I always keep this phrase in mind when I make variety shows: “The best common sense makes the best insanity. I’m trying to be cool, but I’ve been so insane that I’ve injured a few comedians during recording (laughs). (laughs) However, nowadays, if even just one person complained, the show would be over. You can’t make interesting variety shows like this.
Maccoi Saito, 51, is a shrewd director who has created many famous programs, such as “Zen-Ochizu-Open” (scoring the fun of falling into a pit) and “Otoko-ki-Janken” (the winner gets all the gore) for the legendary variety show “Tunnels no Minasan no Okagedeshita” (Fuji Television Network). He is said to have his roots in a famous comedian.
“I came to Tokyo from Yamagata when I was 18 years old because I admired Beat Takeshi (74). When I was at a loss as to how I could meet him, I found an audition magazine called “De*View” at a convenience store and found that they were looking for staff for “Tensai Takeshi no Genki ga Derezu TV! I immediately went to the production company for an interview. However, when I arrived at the venue, all the people there were university graduates in suits except for me. I was a high school graduate and was wearing a leather jacket.
When I heard that the ratio of applicants was 20 times, I gave up thinking that I would definitely fail and brought my resume with me, rolled up like a relay baton. Then, the interviewer stretched out my rolled-up resume and asked, “Why did you roll it up? I told him honestly, “It’s not necessary, is it? I told him honestly, “You don’t need it. (laughs) But miraculously, I was hired, and that’s when my life as a TV man began.
When Maccoi entered the television industry in the 1980s, it was the golden age of television. When Maccoi entered the television industry in the 1980s, it was the golden age of television, and anything was possible as long as it was interesting.
There was a time when I asked a group of bikers to appear on a TV program called “Moto-tele,” and due to a mistake by the AD, two teams were booked, and a 40-20 war broke out on a riverbed in Ibaraki. (laughs). (laughs) If I, as an adult, had lost my temper, everyone would have backed off, wouldn’t they? That settled the situation.
Maccoi says, “TV in the ’80s was a great environment for making interesting things,” but the working style was a mess.
“I had to do everything myself, from preparing the talent to choosing the location and arranging lunch boxes. Anyway, I couldn’t sleep. Every day I would stay up until around five in the morning editing and then go straight to the location. There were days when I didn’t sleep at all for three days straight.
Maccoi became independent at the age of 25 and established the production company “Laughing Army” at the age of 31. He continued to work tirelessly on variety shows, mainly late at night. It was during this time that he met the likes of the Tonnels, Ogiya Hagi, and Hiroyuki Ariyoshi (47), and his talent for “douchey direction” blossomed.
“I had a lot of hits, but directing was a lonely battle. My motto is “Never run away, never blur, never crowd. “Never run away” means, for example, that if there is a problem with a performer, the general director must always go and apologize. If it’s a project you’ve thought of, you have to take responsibility until the end. “Never blur” means to shoot what you have decided to shoot no matter what. All you have to do is edit the footage to make it interesting and shut the station staff up.
Rather than worrying about compliance and shooting something boring, I tell them to go ahead and swing the bat as hard as they can without thinking about the consequences. Lastly, “don’t crowd” means that the general director must be a lone wolf. The worst thing you can do is to try to make allies by forming cliques. If you make allies, you won’t be able to point out when they say the wrong thing at a meeting. It is better to be unapproachable as a general director. I think it’s okay to be hated.
In recent years, the TV industry has been surrounded by compliance issues. It was a headwind for Maccoi, who was known for his extreme direction.
“To be honest, I think, ‘This is a joke. A single complaint can lead to reshoots. In today’s television, if you propose a direction that evokes violence or bullying, it will be dismissed as ‘old-fashioned. Comedy is supposed to be born from unreasonable and insane things, but they deny it from the very beginning. The “invisible power” of compliance has caused variety shows to lose their range of laughter.
In our work, the craziest people should be evaluated. In order to maintain compliance, we must not give up our obsession. For example, “Manly Rock-Paper-Scissors” was actually a project in which the loser pays. But we were about to be crushed, saying that it would be bullying if the loser paid, so we resisted, saying, ‘Well, why don’t the winner pay with his manly spirit?
Don’t let compliance stop you from having discussions. It’s important to have flexible ideas. It doesn’t matter how it’s staged, as long as the viewers think it’s funny. There is nothing old or new about laughter. Since when has television forgotten its freedom?
Ika Game” will never be born in Japan.
Can TV, which is still losing viewers, survive? Maccoi continues.
The Korean drama “Squid Game” (Netflix), which is very popular around the world, is a work that could never be made in Japan today. It depicts the darker side of human nature, with people getting shot in the head with pistols and their brains getting blown out. And yet, the images and music are comical. It’s crazy, isn’t it? That’s why it’s so funny. I think that the Japanese TV industry will shift to internet distribution and subs. The time will come when viewers will choose for themselves what they want to watch. I think that only “good girl” programs such as information programs and wide shows will remain on TV, and extreme programs will be available only through distribution.
Amidst the headwinds of compliance, his ally, Takaaki Ishibashi (60), has had a string of programs end. Maccoi found his way to YouTube. Since joining the site in 2008, he has had a string of hits, including “Ki-chan-neru-zu,” which boasts 1.67 million registered users, and “Kiyo-chan Sports,” in which former professional baseball player Kazuhiro Kiyohara (54) gives a behind-the-scenes look at the world of baseball.
He said, “YouTube is fun, just like TV used to be. We haven’t seen a wave of compliance yet, so we can do what we want to do. If we only think about getting buzz, we will become a boring channel, so we should just do what we enjoy doing. We don’t have to worry about ratings like TV stations do.
We don’t have to worry about ratings like TV stations. At first, people watch my videos out of curiosity, but once they get used to it, it’s only natural that they stop watching. That’s when the game begins. I just make what I think is interesting. The stakes are high, but if you go too far, you won’t get hit. I want to create content that is full of energy.
Maccoi has not lost his love for television, which has nurtured him. He has not lost his love for the television that nurtured him, and he has big ambitions in his heart.
“At the end of the day, I want to make a prime-time special program that will make viewers say, ‘What the hell is this? After that, I want to make movies and dramas. I have many acquaintances overseas, so I want to make the most insane video works and see how they are received overseas. My twenties and thirties were devoted to work, so in my fifties I want to do only what I want to do.
It seems that Maccoi is still capable of making a fool out of himself.
From “FRIDAY” November 19, 2021 issue
Interview and text by： Hirotsuru Machida (Reporter) Photography： Shinji Hamasaki, Kazuhiko Nakamura