Otsuru Masashi and Yohei Hinohara of Mamatarte have been steadily making their presence felt as regular finalists in TBS Radio’s “Mynavi Laughter Night Champion Live” and “Tsugikuru Geinin Grand Prix.
What are their hopes for this year’s M-1 Grand Prix? We asked them to speak candidly about what they felt in last year’s M-1 final, what it takes to break the quarterfinal barrier, their rivals in this year’s competition, and why they are now able to say, “We will definitely win the championship.
Things have changed a bit since the days of the Kansai duo with their good manzai
–Nishikigoi won the M-1 Grand Prix last year. Mogrider, Vacuum Jessica, and Ranjyatai made it to the finals for the first time.
Obesity: When I found out that Shinku (Jessica) had made it to the finals, I said to myself, “Don’t go ahead of me! It took me about one or two days to sort out my feelings. After that, I was in a completely supportive mood.
Hinohara: I had been getting along well with Jessica Vacuum, so I felt that I wanted to go to the finals at the same time as her. I was originally good friends with Rohin, and I remembered the same feeling when SHIMOFURI MYOJO went to the finals and won in 2018.
But it’s impossible for all of us to make it all at once, so I’ve had people close to me make it to the finals little by little, and I’m like, “Next time, I’ll do it myself.
–Hinohara: I saw that in 2015, when you won the competition, you were able to win the final.
Hinohara: When I watched M-1 from 2015 to 2017, I had the impression that the finalists were people from Kansai who were very good at manzai, such as Ginshari, Torosamon, Super Maradona, and Kamaitachi.
If you belong to an agency other than Yoshimoto and perform in Tokyo, there is no one around you who is as good as the masters. So, I had one-sidedly thought that I would never make it to the finals because of my manzai skills, but I feel that things are changing a little bit.
Obesity: It’s like a sharp, pointed stone is better than a polished, clean stone. So when Maple (Chogokin), who did that at the beginning, made it to the finals, I was really happy.
2015 In 2015, I was still in my first year of my career as a performer or a student at Ota Productions’ training school. At the time, I was watching Maple at live performances and thought, “This is interesting,” and “I hope she makes it to the finals,” and she did. I was always aspiring to be like him.
If you can make the world feel a bright atmosphere, you have potential.
–The two of you have stepped up year after year, reaching the second round from 2016 to 2018, the third round in 2019, and the quarterfinals in 2020 and 2021. How do you perceive these results?
Hinohara: We are doing quite well. Every year, I fall in the M-1 qualifying round thinking, “This is my max,” but when I listen to the recordings on my Apple Watch, I always think, “I wasn’t this good last year.”
2019 I thought I had a really good story in 2012, and when I did it in the third round, it wasn’t very well received. I was pretty much finished when I was eliminated, so at the time I was quite shocked and wondered how I could do any better. But the next year, after the quarterfinals, I listened to the soundtrack of last year’s performance, and I was like, “This is much better than last year.
So, even if we didn’t make it this year, next year or the year after that, when I see this year’s sound and video, I’m sure I’ll feel the same way.
Obesity: I was really worried about the second round again this year, but my partner kept telling me that it was not true. So I got the audio data of the previous times I passed the second round and listened to it, and I thought, “If I was accepted in this way, I’m 100% sure I’ll be accepted” (laughs). That’s how different it was.
Hinohara: This year we had more gigs, especially at large venues, so my ears had become more luxurious. We had set a high bar for ourselves, saying, “If we don’t become more popular, we might fail in the second round. As it turned out, we were fine with it.
Obesity: However, my comic performance itself is not very good (laugh). Compared to the past, we are getting better.
Hinohara: In our opinion, we are getting better.
–What do you two need to do to make it through to the quarterfinals?
Obese: I don’t know what it takes (smiles). That is exactly why I was so happy when Mr. Vacuum made it to the semifinals last year. I felt that Vacuum was also feeling a little disappointed, saying, “If we don’t make it to the semifinals this year, we’ll probably never make it.
Hinohara: It is true that Mogrider and Jessica Vacuum had a sense of stagnation, as if they were knocking on a door that would never open. But when I saw them reach the semifinals and the finals last year, I realized that they were all knocking on doors that would open.
Obesity: However, I feel that the barrier of the semi-finals is very high. Stretchies and Yarens, who are participating in K-PRO Live with me right now, make it to the quarterfinals every year.
Hinohara: Yarends made it to the quarterfinals only in the third round in 2016, and all other seven times, including this year, they made it to the quarterfinals. Stretch’s has been in the quarterfinals six years in a row, and many of them end up there. We are finally getting to the quarterfinals, but I think it’s tough for those who have been around for a long time.
Obesity: I think they are probably thinking more than we think, “How the heck do you open this door? I think they are probably saying, “How are you going to open this door? We have only been saying that for three years.
Hinohara: Up until now, I was thinking like I was taking an exam, comparing myself with others, thinking, “There must be some points to be deducted,” or “No duo with a similar style will make it to the semi-finals. From there, I began to think, “If I can make people think that it might be a good thing for me and OtsuruObesity to be widely known in the world, maybe we can make it.
I simply thought, “If I and Otsuru Obese make it to the finals, it might brighten up Japan a little. I mean, Nishikigoi did the same thing last year. So, if I could make the current mood in Japan, which is a little gloomy, feel a little brighter, I think there is a possibility.
Rivals are closer to fellow university comedians and Yoshimoto comedians for their stories.
–Hinohara: Stretchy’s, I think they are the best.
Hinohara: Stretchies, Wandering Rabbi, and Hitsuji Neiri are all 31 years old, except for Matsumura (Shohei Matsumura, 34), who is the same age as me. I am not a member of any clubs, but the others are in comedy clubs at their respective universities, and all of them have participated in university comedy competitions.
It’s like we all went through the same period of our lives, graduated from college, and became professionals. We grew up in similar environments, and in the sense that we have been together for about 10 years now, we are rivals.
Obesity: To use a baseball analogy, it’s like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Shuichi Murata, and Shunya Sugiuchi are all active in the professional world. I am aware of it because it really feels like people of the same age belong to other firms and are still working together.
Hinohara: It makes me proud. I am from Osaka. When I was in high school, I was approached by a comedian and the first comedian I became friends with was Rashina. I auditioned for Yoshimoto and was accepted at the same time as NSC Osaka 33rd year male trapeze artist Blanco, and like ZAZY, I feel like I am still friends with the first person I befriended.
When I came to Tokyo, I met Stretchies and Wandering Labby in “Student Talent Search Variety: Student Heroes” (TV Asahi), and Jessica Vacuum and Satumakawa (RPG) were one year above me.
–Many of you are signers at the theater “Nishi-Shinjuku Narugeki” operated by K-PRO.
Hinohara: However, Stretchy’s, Wandering Rabbi, and Hitsuji Nairi are all chabukuri, so I’m not really aware of their material. In terms of material, I feel that there are many people who are closer to Yoshimoto, such as Kevins, Mayurika, and Male Blanco.
Obesity: I think Hitsuji Nairi is too funny. I think she might even make it to the finals. I don’t really have any rivals. I’m not jealous, and I’m simply happy when someone interesting makes it to the finals. On the other hand, if someone I don’t think is interesting makes it, I have mixed feelings.
We will definitely win the championship with our unique manzai!
–Hinohara: Is there anything in particular that you are conscious of in this year’s competition?
Hinohara: What I am planning to do in the quarterfinals and semifinals this year is to do a story that is not similar to anyone else’s. I don’t want to be compared to another duo. I want to do something that no one else can compare us to, something that only we can do.
Obesity: I think the material we did in the third round this year is something that only we can do. When I said, “I want to go for a medical checkup,” my partner said, “Finally, you think so! You have to be a person who weighs 180 kilograms to do that kind of material.
Hinohara: That kind of joke is only possible because Otsuru is obese. If a normal looking person appeared, you would have to explain “what kind of health condition he is in” and “what made him decide to do it.
Obesity: Usually a blur that takes many turns to be understood just by looking at me because I am so fat (laughs). My appearance is already information, so I’m in a state of blurring without doing anything.
Hinohara: Last year’s show was more of a big comedy, so I kind of felt that there were people who were upwardly compatible with us. This year, however, there are no backward or upwardly compatible people. The popularity hasn’t changed that much from previous years, but there is hope.
–Lastly, please tell us about your enthusiasm for this year’s M-1.
Obesity: In a word, “I’m going to win for sure! Until last year, it was “I want to make it to the finals. I think it was only this year that I started to feel that “I want to win.
Hinohara: “Winning the championship” is a scary thing to do. If you win the championship, you have to worry about whether you will be able to get into the media at once and get around in a variety of situations.
Obesity: If you get rejected and can’t return the rejection, you will get less and less work.
Hinohara: I am afraid of suddenly appearing on a lot of talk shows and being put in the spotlight in various situations, such as making big comments or making comments. I was afraid of being in the public eye in all kinds of situations, such as making a comment on a talk show, etc. Moreover, considering my various commitments, I had the feeling that I didn’t want to win the championship yet.
But now, I feel like I can do it. I’m getting used to seeing Otsuru OBE on TV.
Obesity: Perhaps it is because I have been invited to appear in variety shows more often than I would have liked, which has given me more leeway in my mind. Up until now, when I was asked to do one show, I would say, “Oh, what am I going to do?
Hinohara: When I went on TV and looked at the responses to my ego search, I got a lot of good responses. I’ve come to understand that I get warm comments like, “Ohtsuru obese, you’re so cute and healthy,” or “I can root for you because you’re doing your best. So I don’t feel afraid of them.
Obesity: Maybe that’s why I can now think beyond the M-1 and say, “I’m going to win. What is important is confidence, after all (laughs).
Interview and text： 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. http://s-akira.jp/