Makoto Shimizu and Piro of the comic duo Kyu, whose aloof characters radiate a unique view of the world, have appeared in the semi-finals of the “M-1 Grand Prix” for two consecutive years. They have steadily made their presence felt by appearing in the semi-finals of the “M-1 Grand Prix” two years in a row, making it to the finals of the “Mynavi Laughter Night” Grand Champion Tournament last year and the “Tsugikuru Gejin Grand Prix” last year and this year.
What kind of manzai are these two aiming for? We asked them why they chose “Lupin” for last year’s M-1 Loser’s Resurrection Round, what they received from respected manzai duo Laugh Mei, what they need to do to win in the M-1, and other real-life feelings the duo is currently facing.
The battle for the M-1 Grand Prix has begun to emerge.
You have joined two years in a row to advance to the semifinals of the M-1 Grand Prix. What do you think has led to the results so far?
Piro: What I do hasn’t changed that much, but I think the big thing is that various people, such as comedians and people from TV stations, have come to recognize me and give me credit by name. I have met many people because of that, and I think I have grown in some areas that I am not aware of.
Shimizu: It’s not like “continuity is power,” but you should really keep going. My own principle is that you steadily move forward, making slight course corrections as the years go by, and there are definitely things, such as the way you fight in M-1, that you would not have understood had you not done so much.
What exactly did you see?
Piro: Simply, I think that if you are an interesting duo, there is always a turn that comes your way. People who were in the upper echelons of M-1 a while ago have graduated or dropped out, and I think we may be able to be in the core of the lead in a rocket-pencil fashion.
It is important not to miss out on opportunities at that time, and I try not to lose my form by being in a hurry. Cultures and fads are a living thing. At a certain moment, people may say, “I’m tired of it,” and give up on it. That is why we have to go a little further this year.
We never know when we will be dropped from this group, so there is a sense of pressure or obligation. Every year, we bring a story that we hope will be chosen for the M-1 competition, but now that we have been chosen, we have to be warriors who are not ashamed. Until now, I was just a student taking an exam.
M-1 Reason for choosing “Lupin” for the Loser’s Revival Round
–The material (“Lupin”) for the M-1 Loser’s Revival Round was very interesting. It is a story you performed in your first solo live performance, “Kyu’s New Proverbial Dictionary.
Piro: It was something like, “I hope it sticks with people who are interested in it. It’s a funny story among those kinds of stories, but what we are doing is weird, and it’s a bit sharp, like “You’ve never seen a manzai like this before.
Shimizu: It’s the kind of material that is meant to throw a wrench in the works of the losers. There are a lot of people like Mimetic, New York, and Haraichi, so I think it was our way of fighting to make an impact.
Piro: We had a meeting with the staff before the order of appearance was decided, so it was decided from the beginning that we would do that story. It is difficult to revive the losers, and when viewers from all over the country cast their votes, the votes are based on popularity and name recognition. That is where we are weak.
If we do a story to get those votes, we won’t go either way. We won’t win, and we won’t leave a lasting impression. If we have to win one way or the other, we have to fight to make an impact with a distorted story. In that case, we have to come up with a story that doesn’t fall out of the competition. It is a strange story, but “Lupin” was a choice for a serious fight.
-In the first place, I have the impression that they are a comic duo showing in a world view similar to that of a play. However, isn’t it also a theory of manzai to make it seem as if you are talking to the audience on stage, such as at an award show or a yose?
Shimizu: I think our conversation is very unusual. In other words, it is like a dream, or like looking at a screen. I think it is better to show them as if there is a transparent wall.
Piro: There is a royal idea of “making the comedy realistic as if you are talking on the spot,” and I think it is okay for us to be different if everyone else is doing that. It’s a kind of segregation of roles.
After all, a story is a lie. If it is a lie to begin with, it would be fine to have a worldview that says, “This is a lie. I think it would be more graceful that way. Personally, I am a little embarrassed to tell a lie and make it sound half-true. If it’s a lie, it’s a complete lie. It’s okay to do it without any audience.
I think it’s okay to be different during a performance than during a performance. So, I think we are like comedians.
I was attracted by the spirit of Laughing Rice.
Piro, your manzai is characterized by a slow tempo and the way you cover yourselves with words, but do you feel that this is a disadvantage when competing in the M-1?
Piro: The award race is 3 or 4 minutes long, so there is a problem with the length of the competition. However, I don’t think it’s too much of a disadvantage no matter how few bokehs you have, as long as it is something that fits within that time frame and is popular. Perhaps the reason why a work fails in the awards race is not because it has few bokeh.
I think it’s a lack of individuality, or simply that people think it’s not enough. There are some stories that are extremely satisfying even if they have only three blurbs, so I think it is simply a matter of whether the story is strong or weak.
Shimizu: I think that the form we are using now is suitable for us. I don’t think it would be right for us to break up the form and speed up the process for the sake of an award race.
Piro: Moreover, we were chosen because we are different from other people. If you think, “I have to do it this way like those other people,” I think you will fall behind.
Shimizu: There are not many people competing in this style, so I think it works to our advantage because we have less competition. If you want to compete on the high road or in the orthodox style, there are a lot of people out there.
Piro: I don’t think we can win if we try that, given our aptitude. We can’t compete with the comic comedians like Indians, who deliver their blurts out at high speed.
Shimizu: As long as Indians-san is around, that slot will be difficult to fill.
Piro: I think it is a real loss to take time to make a story in a field where you can’t win (smiles). I think it is important to do a material that is unique to us and that no one else can do.
I like and respect Laughing Man, but what attracts me most is that he does material that only he and his colleagues can do. I like the spirit of a genius and a genius inventing a new form of manzai. I think this spirit has been carried over to our manzai as well.
M-1 needs a funny story
Piro, what do you think is necessary to make it to the M-1 finals while making the most of the strengths of your duo?
Piro: Rather than polishing any part of our material, I think we just need to be more popular without changing anything.
Shimizu: I really think so this year. We are just going to do what is popular.
Piro: We are going to keep the current form and strengthen it. If there is a creature called “M-1 Grand Prix,” I think he already has it in his sights. There was a period of time when I didn’t get any results, and at that time, I felt that he was still not interested in me, but now he has me right in the middle of his field.
Now, however, they have me in the middle of the center. Since I’m getting close to that area, they feel like, “Keep going and get me the topmost spot”. Then I’ll let you go.
Shimizu, what exactly do you mean by “popular” in terms of ease of understanding?
Shimizu: It is something that is easy to understand where the laughter comes from. It is not so much about making people laugh as it is about making them laugh out loud. Especially for my solo show last year, I prepared a lot of material like that for M-1. I think it makes it easier for the judges to judge.
Piro: Basically, it’s the kind of material that our partners can live up to. A few years ago, we would make a lot of material that we thought would be interesting and put it down at our solo shows, without worrying too much about whether it was for the M-1 competition or not. We would make a lot of “interesting stories” and put them down at our solo live performances.
But for the past two years or so, I have been making more “material that clearly defines our positions. It is easier for the viewer to understand. There are a lot of unusual stories to begin with, but I have become more conscious of making them in a way that as many people as possible will find them interesting.
Shimizu: There are parts that are easy to understand and parts that are outrageous.
Piro: If we can make the “outrageous and funny” stuff popular, then we have won. I always think about that, and I hope to make a funny and thick story that will be well received from the beginning.
Also, I definitely want to have a sense of tension right after the show starts. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t do Tsukami. Even in a horror film, I don’t want to make the audience wonder, “Is he there or isn’t he? No one is there. It’s pitch-dark.” and then all of a sudden zombies come out, and that’s scary. That kind of suspense is what happens when you do a Tsukami film, where you say, “Once, everyone is my friend.” That is more exciting.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you are a stranger in M-1.
Piro, are there any comedians you look up to as rivals in order to win in M-1?
Piro: Every year around the time of the M-1 preliminary rounds, I sometimes find it difficult to talk honestly with the comedians around me. At the core, everyone is concerned about each other. Everyone has a sense of rivalry, so even if they seem to be getting along, it becomes awkward.
That’s why after the M-1 Grand Prix is over, everyone is so peaceful at the live performances from January to March (laughs). There is still time before this year’s M-1 Grand Prix, so it is not tense at all. As it gets closer, everyone is “on it”. They are all warriors in the back of their eyes. There are times when I can’t talk normally.
PIro, what kind of comedians do you feel uncomfortable with in the semi-finals?
Piro: There are some who are so serious that I really don’t want to say (laughs). Well, all the comedians around me that I get along with are my rivals, because there are so many interesting comedians. Like Vacuum Jessica, Kaname Stone, and Diamond, we have been performing together since we were freelance (from October 2016 to October 2017).
Shimizu: If I could go to the finals with them, I would.
Piro: I have that feeling, too. But in the end, in M-1, it doesn’t matter who you are. I think there are people who feel inwardly that they are rivals, saying, “I don’t want to lose to that guy,” but in reality, it is just a matter of whether we can give a satisfactory performance in our own way or not.
Shimizu: If we were to name our rivals, it would really be everyone. As Piro said, I think we just do what we can do.
Piro: It doesn’t matter how popular others are, or whether they are sure to win or not, it has nothing to do with whether we will be accepted or not. I think it took us a while to realize that. Now I really feel that there is no need to think about “the competition for slots” or “since those people have been accepted, we might not be accepted”.
Interview. Text by： 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. Currently updating his personal website "Immortal Writing Blues. http://s-akira.jp/