Two consecutive victories at Orita Productions’ office live Moon Laugh!
Tomohisa Orita, Hiroki Matsuyama, and Tomoyappu of the comedy trio Monkey Base won the Orita Productions’ live performance Tsukihao in July and September of this year for the second consecutive year. The three have gradually begun to emerge as a force to be reckoned with as their cartoonish worldview and Orita’s powerful delivery have caught the attention of the live scene.
In Part 1, we asked them to talk about their first YouTube project together, “Dacho Club,” and how great they are.
In the second part of the interview, we will talk about how they feel now that they met as 7th year students of Ota Productions Entertainment Academy and became a trio after many twists and turns. We will take a closer look at the fascination of the three members through their history, including the reason why they were able to win two consecutive office live performances, episodes from their student days, and the background to the trio’s formation.
Orita, who was a famous student comedian, changed the name of the duo as soon as he entered a training school
–Orita and Matsuyama attended the same high school, right?
Orita: I had decided to become a professional comedian since my first year of high school, and at that time, Matsuyama and I would do manzai at school festivals and other events. We would say, “What are you doing, man?” When I think about it now, it was too low to be shown to others. We were of the M-1 generation, so we were all doing manzai.
Matsuyama: After graduating from high school, we both went to different universities and formed our own duos, but on Orita’s 20th birthday, I called him and said, “I want to be a professional comedian, too,” My experience of participating in the “M-1 Grand Prix” with Orita grew inside me.
Orita: He told me passionately, “I don’t know if you will work with me, but I will become the kind of comedian who will ask you to work with me,” I replied, “Then let’s work together,” but he unexpectedly put the matter on hold, saying, “No, I’ll become a man worthy of you by the time I graduate from college.” (Laughs.) After graduation, I didn’t see any particular growth, but I quietly formed a duo called “Potential Hit” and entered Ota Productions’ training school in 2015.
–I see. On the other hand, what about Tomoyappu’s school days?
Tomo: When I was in high school, I participated in the Kagoshima prefectural qualifying round of “High School Manzai” with my friends from the same handball club, and we won. It was a small story because we only had a dozen or so pairs play at the Aeon Mall, but at the time I was soaring with excitement. I was so excited. That was the beginning of my desire to become a professional comedian.
After entering TUFS, I formed a comedy duo called “Methane Hydrate” with some members of a comedy club at ICU (International Christian University) in my neighborhood, and we appeared several times in a TV program called “Student Heroes!” (TV Asahi).
Orita: I was quite a famous student comedian, but for some reason I kept it under wraps.
Tomo: The period of time you spent as a student comedian does not count toward your career record, does it? I was a bit embarrassed at the time to be listed as a “student comedian” That was one of the reasons why I entered a training school. Despite this, I was disappointed when Matsuyama spread the word to his classmates that we were “Methane Hydrate” (bitter laugh).
Orita: I think Tomoyappu really didn’t like it because it raised the bar. In the midst of all this, Old Parr continued to win first place during the first year of the training school. We were the only group that stood out from the rest of our classmates.
The journey of becoming a trio.
–What was the process of becoming a trio after your time at the training school?
Tomo：First of all, the results of our duo were not good after we left the training school. We were stuck at the bottom (G5) of our office’s live show “Geksho”. Potent Hits, on the other hand, was in the top G1 after about three years, and had a chance to appear on TV. It’s like the hare and the tortoise, but the tables have completely turned.
Orita: However, we also lost steam around the beginning of our fourth year and dropped down to G5 in “Geksho”. Just then, Tomoyappu’s duo broke up.
Tomo: On September 8, in our fourth year. My partner quit being a comedian, saying, “I’m going to go back to college and become a dentist.” After that, I participated in “R-1 Guranpuri” (now R-1 Grand Prix) and even though I made it through to the first round, I thought “I’m not getting anywhere,” but somehow I continued on by myself.
Matsuyama: It was right after the new year when Orita asked Tomoyappu out. It was right around the time that Orita was dumped by his girlfriend of three years, and he said, “I’m screwed. Let’s bring in Tomoyappu instead.
Tomo：This is really strange, but Orita’s girlfriend, who had been working in Kagoshima, was coming to Tokyo on December 29. So he was spending time with his long-distance girlfriend, and she dumped him on New Year’s Day. The next day, on the 2nd, Orita called me and said, “Let’s get together at Saizeriya to talk about something.”
Orita: I just told Matsuyama, “I’m meeting with Tomoyappu today, so come on over.” When the three of us actually met, we officially talked about doing it as a trio. I was too sad that she dumped me, so I thought it would be fun to be surrounded by two guys.
Matsuyama: I agreed with the idea of becoming a trio. Before that, Orita and I had talked several times that if we were going to have a trio, it would be Tomoyappu, and that we wanted a powerful and funny person.
Tomo: I had two choices: I could do manzai with Nobu (Nobuhiro Sakai, a member of the manzai unit “Bakusan Machine” ), with whom I now live, or I could ask the two members of Potent HIt to join. Orita called me at the right time, so I guess I was in the right place at the right time.
Orita: I wanted to be a part of it, and Tomoyappu wanted to be a part of it, too, so it was like we became a trio without a hitch. Tomoyappu is the type who expresses his own opinions. Once we realized that it would be popular at live performances, the three of us spent a lot of time talking about it. In that sense, I am glad we became a trio.
Monkey Base is a comedy trio consisting of Tomohisa Orita, Hiroki Matsuyama, and Tomoyappu, all from Kagoshima Prefecture. Orita and Matsuyama formed the duo “Potential Hit” and Tomoyappu formed the duo “Old Par” (formerly “Methane Hydrate”) with a friend from college before forming the trio in January 2020. Currently, they are energetically performing mainly at live concerts. This year, they and Dacho Club collaborated for the first time on a YouTube project for pachinko and amusement facility “Quattro Boom” in Hokuriku, where they were formally taught the art of reaction. They belong to Ota Production.
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/
PHOTO： Ryosuke Watanabe