Anybody with any interest in Japanese pop culture will know what I’m talking about when I mention the name Downtown. But for those of you that don’t let me explain briefly. Downtown are probably the most famous and popular comedy duo in Japan today and thanks to the power of the internet their fame has spread worldwide making them cult figures due to clips of their TV shows being put on Youtube.
Downtown (Masatoshi Hamada – the straight man and Hitoshi Matsumoto – the clown) have been together as a duo since their high school days but they didn’t start to become popular until 1987. Once they moved to Tokyo in 1989 their popularity really increased when their TV show Downtown’s Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!! (This Is No Job For Kids) debuted and it is still being shown today. It is clips from this show that most foreigners have been exposed to especially their infamous batsu (punishment) games where both members of Downtown plus 3 other comedians that joined Gaki no Tsukai in the 90′s (Yamasaki and the duo Coq au Rico – Endo & Tanaka) subject themselves to various physical and mental punishment which have to be seen to be believed. The beauty about these punishment games is that you don’t have to understand Japanese to find it extremely funny. Just watching them is enough to bring tears to one’s eyes from laughing so hard. I’ve been a fan of Gaki no Tsukai for many years and it never fails to amuse me.
The video below is the most viewed from Gaki no Tsukai and it involves comedian Jimmy Onishi trying to read English:
The most well known punishment game is the No Laughing ones which started in 2003 and are shown annually on New Year’s Eve in Japan. These shows happen because somebody has lost a bet or some kind of challenge and they have to survive 24 hours in a designated location without laughing. Sounds easy but not when you have various comedians doing silly things and trying their best to make you laugh. If somebody does laugh they are smacked hard across the arse by various weapons which have included over the years – a horse whip and a rubber pipe. The punishment is meted out by figures known as the ‘hang-men’. Since the No Laughing games inception in 2003, the locations for the games have included a hot spring Inn, Yugawara, a high school, police station, hospital and for the 2008 game – a newspaper agency.
There are other punishment games which have been featured on Gaki no Tsukai (too numerous to list) over the years such as Silent Library which you’ll see in the clip below. It is so popular now that it is copied the world over in various university libraries judging by the many videos you can see on Youtube but of course the original is still the best:
If these clips have whetted your appetite then seek some more out on Youtube. You’re guaranteed to laugh your heads off.