Masuda Masuda, the second generation M-1 champion, reveals “Behind the Scenes of the Fabulous Early M-1
I didn’t know what to expect.
This year marks the 18th time the “M-1 Grand Prix” has been held, and the number of entries for the first event in 2001 was 1603. This year, the number of entries was more than quadrupled to 7261 (the largest number in history), clearly showing that over the past 20 years, the M-1 Grand Prix has grown into a major event.
The M-1 Grand Prix has now established the image of “winning is the highest honor” and “just being a finalist is a big seller,” but in fact, the beginning of the event was chaotic.
In fact, the beginning of M-1 was chaotic. That’s why they didn’t call it the first edition. I don’t know what it is, but there will be a big manzai event that will be shown in prime time. That was all the information I had, and I had no idea what kind of competition it was.
Hidehiko Masuda of Masuda Okada, who participated in the “M-1 Grand Prix 2001” and became the champion the following year, testified to this.
This year marks the 20th year since Masuda Okada won the M-1. How did a competition that was neither from the sea nor from the mountains make the leap to becoming a national event? To find out, we asked Hidehiko Masuda, the second M-1 Grand Prix champion, to look back on that era of the M-1 Grand Prix.
Did you have a premonition that the “M-1 Grand Prix” would become a major event that would last for more than 20 years? When I first asked Masuda if he had a premonition that the M-1 Grand Prix would become a big event that would last for more than 20 years, he gave me an unexpected answer.
I don’t want you to misunderstand me, but I don’t have that much of an attachment to the M-1 Grand Prix. If I had been watching the M-1 since I was a student and had become a manzai performer because I longed to be on that stage, I would have feelings and passion for it. But in our time, the stage we longed for was the “ABC Comedy Newcomer Grand Prix.
If you got a result in ABC, you would sell. I was in junior high school when I saw Downtown win the grand prix, and I thought it was cool, and I wanted to win this prize by doing manzai myself. I have no such memories of my youth in the M-1 Grand Prix, so I don’t have any feelings for it.
The M-1 Grand Prix was an event that suddenly came into being for Masuda Okada in the ninth year of his career. He said, “Amateurs were allowed to compete, but they said, ‘We will decide who is the best manzai performer in Japan. It was like, ‘What’s going to happen? That’s what it felt like,” he said. He revealed that he was “puzzled,” including the words he used at the beginning of his speech.
The first question was, “Do I have to participate? At the time, Masuda Okada had already established a solid position as a comic storyteller.
In 1994, within a year of forming the group, they won the coveted “15th ABC Comedy Newcomer Grand Prix” Grand Prize for Best Newcomer, became champions in the “GAHAHA King Bakusho Kings Tournament,” and won the “Bakusho On Air Battle” with consecutive undefeated records and the first perfect performance in the program’s history. In the midst of all this, was it really necessary to participate in a “riddle competition? He asked himself.
I thought there was nothing but risk (laughs). (Laughs.) It is taken for granted that you will win in terms of your career, and the risk of losing is greater. Moreover, there was a condition that the contestants had to have been formed 10 years prior to the competition. We had been competing in “Bakusho On Air Battle” with people of the same generation or slightly younger, so we felt that if we were going to compete, we wanted to compete with people who were older. But after thinking it over, I decided to enter, because it might be a one-time competition, and I really understood (Shimada) Shinsuke’s desire to ‘enliven manzai,’ and I felt that if I called myself a ‘manzai artist,’ I had to enter.
Manzai has been neglected.
Nowadays, many people enjoy manzai and can discuss the fun of manzai, and when Magical Lovely won the M-1 in 2020, there was a debate about whether it was manzai or not, because manzai had become a popular art form. However, at the time, it was different. Masuda said, “Manzai was rather polarizing. Comedy lovers would watch it, but it had not penetrated the general public.
In March 2002, we won the Grand Prize at the 37th Kamigata Manzai Grand Prix. After that, I was interviewed by a magazine in Tokyo, and the writer asked me, ‘What do you do part-time? I was shocked to be asked by the writer, “What do you do for a part-time job? (Laughs) There is no comedian who has won the Kamigata Manzai Grand Prize who has a part-time job. But that was the extent of the perception of manzai outside the Kansai region at the time.
The “M-1 Grand Prix” was an unprecedented competition with a prize money of 10 million yen for the winner, broadcast in prime time. The “M-1 Grand Prix” raised the status of manzai and increased admiration for the genre. It was a feeling unique to that era of manzai,” he said. Masuda recalls the background behind his decision to enter the competition, one by one as he spins his words.
In 2001, the rules had not yet been established. (Note: In the first competition, the results of the judging were also reflected in the votes of the general judges who were watching the competition at the Sapporo, Osaka, and Fukuoka venues.) ) It was an event that was that mysterious.
It is just like the first K-1 Grand Prix in 1993. Branko Cikatic won, and people who were not martial arts fans were like, “Who is this fighter? So you never know what will happen. We were very wary.
The M-1 preliminary rounds are held not only in Tokyo and Osaka, but also in regional cities. At that time, Masuda was so wary that “I went all the way to Nagoya to compete in the first round even though I had no work. I went all the way to Nagoya to compete in the first round, even though I had no business there. After all, Osaka is the home of Yoshimoto (Kogyo). I’m used to being away from home, but I didn’t like the idea of playing the first round in Osaka,” he said with a laugh.
Nowadays, M-1 is able to take certain countermeasures. However, the first tournament was a different story. There was no precedent, so there was no way to counteract the situation. When I asked him about this point, he replied, “I just want the audience in front of me to laugh.
I went into it with the idea that all I had to do was make the audience laugh. The audience paid money to come to the venue for the preliminary round. Even though it was a qualifying round, it was no different than a paying audience. That is why I think we changed the material for each preliminary round. Maybe there are people who have been watching the preliminary rounds for a long time. We felt that the audience would be more pleased if we did different material, so it was like a live show.
The “Unexpected Relationship” between Ombat and M-1
Contrary to his words of caution, Masuda Okada made it to the finals. This was the result of concentrating on the audience in front of him and making them laugh. This basic stamina, he says, “has been cultivated largely through the ‘On Air Battle.
Bakusho On-air Battle” is a participatory storytelling show in which audience members serve as judges. The duo with the fewest votes does not go on the air. In other words, the show is based on the principle that the result is the best, and the winner is the one who makes the audience laugh. The catchphrase of the show is “the most serious comedy show in history.
Masuda says that he had been longing for a show like “Bakusho On Air Battle.
At that time, we were doing manzai in the shadows because of the Yoshimoto’s (Shinsaibashisuji) 2-chome theater boom and the Vocabulary Heaven boom. But when the Vocabura boom came, I thought there would be a growing demand to see the material of the comedians who appeared here. So I was sure that a show would be created to catch them.”
Masuda’s hunch proved correct, and “Bakusho On Air Battle” became a breakout program for young comedians.
The fact that if you don’t make people laugh, they won’t put you on the air is a blessing in disguise for us,” said Masuda. In the Kansai region, many of the audience at the so-called award shows are Yoshimoto fans. Since we belonged to Shochiku Entertainments, we were in an environment when we were newcomers where we had to get more laughs than the Yoshimoto comedians performing that day to win. That’s why I was a good match for On Bato, where there is no home or away, and you have to make people laugh.
Masuda Okada, who had been refining his material behind the boom, continued to win at top speed right from the start of the show, achieving the first 545-kilogram battle (perfect score voted by audience members) in the show’s history.
Producer Masayuki Namiki, who launched the program, later went so far as to praise “Masuda Okada for manzai and Rahmens for comedy as the key players in the early days of the on-air battles. Masuda, too, does not hide his affection for the show, saying, “I don’t think Masuda Okada would be where he is today without this show. He adds, “It was because of ‘Bakusho On Air Battle’ that we were able to win the ‘M-1 Grand Prix. What does that mean?
After winning the “ABC Comedy Newcomer Grand Prix,” the biggest prize for Osaka’s manzai performers is the “Kamigata Manzai Grand Prix. The most common length of the New Comedy Grand Prix is four minutes, but if you want to win the Kamigata Manzai Grand Prix, you have to be able to perform 10, 15, or 30 minutes of manzai. It is a step in the professional world, or rather, a step in the process of refining one’s art.”
It was during this time that the “M-1 Grand Prix” was born.
Did you do a good job with the four-minute story? We are going to do an unannounced test now! It was like being tested out of the blue. But since we had appeared in “Bakusho On Air Battle,” we had no trouble coming up with TV-sized material. I think this was a major factor in our success at M-1.
For Masuda, the existence of “Bakusho On Air Battle” was that significant. After a short pause, he continues.
I am happier to be called an on-battle performer than an M-1 champion, because I have a lot of feelings for it.
The “M-1 Grand Prix 2001,” which was an unannounced test, ended with an overall score of 4th place, due in part to the aforementioned “votes from the audience. The final showdown took place between the Nakagawas and Harigane Rock, with the crown going to the Nakagawas.
If – if the venue votes had turned out differently, the results of the first competition would have been different. The top four groups of the judges’ scores, subtracting the votes from the audience, were as follows. Nakagawa Family 596 points, Hariganerock 567 points, American Crayfish 568 points, and Masuda Okada 575 points. Without the votes from the audience, Masuda Okada would have placed second and advanced to the final round.
The material in the final was not very fresh because it was material that had been done well in Osaka. It’s understandable that the venue vote in Osaka was low.”
He decided to enter the competition because he was determined that, as a manzai performer, “I can’t just leave. With that determination, he entered the competition, but came in fourth. He was filled with regret.
After the final, I went back to the hotel and lay on my bed looking at the ceiling, wondering how I could win. I didn’t even know if there would be a second round, but I kept thinking about it until the morning (laughs). (Laughs). I kept thinking, “How can I win with these rules, ……? Then I thought that it would be a good idea to come up with a story that the audience at the broadcast site would not even know about. I decided that if there was a next round, I would bring a new story to the finals.
The following year, at the “M-1 Grand Prix 2002,” Masuda Okada made it to the finals. How did Masuda Okada win what is said to be the most chaotic competition in M-1 history?
In the next installment, we will ask Masuda to look back on his footsteps.
( Go to “ Part 2: Masuda reveals for the first time his strategy and determination to win the M-1 championship.)
Interview and text： Hirotaka Wagatsuma Photographed by： Takeshi Maruyama Costume Designer： Jinzu Kobo Ohkata