Difficulty in choosing a successor for Sanyutei Enraku’s “Laugh Spot” due to the impact of Sanpei Hayashiya’s “dropping out.
Sanyutei Enraku passed away due to lung cancer. He had been a regular performer on the popular entertainment program “Laugh Spot” (Nippon Television) for more than 40 years, and had supported the program as its backbone.
Since Master Utamaru Katsura left to host “Laugh Spot” and was replaced by Shota Harufutei in ’16, the ratings have been steadily declining. In January 2010, Miyaji Katsura replaced Sanpei Hayashiya, but this was not a catalyst for a recovery in popularity.
Whether it is Shunputei Shota or Katsura Miyaji, they are extremely popular rakugo storytellers who have surpassed their seniors to be selected as shin-uchi. Even so, the fact that they cannot stop the numbers from dropping is said to be a difficulty unique to the Laugh-In program.
Although the show has a long history, many viewers probably enjoy the “scheduled harmony” of the show. The show begins with the “cynical” Utamaru and the “black-hearted” Enraku, and the previous master, the fifth generation Enraku, as the host, laughs it off in a hawkish manner. This was the very “axis” of the show.
Then, Hayashiya Kikugumi’s outlandish puns and Sanyutei Koyuzo’s slightly “mature” laughter would add a little extra flair to the proceedings. It was a popular way to enjoy such traditional arts on Sunday evenings. Now that all three of the key performers have passed away, there is no doubt that the show has turned a corner.
As evidence of this, the programs that received the highest viewer ratings this year were the January 30 episode broadcast immediately after Enraku was reported to have suffered a stroke, and the memorial special broadcast on October 2 after his death. The two specials showed the magnitude of Enraku’s presence.
That is why we have been very careful in selecting Mr. Enraku’s successor,” said one Niktei.
“That is why we are being very careful about who will replace Enraku,” said a Nippon TV insider.
Now that we have lost Enraku, who was the pillar of the program, the program is in need of drastic reform. If nothing is done, it is inevitable that the ratings will fall below 10%.
If that happens, there will be calls to discontinue the program, no matter how long it has been running. To prevent this from happening, surprising measures such as rejuvenating the program and appointing female comical storytellers will be necessary.
Being selected as a regular on Laugh-In is tantamount to a guarantee for the rest of one’s life as a rakugo performer. However, the fact that Sanpei Hayashiya’s “off-the-board drama” did not turn out that way is said to have cast a dark shadow over Enraku’s “choice” of successor.
Sanpei’s storytelling is not only a rakugo storyteller’s story, but also a rakugo performer’s story,” said Enraku. In Sanpei’s case, not only the comical storytellers but also the viewers have been calling him “boring,” and the program has become unable to protect him any longer.
If this happened, he would be branded as “not good enough” not only by rakugo fans but also by many others, and his career as a rakugo performer would be severely affected. Fearing such a situation, it has become difficult for the program to ask him to join the show, and some of the younger performers may be reluctant to join the show.
There is no doubt that “Laughing Point” has reached a crossroads with the passing of Enraku….