to all the japanophiles/ weeaboos posting comments on here about how American comedy sucks, thats probably because you are obsessed with japan and the japanese people, i find many things funny from all cultures i have watched comedies from the middle east, north africa, europe, america, latin america, china, korea, and japan and i always find something i can laugh at, it being the reactions, stories, etc. But there is always a show or comedian who i don't find funny and that is perfectly normal, I can't laugh at everything i watch

  28. Having watched this I am deeply moved at how matchan worked to fit his comedy into a foreign culture. I can't say it was a 100% success but like he said himself it was a tough challenge to even get 65/100 points of laughter. I genuinely laughed at some parts of the film, and I must agree that timing is everything in comedy.

    Upto this point I've never realised how much dedication he puts into his work, and you could definately tell he was about to cry when he heard the first laughs from the crowd. A true inspiration and I'm eternally grateful shibata-san that you subbed this. Now where's the thai kick?! xD

  29. If he wanted to make Americans laugh, all they have to do is show some batsu game clips. It's not like our sense of humor is that different. Americans would certainly find the 24 no-laughing games to be hilarious, even though we don't get some of the references, since we're not familiar with famous Japanese people. I mean, my point is, that this was pointless. Interesting, but pointless. Matsumoto already has can appeal to an American crowd, just by doing what he always does.

  30. They seem to have caught on to that. The best Silent Library episodes are the ones where the players have all been working together for some time -- teammates, castmates, bandmates, and so on.

  31. Thank you so much for sharing this.  I appreciated Matsumoto's Japanese comedy, but watching him tackle making comedy for such a different culture is really impressive.  I would love to see him make another attempt based on what he learned from this one (and maybe get some better actors).

  32. Timing is everything, and one big cultural difference that affects it is that the Japanese seem to like having the obvious spelled out for them. I am completely ignorant of why that is or how it is funny to them, but it is. It certainly isn't an intelligence thing, it's just something they do.

    Basic example:

    Guy 1 says something to Guy 2, and Guy 2 responds with an obviously stupid comment. In American and British humor, the joke ends there - the guy said something stupid, we laugh at what an idiot he is, and the show continues seamlessly.

    In Japanese humor, however, Guy 1 points at Guy 2 (probably with a big closeup on his face) and says "That was a stupid comment!" and THEN the audience laughs.

    I really like his attempt at American/Japanese humor, but certain things just won't fly with an American audience. Just like how Japanese want their punchlines spelled out for them, Americans want their visual gags spelled out for them. I understand that he saw the robot show and then used a giant robot to fix the house situation. What I don't understand is: why does the robot look almost nothing like a robot? The silver makeup and shoddy few lines of black on his face simply do not do a good enough job of showing us that he's a robot. The problem is exacerbated by the kimono non sequitur. In Japan, perhaps it's funny that the robot is wearing a kimono for no particular reason - or if there is a reason, it's so obviously cultural that it was doomed to fail in an American audience. To Americans, it just makes it even harder to realize that it's a giant robot. This would be okay if the joke was hilarious, but in this case it's mediocre at best, so the confusion ruined it completely.

    And yes, repetition works well with Americans - but it is also a fine line. Here in America, we have a term we use called "killing the joke" - and he was fairly close to stabbing some of those jokes to death. It was as if, instead of attempting many jokes of a wide variety, he instead chose to select a few, and then repeat 2 or 3 of them often as a "running gag". The problem with this is that running gags definitely work best with 1 per show. If you have these repeated jokes that just keep showing up, it becomes too obvious when they are going to happen, which reduces how funny the joke is. A joke which comes up repeatedly is timed best when the repetition is completely unexpected.

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