Ryubei Ueshima, a member of the Ostrich Club, was the “Tora-san of the Comedy World | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Ryubei Ueshima, a member of the Ostrich Club, was the “Tora-san of the Comedy World

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE

On May 11, the news of the death of Ryubei Ueshima, a member of the Ostrich Club, took the world by surprise.

I myself had just met him in late February for an interview on the occasion of the third anniversary of comedian Ken Shimura’s death. On the 10th of this month, after watching “Drifting the Great Challenge Special” (Fuji TV), I carefree tweeted, “I’m looking forward to seeing Ueshima-san’s comedy as a punchline to the ministry. It was so sudden that my mind could not catch up.

The next day, the 12th, I suddenly decided to watch Yoji Yamada’s “The Man Who Grasps the Rainbow” (Shochiku Pictures, released in 1996). I had recorded the TV broadcast of this movie on VHS when I was in high school, and I remembered that Mr. Ueshima appeared in this movie. However, I was soon disheartened. I had completely forgotten that the VCR had been clogged with head cleaner and left unattended for several months.

But for some reason I felt it might come out now, so I pressed the button to take it out. Geez. …….” I heard only a mechanical sound. I opened the cover of the insertion slot, forced my finger in, and repeatedly fumbled with the back of the videotape. After a few minutes of this, the head cleaner slowly emerged from the videotape, as if it had given up on the idea.

Carefully, I insert the tape labeled “The Man Who Seizes the Rainbow. A peculiar sandstorm ran through the TV monitor, and after a while, a nostalgic image of Mr. Ueshima appeared on the screen.

From an unpublished cut from the September 10, 2021 issue of “FRIDAY” (photo by Shinji Hamasaki) of a special interview with Ryuhei Ueshima of “Ostrich Club,” “A Geisha’s Life Running Through Bare Stuff,” in the magazine’s 60th anniversary issue.

The Man Who Grasps the Rainbow” and the Ostrich Club’s impersonation of Ryube Ueshima

The Man Who Grasps Rainbows” was produced in the wake of the death of actor Kiyoshi Atsumi, who was scheduled to play Torajiro Kuruma in the 49th film “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo,” but passed away in August 1996. The film “The Man Who Grasps the Rainbow” was produced as a memorial to Atsumi and was set at the famous movie theater, Odeonza. The film starred Toshiyuki Nishida and Hidetaka Yoshioka.

Mr. Ueshima appeared in the last scene of the movie. The owner, Katsuo Shiragin (Toshiyuki Nishida), urges him to work there as a part-time employee, and he gets into his car. It was just a scene, but at the time Mr. Ueshima used to imitate Toshiyuki Nishida, so I was strangely excited to see them together at last! I remember feeling strangely excited.

Looking back, the first time I saw the group was in the late 1980s on the “Impersonation Championship” (Fuji Television). I remember the first time I saw the group in the late 1980s on Fuji Television. You alone, Shuwatch! and the song “Kimi Dake ni Dake ni Shuwatch!” by Shonen-tai, sung by the boys dressed as the three Ultra Brothers, is still stuck in my mind.

In addition, newscasters such as Hiroshi Kume and Taro Kimura, Soichiro Tahara, and other performers on “Live TV till Morning! (TV Asahi), and Ueshima himself, Katsuya Nomura, Sachiyo Nomura, and others, clearly distinguishing himself from his other co-stars.

The mid-1980s to early 1990s was a period of unprecedented impersonation boom as the “Four Heavenly Kings” (Akira Shimizu, Busy Four Special, Kanichi Kurita, and Korokke) became well known to the world. It is no exaggeration to say that Ostrich Club laid the foundation for the art of impersonation by comedians.

Perhaps it was because the characteristics of the programs were not as segmented as they are today and the patterns and techniques of imitation had not yet been established, but the “Imitation Championship” at that time had a strong comedic flavor and was profoundly entertaining.

Takeshi’s underlying laughter

I have the impression that Katsuhiro Higo, the leader of the Da Chou Club trio, was the standout performer in the “Impersonation Championship. The reason is that they had a rich repertoire, including Akira Nagoya, Leo Morimoto, and Tetsuya Komuro.

Ueshima’s talent shone through in “Beat Takeshi’s Comedy Ultra Quiz” (Nippon Television Network). Comedy Ultra Quiz” was originally a part of the station’s signature program “The Greatest Comedy Ultra Quiz in History! Ultra Quiz Across America,” but it has gradually become less of a quiz show and more of a comedy show. Gradually, however, it became less of a quiz show and more of a physical location tour project.

They included matches against professional wrestlers, drops onto powerful adhesive sheets, car stunts, bus stunts, sky diving, bungee jumping, human rocket (reverse bungee), and blow-up quizzes, all of which involved danger. In addition to these, the members of the cast, including Takeshi Gundan, Tetsuro Degawa, Takashi Okamura of Ninety-Nine, and Cay~n Udo Suzuki, were also amazing, now that I think about it. Among these strong performers, Mr. Ueshima stood out from the crowd.

Of course, his reactions were entertaining, but the program side and his co-stars also encouraged his success. In his book, “Life on the Other Side (14-Year-Old’s Way of Life)” (Kawade Shobo Shinsha), Mr. Ueshima writes, “I had to hit the ground running before I could actually react.

Before he actually reacts, we have a meeting and carefully plan what we are going to do to make Ueshima look interesting. Takeshi-san would come up with ideas like, ‘I’m going to do this, this, and this, and then Ueshima will do the last part: …….’ (omission) I was the only one with the power. (omission) I couldn’t make an interesting reaction performance on my own. It is an art form that is only possible with the cooperation of everyone.

Takeshi’s failure during his apprenticeship was the starting point for the hot water baths that are a staple of the club. At the “Franceza” strip theater in Asakusa, there was a “bathing show” in which dancers would enter a bath tub. When he did not adjust the hot water in the tub and served it hot, the dancers were terribly angry with him. This was made into the story of the hot water bath.

The art of oden was also derived from a skit performed by Tsurutaro Kataoka and Takeshi on “Ore-tachi Hyokinzoku” (Fuji Television Network). Takeshi’s laughter was indispensable to the style of Ostrich Club and Mr. Ueshima.

This photo was taken at the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2016 ceremony. In the first Book Short Award short film adaptation of “HANA,” Takeshi passionately plays the role of a Japanese language teacher (Photo: Afro).
Yutte-san, who appeared in the same precursor as the advisor of the basketball team, and I promised…

You can do comedy for the rest of your life.

The videotape mentioned at the beginning of this article contains another program recorded: “Shimura Ken’s Bakadensama” (Fuji Television Network), broadcast in 1998. It was a legendary episode in which Beat Takeshi, Downtown, and Ostrich Club appeared in the same episode as the previous year.

At the time, the role of the ostrich club was not yet a vassal, but rather a “ninja who plans to make a fortune by stealing a scroll containing a top-secret message. The three of them made the audience laugh with their well-matched dialogue during the skit in which they appeared on stage, and their unique charm could be seen in the way they stamped their feet in unison as they stepped off camera, saying “Don’t cut it, don’t cut it.

In the castle at night, the three are captured when they finally get their hands on the scroll. They were tortured and told to tell the reason why they snuck into the castle, but it was Ueshima who was responsible for the big punch. He screamed as he was covered with a transparent box from the neck down, had several eels, crawfish, and frogs thrown in, and was blamed for the water wheel. Toward the end of the film, the story switches to a torture in which the audience is forced to reveal their personal circumstances, and Mr. Ueshima’s flailing at Shimura-san’s slightest behavior is strangely funny.

In addition, Mr. Ueshima himself appeared as a patient in a comedy about a town doctor. He makes us laugh by swallowing a large amount of powdered medicine, being doused with melted candle wax, and being hit on the back with a bamboo sword. The idea was probably to make full use of Ueshima’s reaction skills.

The first appearance of the Ostrich Club on the program was in 1997. This is an unusual treatment. In fact, after this program, Mr. Ueshima appeared in “Shumare! (TV Tokyo) and the radio program “Shimura Ken’s FIRST STAGE – Hajime no Ippo” (JFN), and in 2002, Ostrich Club was selected as a regular on “Bakadensama”.

It can be imagined that Mr. Shimura felt sympathy for Mr. Ueshima, which is the reason he trusted him so much. Reading Mr. Ueshima’s book, “Life on the Other Side (14-Year-Old’s Guide to the World),” the two really do have a lot in common. He likes to drink, is usually a bit shy, is not good at talking, and is good at tricks using his body. Furthermore, their views on work and their ideas about stories were also similar.

Incidentally, Da Chou Club also has a history of winning a 10-week championship in ” The TV Engei” ( on TV Asahi), hosted by Yasushi Yokoyama, after winning for 10 weeks. Mr. Ueshima also had confidence in the fun of his comedy.

For example, there is this episode. In the early 2000s, when comedians with many hobbies were becoming active, Mr. Ueshima was troubled by the fact that he could not identify with them. One day, he asked Mr. Shimura, “Is this the time when comedy alone is not enough?

What are you going to do with a hobby that you don’t even like? What are you going to do with a hobby that you don’t like? That’s just temporary. If you like comedy and want to do it for the rest of your life, just do it.

For Mr. Ueshima, Mr. Shimura may have been like a mentor who could help him verbalize his blurred feelings. On the other hand, Mr. Shimura must have felt comfortable in the company of such a pure Mr. Ueshima.

The film ended with laughter related to Tora-san.

Mr. Ueshima originally wanted to be an actor. Once a member of the Seinenza Theater Company’s research institute, he later entered Theatre Echo’s training school and was invited to join the world of comedy by his classmate Jimon Terakado.

Recently, however, he has also been active as an actor. In the “True Criminal Flag” (NTV) broadcast from last year to March of this year, he brilliantly played the role of Makoto Gora, a mysterious man who pulls the strings behind the scenes. In addition, he played the role of a poor but loving father in “SUPER RICH” (Fuji TV), and this year he appeared in a series of dramas such as “Koi ni futakuchi” (ABC TV production/TV Asahi) and “Yangonaki ichiku” (Fuji TV).

It has been smooth sailing for him in the eyes of those around him, as he has been able to live up to his hopes as he has gotten older. But perhaps even more than that, she was loved by comedy. In “Hiroyuki Ariyoshi’s SUNDAY NIGHT DREAMER” (JFN) broadcast on the 15th of this month, Hiroyuki Ariyoshi talked about what happened when he attended Ueshima’s funeral as follows.

Hikaru (Ueshima’s wife, Hirokawa) gave a stout speech as a mourner, just like Hikaru. I was going to say, ‘Ryu-san likes Tora-san, but suddenly he said, ‘Tora-san is dead. But then he suddenly said, “Tora-san is dead. It’s not Tora-san, it’s Tatsu-san.’ Everyone burst out laughing at the end. Everyone laughed at the end. “It’s almost as if they can’t tell whether it’s Tora-san or Tora-san,” they said. Hikaru-san was laughing until the end. I thought it was a nice funeral.

As one would expect, the image of Ueshima as the “Tora-san of the comedy world” fits him perfectly. He appeared in a memorial film for Kiyoshi Atsumi and ended his life with a laugh related to Tora-san.

Men have a hard time, laughing with their faces and crying with their stomachs.

(From “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo” by Kiyoshi Atsumi, lyrics by Tetsuro Hoshino, music by Naozumi Yamamoto (Crown Records))


  • Text Asahi Suzuki

    Freelance editor/writer. Former band member, former broadcaster. Loves all kinds of entertainment, especially comedians. Published "Shimura Ken Theory" (Asahi Shinbun Publishing) in April 2021. Updating his personal website "Immortal Writing Blues". http://s-akira.jp/

Photo Gallery3 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles