What is Manzai?

Manzai is a performance where two people face each other, one says something humorous, and the other reprimands him/her to make the audience laugh.

Manzai has its rooots in “Senzu-manzai” (Manzai for short), which is a folk performing art. Tayu, who corresponds to the present manzai narrator, held a fan, and Saizo, who corresponds to the present funny man, held a drum.  They visited people’s houses on new year’s day to sing and dance with joyous words. The performance included humorous dialogues.

From the end of the Meiji period to the Taisho period, Tamagoya Entatsu, who was a famous Bon dance ondo-tori (ondo singer), combined Manzai’s humorous parts with ondo, and it gained popularity.

In the beginning of the Showa period, Yokoyama Entatsu and Hanabishi Achako began a Manzai without any musical instruments or songs, but used only dialogues to make the audience laugh. This style was called “shabekuri-manzai” and it became the mainstream. The word “Manzai” used to be written in several ways, using Chinese characters such as “萬歳”or“万才”, before finally becoming “漫才”.

Now Manzai comedians are so active in many scenes that we see them on TV almost every day.