Yuichiro Nagai, a comedian, talks about the hidden struggle of “Axelhopper
Although he took the world by storm with his rhythm material, in fact, "I wanted to do comedy like Bananaman," and after moving to a new agency twice, he is now selling his material at NFT. When I first started selling, I hated playing the character. I wanted people to see that there were more different versions of me."
I was sure that Axel Hopper changed my life, but when I first started selling, I didn’t want to play the character. I wanted people to see that there were more different versions of me out there.”
Pan-pan-pan-pan! Do you remember the man who took the world by storm with his “Axel Hopper” rhythm jokes in the mid-1900s? He is the comedian Yuichiro Nagai (44). Nagai, who has been performing for 24 years, says he has been struggling with the distance between his breakthrough with his hilarious character titled “Bakatempo” and the image he originally envisioned for himself as a comedian.
I entered the Tokyo NSC one year after graduating from high school, joined Yoshimoto in 1998, and formed a comedy duo with a local friend. I didn’t know how to write material, so I borrowed VHS videos of live performances from my classmates and studied them.
I was influenced by the fashionable and twisted comedies of Bananaman and Karika. At the time, I always wanted to do that kind of material.
He worked to become a “contortionist,” but the duo broke up in 2000. He was also struggling as a pin-up comedian, and was working part-time, but in the sixth year of his career, he found his own style of comedy.
At the time, I thought I had to do something to make it in the world, so I asked 100 people I knew what made them laugh,” he said. The top three were ‘face, movement, and phrases. I decided that I couldn’t be as good as Bananaman if I kept on like this, so I decided to use my own weapons and came up with “Baka-Tempo.
In 2006, Axelhopper made his breakthrough, earning a maximum monthly income of 800,000 yen, and began performing live every day from north to south.
His TV debut was on “Enta no Kamisama” (God of Entertainment). I appeared on the show not as Yuichiro Nagai, but as Axel Hopper. So I was frustrated that only my character became famous at such a rapid pace without people recognizing that I had many stories to tell. Immediately after my breakthrough, there was a time when I appeared at Lumine with Tutorial and other eminent comedians, and I got the loudest cheers.
The audience had come all the way to see me because they thought I was going to do Axel Hopper, but I did a story about a drunk who runs away with his wife and whose child commits suicide. The audience seriously booed me. Now that I think about it, that’s exactly what happened. ……
The peak of his career passed, leaving him with some lingering doubts. Nevertheless, Nagai left Yoshimoto in May of 2009, thinking, “I want to continue making material and I want a place where I can express myself freely. In September of the same year, he transferred to J-BRAVE, to which singer Toshihiko Tahara (61) and others belong. In September of the same year, he moved to J-BRAVE, to which singer Toshihiko Tahara (61) and others belong, and within a year moved to Victor Music Arts. Currently, while performing in theaters, he sells his “Axelhopper” material with NFT (non-exchangeable tokens).
I want the public to spread the word about Axel Hopper,” he said. It’s a character with complicated memories, but I’m still happy when people in their 20s and 30s say, ‘I remember you. I do what I do with the hope that something fun will spread throughout the world.”
He may be the first comedian in history to get a second break because of NFT. ……
From the September23, 2022issue ofFRIDAY
PHOTO： Hayahide Sato