There is now a long line of people waiting in line every day at the Asakusa Toyokan (Taito Ward). They are looking for the veteran comedian “Obon Kobon. In October of this year, they made a sudden reconciliation after resolving their long-standing disagreement on the popular variety show “Wednesday’s Downtown” (TBS). It is said that the theater is sometimes packed with people who want to catch a glimpse of them together.
In an interview that lasted over an hour, we learned about their deep love for manzai.
Obon: “The response to the show has been amazing! The day after the show aired, we had a performance at the Toyokan, but more than 140 groups lined up before the doors opened, and the tickets were sold out. Even now, a month after the broadcast, we still have about five times as many people as usual.
Kobon “Due to the influence of Covid-19, there were many days when there were more performers than audience, so I’m grateful.
Obon: “But what made me happiest was the number of letters I received saying, ‘We made up after watching the show. There were letters of gratitude from people who said they had gotten back in touch with their estranged families. I also received a letter from a boss and a subordinate who had been at odds with each other for a long time, but after watching the program, they decided to come to terms with each other.
It’s been over a month since the show, but they say they haven’t had any fights since they made up.
Obon: “Until now, we never even looked at each other on stage. It was like me and the audience and Kobon and the audience were performing our stories separately. But now we can look each other in the eye and perform manzai.
Kobon: “Even in my private life, I used to go into an izakaya (Japanese pub) and find my partner and say, ‘Oh no, let’s change the bar,’ but I don’t do that anymore. Then, to my surprise, a weekly magazine picked up the story, saying, ‘Obon and Kobon were drinking together.
Obon: “They chased me as if I was a scoop on their passionate love.
Obon “If it was just the two of us at a hotel in Kinshicho, it would have been fine. Of course that’s not true (laughs).
Obon: “Oh, no, definitely not (laughs).
The two of them put an end to the cold war that lasted for ten years. In the background was their unchanging love for manzai.
Obon: “We want to do funny manzai, that’s all. Even when the comedy ends with a bang and the audience says, ‘That’s enough,’ the audience is still laughing. I love the moment when I turn back to the stage with their laughter on my back. No matter how many times I’ve experienced it, I always want to experience it again.
Kobon: “Also, when my daughter cries and says, ‘I want you to make up with me. Of course, I always wanted to do a popular comedy act.
Obon: “I’m going to be working on a New Year’s show in a little while, so I’d really like to do some new material there. Since we are being watched by people in this way, I think it would be popular if we started a fight on stage and then made up.
Kobon: “We don’t have any famous gags. We don’t have any famous gags, but if you give us an hour, I’m confident that we can entertain you more than anyone else for that hour. The style of “Obon and Kobon” is “ensemble. One minute we’re doing manzai, and the next minute we’re tap dancing. We sing, and we play instruments. I like entertainment shows, don’t you?
Obong said, “People often say that Obong and Kobong are dexterous, but that’s not true. Even if it’s just one dance, I can do it because I’ve been taking lessons and working really hard.
Thoughts on the “Seventh Generation
They were part of the “second generation of comedy” that debuted in the 1960s and 1970s and took the world by storm. They are legends in the world of comedy, but what do they think of the activities of the “7th generation”?
Obon: “You can watch all the older comedians’ comedy on YouTube, etc., so they have skills and are certainly funny. However, maybe it’s because of the way the shows are made, but I feel sorry for the young comedians these days when I see them just doing jumping jokes instead of taking their time to build up the dialogue and pauses. The other day, I watched a show hosted by Tsurube Shofukutei and Koji Imada, and I thought, “That’s pathetic. They only had one minute to do their story, and they were showing their stories one after another. It made me sadder to see two people who love manzai hosting a show.
Kobon: “Comedy these days is like a ‘dating system’. It seems like comedy nowadays is like a “meet-and-greet” kind of thing, where new comedians are introduced one after the other, and if the audience finds even one comedian they like, they are matched (laughs).
Obon: “Comedians basically make money through sales. Obon: “The basic idea of a comedian is to make money through sales, but even if you appear on TV nowadays, all you see is eccentricity and you don’t acquire any skills. That’s a waste.”
Kobon: “There is no one who wants to train comedians nowadays. So I think it’s a little irresponsible.
Kobon “I think that’s why it’s a bit irresponsible.” He also takes a unique look at the state of the “M-1 Grand Prix,” which is currently the flagship of the manzai world.
Obon said, “Those are judged by the celebrities, right? The judging should be done by the producers of the stations, the chief managers of the offices, and other people who are in a position to nurture the comedians. In the first place, different people see things in different ways. I don’t think it’s possible to judge. I don’t think “Downtown” wants to be a judge either.
I worked with them at a show in Osaka a long time ago, but I think they were frustrated because they didn’t want to be judged, and they didn’t say a word during their three-minute slot.
Kobon: “Yatsu-san from ‘Yasushi Kiyoshi’ beat me up in the dressing room, saying, ‘You act like a thug. Yatsu-san was more like a thug than I was (laughs).
Obon “He’s not a thug, he’s a yakuza (laughs).
Obon: “He’s not a thug, he’s a yakuza. I’d like to see young people with that kind of spirit and cocky attitude come out. Well, I’m grateful to ‘Downtown’ for giving me a chance to get noticed again (laughs).
Both of you will be 73 years old this year. Finally, I asked them about their future goals.
Obon said, “My dream is to be the master of Matsutsuru-ke Chiyowaka and Chiyogiku.
He was still on stage when he was over 80 years old, but because of his bad legs and back, he couldn’t reach the center microphone at all when he came out from the sleeve. I was staggering around. The audience laughs at the sight of me. Even if that happens, I want to continue.
Kobon: “Living a long life is part of the art, isn’t it? As long as you are healthy, you can continue your work forever.
Obon “Now that we’ve made up, I want to do new material, and I want to keep doing comedy even when I’m 100 years old. I want to continue doing manzai even when I’m 100 years old. Just the sight of an old man tap dancing on stage is a picture, isn’t it?
The two have overcome their disagreement through their love of comedy. I hope they can continue to perform on stage for as long as possible.
From the December 10, 2021 issue of FRIDAY
Interview and text by： Ajidoen PHOTO： Takero Kizuna