A mixture of speculation
It is no exaggeration to say that the “M-1 Grand Prix” is a tradition of this season. The scale of the competition has grown with the number of times it has been held, and it has undergone many changes, including changes in the judging method, the birth of the loser’s revival round, the suspension of the competition for five years, and the introduction of the laughing lottery.
In the past, the spotlight was only on the winner, but recently, the spotlight has also been on the second place winner and the duo that impressed the audience with their talk with the host.
We asked YUUKIROCK, who came in second place in the first M-1 competition and has been participating in the race ever since, about the significance of making it to the finals and how it has changed over the years.
The “M-1” of the past was a battle royale.
–I feel that the recent “M-1” has changed a lot since its early days. What was the value or meaning of making it to the finals when you were competing?
YUUKIROCK (Yuki): To be honest, I don’t think I was thinking about the finals back then. As for the first round, we didn’t know what was going on. For us, it was more meaningful to be able to perform manzai on live TV during the golden hour than to participate in “M-1”. On top of that, the prize money of 10 million yen came with it.
At the time, I was on a roll and thought that I deserved to be among the 10 young groups active at the forefront of manzai. So I wasn’t that nervous about the qualifying round, I was just thinking, “I’ll be the most popular,” just like in a regular yose. I didn’t start thinking about winning until quite late, around the time of the final round. Even in the final, I think I was more nervous about being able to do manzai on Golden TV than I was about competing in M-1.
–How do you think “M-1” has changed from when you were competing to now?
Yuki: In our time, M-1 was more like “Battle Royale” to put it simply. Originally, “M-1” was a prize race that was meant to hand down the gauntlet to comedians who couldn’t sell even after 10 years, so only the winner survived and the other duo would die.
If I were to compare today’s “M-1” to “Kohaku”, it would be like “Kohaku”. It’s a festival of selected comedians. So, compared to the past, I think this is a very good time.
The catalyst for change was probably “THE MANZAI”. The purpose of the competition was the complete opposite of the previous “M-1” competition, and it was created as an award competition to give dreams to duo with more than 10 years of performing experience. Then in 2015, “M-1” was revived, but with “THE MANZAI” in between, I think that even though the name was the same, the content became completely different.
–So the character of the competition had already changed when it was revived.
Yuki: That’s right. That’s why failing to qualify is also a light thing. In the past, it was very embarrassing to fail in the third round. …… We were additionally accepted for the fourth time, but we failed in the third round once. At that time, we were so embarrassed that we couldn’t stand up on the stage, partly because we switched the comedy and comedy. I’m sure there are many duo that didn’t win the M-1 competition, and that was one of the reasons why they broke up. But I don’t think that’s the case now. Especially outside of Yoshimoto.
–Is there a difference in perception between Yoshimoto and other offices?
Yuki: I think it’s totally different. In Yoshimoto, there is only one winner. If it’s your first time in the competition or you don’t have a long career, you may aim for the finals or semi-finals, but basically, you have to win. Because Yoshimoto has many comedians, there are many combinations, and many finalists and winners. So just making it to the semi-finals is not enough to be recognized.
However, there are only a few comedians in other offices, so there are only a few combinations. Inevitably, there will be fewer combinations that make it to the semifinals of M-1, so I think they will say, “We made it to the semifinals! I think that’s what happened.
Audrey’s success that changed the value of advancing to the finals
–Is there any duo that you feel has changed the meaning of advancing to the final?
Yuki: There’s the dream of Sandwitchman, who won the competition after coming back from the loser’s bracket, but I think the biggest one is Audrey, who came in second place in 2008. He won from the loser’s elimination round and came in second place, attracting more attention than the winner, Non Style, who did not participate in M-1 the following year. He chose not to participate and is still at the forefront of the market.
Thom Browne is the one who made me realize that there is a meaning to being in the finals. I’m currently teaching at a training school, and before the M-1 finals, I participated in a show of Tom Brown’s material. He had already developed his current style at that time, and his material was really good. It was a bit like a rhythm piece, catchy and easy to get into.
It was fun, but the “dameh” seemed to get in the way, and I thought we couldn’t win. I advised him to remove the “dameh” because it might make it harder for him to laugh. That’s when I realized.
Yoshimoto-raised comedians like me, who used to perform in M-1, thought it was meaningless if we didn’t win, but nowadays, a duo can gain a lot by making it to the finals. I think Keidash-san understood this because of the success of Audrey. I, too, have changed from that point on to giving advice based on the situation. My ultimate goal is to win, but even if I don’t win, it’s becoming a competition that will change my life drastically.
Now, both the semifinals and quarterfinals are interesting.
–I’ve heard that the semifinals are the most interesting, is this true?
Yuki: I think the quarterfinals are also interesting now. Because if you make it to the semifinals, you get the title of “semifinalist” and you can appear on TV. In addition, the semi-finalists go to the loser’s rematch, so they can be called “the duo that made a splash in the loser’s rematch. These days, TV programs are becoming more and more popular for buying young talent, and even in local award races, it becomes a proper title.
If you make it to the last 25 groups, the battle will continue until the last day and you can perform comedy on live TV, so I think the value of the loser’s comeback competition has been increasing lately. Last year, it was Ranjatai. Not only have they become more famous, but I feel that people are starting to understand that they are a unique duo with a strong sense of the world.
–For sure, I feel like I’ve seen them on various shows this year.
In this day and age, there are not many charismatic duo that appear like comets, and they aim to move up to the semifinals this year, and the finals next year, in that order. In this way, they can raise their name recognition as well, and even if their pretense in a story is weak or they are self-centered, their name recognition will cover for it, making it easier for the audience to like them.
However, it is also true that each duo has its own way of thinking. Some perform their best material in the quarterfinals in order to stay in the semifinals, while others prefer to save the semifinals for the finals.
The semifinals between the teams that won the quarterfinals will be interesting without a doubt. This year’s semifinals will be held on December 2, so even if you missed the quarterfinals, you can check out the semifinals to get a better idea of what M-1 is all about.
Interview and text by： Motoko Abekawa
Works as a freelance writer, mainly on the web. She is also involved in the production of books and corporate PR magazines. She does not have a specific field of expertise, but works on a wide range of topics that interest her, including history, comedy, health, beauty, travel, gourmet food, and nursing care.