In this blog, I have been mostly talking about English speaking comedy except for a few posts about
It sounds like this comic is awfully special but please note that there might be a bias to some level as I had much more time to check the Japanese comedy scene this year due to the pandemic. Yes, there is a huge possibility that I have missed out other newish talents in the previous years. But at least it is true that he is different from the rest of the (talented) ones if not more talented. I am doing my best to explain why I think so.
Noda Crystal is a Yoshimoto comedian. If you are a fan of Down Town, I believe you have seen him occasionally in Wednesday's Down Town. If I remember correctly, he started out live comedy at the age of 15 in the Tokyo underground comedy circuit and was highly likely to become a major driving force of the recent rise of Japanese indie comedy. He talked about the beginning of indie comedy scene here (no Eng. sub). He subsequently joined Yoshimoto comedy school and got a contract with the said agency, while his super low-fi, DIY creative process has stayed the same to this date (I believe).
Noda has been a powerful contender at all the major Japanese comedy tournaments/awards for the past few years but 2020 must be his breakthrough year as he won both R-1 and M-1 (as Madical Lovely) and I wouldn't have recognised him to this level without these awards. He self-taught game programming skills and released a few bizarre "hand-made" indie game apps, all of which are far from sophistication. (His winning set at R-1 was about him trying them out). In fact, they remind us of 80s and 90s "Famicom" (a.k.a. Nintendo Entertainment System) era because the visual and technical quality is *excuse me* SO shite even to an eye of a non-gamer like me but in a very charming and funny way.
In fact, it reminds me of some of the digital work-based routines by Sam Campbell, the winner of Melbourne Int Comedy Festival (2018) & an absolute genius emerged from the Australian indie comedy scene.
(I'm sorry to be off the track but please check Cambell's comedy if you haven't seen any before. Some of them are here )
The clip below is a few collection of Noda's R-1 sets. Non-Japanese speakers don't miss much as his games explain 80-90% of what's about.
Noda has been, as a result, building up his popularity among Japanese gamers in addition to comedy fans. Acquiring the M-1 title in his belt, he's got more pulled by gamers and experts in Japanese game industry, appearing on established Japanese game review publications such as "FamiTsu/ファミ通"
Again, there is no need for viewers to understand Japanese to get how funny the games are. The reviewer said in this clip they had incredible amount of access from China and America (so my argument has been sort of proven?). And based on my personal experience, it is OK to say quite a portion of proper gamers are also proper comedy fans.
On the other hand, Noda's set as one half of Madical Lovely at M-1 was questionable if jokes were strong enough to pick up the trophy but has clearly changed a recent trend of Manzai/a double act stand-up style by Noda (fool) focusing on physical comedy while his partner Murakami (so-called normal)focusing on aural comedy.
As you might know, M-1 tournament is a major pathway for newish/mediocre comedians to get more TV appearance in Japan despite that there are a few other well-known kinds televised nationwide. This doesn't mean they have more opportunities to perform their set on TV (except for their honeymoon period). It means they will get TV jobs for "variety" shows (that involves Taskmaster kind of jobs/physical battles) and multi-party chat shows. And that is how they get proper money, being proper recognised as "comedians". All the previous winners found their space to fit themselves in with their versatile chatting skills OR becoming favourite of the powerful (whoever they were), eventually making their way to win their own show.
Noda seems to shine in Taskmaster type of jobs, while showing something completely different in TV shows which expect comedians to have conventional chatting skills at the moment. His carefully chosen words and timing of delivery only leads to the uncomfortable awkwardness as if he totally failed to sync with interviewers/chat show hosts. It does not mean he has lack of interpersonal communication skills. He, in fact, reads the "air" and creates such a moment by saying/doing something that you can only give a decent reply (Tsukkomi) at best.
It is fascinating to see this kind of The Office UK & US style of laughter on Japanese TV especially when Murakami is not around. (It also means Murakami is essential to make him fit into the conventional Japanese TV entertainment.) It is super interesting to see how he is (allowed to) move/moving forward to gain a place in the major media. At least, his super low-fi indie game apps are hitting the top chart...