Omoshiro-so Winner, Diamond’s Determination: “No More Excuses | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Omoshiro-so Winner, Diamond’s Determination: “No More Excuses

2022 Road to M-1: "Diamond

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Nozawa Export and Ono Ryusuke of “Diamond” won the “Omoshiro-so” of “Guru Ninety Nine” (NTV) broadcast on New Year’s Day last year and showed their presence in the final of “Tsugikuru Gejin Grand Prix 2021”. On the other hand, in “M-1 Grand Prix”, they have been stuck in the quarterfinals for four consecutive years since 2018. They have missed the chance to make it to the quarterfinals for four consecutive years since 2018.

They are more confident than in previous years,” they say as they approach this year’s M-1 Grand Prix with a “middle idea” rather than a “form” of manzai. We asked them to share their honest feelings about what they felt at last year’s competition, their unique style of manzai and the challenges of being Yoshimoto comedians, the rivals they are aware of in the M-1 preliminary rounds, their thoughts on the leap forward for their peer duo “Inu,” and more.

Diamond’s Nozawa Export (left) and Ono Ryusuke (photo by Sugizo)

The flow of the competition changed dramatically when “Magical Lovely” won.

–Last year, “Nishikigoi” won the M-1 Grand Prix as the oldest winner in the history of the competition. Did you feel anything while watching?

Ono:We were moved by Nishikigoi’s victory, but we were more moved by the fact that Jessica Vacuum, Ranjyatai, and Mogrider made it to the finals. We often performed with people from other agencies.

In 2020, we will be participating in the “Magical Lovely” competition. I feel that the flow of the competition changed dramatically when “Magical Lovely” won in 2020. In the midst of all this, some of the other places that were relatively close to us began to take off, and we thought, “It’s about to get bad,” and “We have to go now.

Nozawa: Conversely, I also felt that we could make it. There were some juniors who were close to us, and although it was frustrating, I also felt that we had potential. However, “Oswald” has been in the finals for three years, and I am losing that feeling every year.

–Last year, “Oswald” was the runner-up, wasn’t it? Did you have any conversations after the competition was over?

Ono:We talked about how close it was and how he had done it, etc. After the first run, there was a feeling that he was going to win. It was the first time I had ever heard that a junior member close to me might win, so I thought, “Well, well, well” (laughs).

(Laughs) After we had teamed up, I had been performing with “Oswaldo” for quite a while, so I was even more excited and said, “Wait a minute. Of course, I knew it was interesting, but I was amazed again.

This year, we are playing with “inside ideas” rather than “outside ideas.

-The two of you made it to the quarterfinals four years in a row from 2018 to last year. How do you feel about this result?

Ono:I thought it would be tough if we were to end up in the quarterfinals again this year, following this trend. I think people’s expectations are getting higher, and they are thinking, “It’s about time you made it to the semifinals of “Diamond”. If I miss it, I will be in the group of people who say, “That didn’t work out,” so I really think it will be this year.

Nozawa: Well, there is freshness, isn’t there? Whenever a comedian is on a roll or has a chance, he or she will probably say, “I’ve got to take it. There are people who go beyond that and catch it, though.

But it’s a little tough to go on like that until the last year. Well, I don’t think there is an absolute right answer because it is up to others to decide.

–What do you think is necessary to break through the barrier of the quarterfinals?

Ono:I have never broken through there, so I really don’t know (laughs). But I think we did some things this year that we haven’t done before, such as matching our costumes and changing our comic package a little bit.

Also, this year, we were quick to discuss “how many rounds we should do this material. For the past two or three years, I have always said, “We don’t have a story for the quarterfinals,” but I think we are getting ready rather quickly.

Nozawa: We always only have one strong story a year (laughs).

Ono: We finish one new style of manzai a year and submit it in the third round every year. So I was always in trouble, thinking, “What should I do in the quarterfinals? That was decided earlier, so I am more confident than in previous years. Also, this year I have stopped changing my side of manzai (type) and am competing with “inside ideas” rather than “outside ideas. I think that has changed as well.

–I was a little surprised. I thought we were just going for our own “interesting” ideas.

Nozawa: We have been doing the “this must be interesting” type of things in the M-1 qualifying rounds for a long time, and I feel like we have already done that quite a bit. I think I have already done that quite a bit.

Ono:We don’t like to lose anymore. We realized that we should just do what we think is interesting in the finals. In order to do that, we had to win the preliminary contest first.

After winning “Omoshiro-so,” I thought that since we had been invited, we had to be popular.

–I was like, “Isn’t this just like Starbucks? I think that your comic style is really unique. Once again, what do you think is “our unique material”?

Ono:On the contrary, there are some material that we can’t do. We do it about every other year, and we did it for our solo show this year, but I don’t think it suits us.

The original tempo is completely different, and if that is the case, I think it would be better to do it in a chatbekuri. If we were to do something that we had never seen before, there would be no correct answer, so what we did would be the correct answer. I think that kind of comedy suits me better.

Nozawa: I am very clumsy, so I am limited in what I can do. Another reason is that I don’t want to do something that has been done before. I want to bring out a little originality in my work.

But I’m not obsessing over it to the point of rigidity. I simply want it to be popular. Even if it doesn’t feel right, if it’s really popular, that’s fine (laughs). (laughs) On the other hand, if it is that popular, then I think it fits well.

–I feel that your comedy is not so much for the masses as for the core audience, because you have an established worldview. How did you strike a balance in this regard?

Ono:I had a lot of trouble with that. I think my way of thinking changed when I won the Omoshiro-so competition and was allowed to perform in many live shows. I used to think that the sharper the material, the better, but now that I have been invited to perform, I have to be popular.

I think that is fine if you are doing comedy as a part-time job, but if you are going to make a living doing comedy, you have to do material that will be popular. So, even if it is the same material as before, I began to think, “How can I present it in a way that will make it popular?

Nozawa: It’s the same for me. If it were not for Yoshimoto, I probably would have continued to do strange things and put my energy into solo shows. But because it was Yoshimoto, we had to perform in various theaters and make various people laugh.

So it was inevitable that we would have to change our style to one that was not just for our own fans. That’s why we don’t do strange material now. They are not popular.

Ono:But because of our existing image, we are sometimes called together with people from other companies in a strange grouping. At that time, we have no way to do the material we have made recently. So, I think it would be good to do a live show where we only make those kinds of weird stories. I think there is definitely a demand for it, so I think it would be good to separate the two.

Rivals are “Kyu” and other comedians of the same generation who have not made it to the semi-finals

–When we interviewed “Kyu,” a manzai duo with a unique style, they said, “In M-1, if you are simply a very funny duo, you will always get a turn to compete. I’m trying not to lose my form in a hurry.

Ono:I think that is a good point about “Kyu”. It is really consistent. But I think that is largely due to the fact that “Kyu” is at Titan.

Nozawa: I don’t think it is possible to perform that style in Yoshimoto, which has 50 stages every month. In our case, it would be like doing “Te Manzai” (Nozawa uses his “hands” to express everything while talking continuously, while Ono only reacts and does not say a single word) on 50 stages. The stance of “Kyu” is only possible because it is Titan, and we are becoming Yoshimoto’s style. I guess our roots are the same.

Ono:I think our basic ideas are similar. We often perform live with “Kyu” and of course I think it is interesting. However, although we were born together, I think we grew up differently.

–The third round of the M-1 competition is coming up soon (the interview was conducted on October 26). Do you have any rivals in this competition?

Ono:I would say “Kyu,” for example. In the same generation, if you are in Osaka, you would be a black belt, for example.

Nozawa: I am aware of people of my generation who have not reached the semifinals. I am aware of “Kaname Stone,” “Mama Tart,” “Shishigashira,” and so on. I hope to make it to the semifinals or the finals before anyone else.

Ono:Oh, and “Hitsuji Neiri. They are really all about the same in that area. I don’t think it would be surprising if anyone else made it, but it would be too frustrating if we made it any further, so we have to make it this year. They are competing on a higher stage.

Nozawa: So now, the performers who are in the same place as us are our rivals. I think that’s what rivals are supposed to be.

Our goal is the same as before, just “to make it to the finals.

–In this year’s King of Conte, Inu, a comedian closely related to you, made it to the finals. Were you inspired by the results of your peers?

Nozawa: Yes, a lot. So when “Inu” made it to the finals, I remembered the hardships we went through together when we were at NSC, and I felt really happy for them. I was really happy for them, and I also felt that “we have to go there too.

Ono:I was happy. All the comedians love the two of you, but my feeling was probably “congratulations on making it to the semifinals. But they beat us and made it to the finals. I thought, “There are no excuses.” At the same time, I felt the possibility that “We can do it, too.

–I felt that I had the potential to do well, and that’s what motivates me now. Lastly, how are you feeling about the M-1 semifinals and finals?

Ono:In the quarterfinals last year, I thought, “I made it! I went out for a drink. After my performance, the M-1 camera came and asked me, “How did you do? I was so happy to answer, “I think it was fine.

About two days later, Hiroki Nunokawa of “Thom Browne” teased me saying, “You looked like you had been accepted, didn’t you? (Laughs.) But I had such a good response. So all I had to do now was to do it without making any mistakes.

Nozawa: I think it is possible to make it to the semifinals. If various things had changed a little, we would have made it last year, too. My goal is the same as it has always been: to make it to the finals. If I make it to the finals and don’t get my material wrong, I will win. But, well, there is also luck.

Ono:The order of the final is decided by “Emikuji Lottery. We will do the forbidden kissing like “Inu” and take off our clothes together when we come in last place. Of course, we also do a dark scene (laughs). We will do everything that is forbidden on the final stage.

  • Interview and text by Asahi Suzuki

    Freelance editor/writer. Former band member, former broadcaster. Loves all kinds of entertainment. Published "Shimura Ken Theory" (Asahi Shinbun Publishing) in April 2021. Currently updating his personal website, "Immortal Writing Blues.

  • Photography Sugizo

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