Comedy is tricky at the best of times. Throw in a language barrier and, unless it’s a mime act, you might want to rethink your career choices. In Japanese Sit Down Comedy: In English Asakichi Katsura courageously sits down for comedy as well as introduces us to Japanese comedy in the English language.
I really wish I could say this is a great show because Katsura is a warm and delightful performer. He’s sweet and brave to boot, maybe a little insane for taking on comedy in an entirely different language when the nuances are not yet understood. Unfortunately, likeability does not translate to comedy and this show fell short of my expectations.
Katsura opens the show with a beautiful piece on the Japanese flute. Even though this is highly enjoyable and certainly particular to Japanese culture, it seems an odd segue into comedy.
The kinds of stories Katsura tells have a fairytale quality and, albeit quaint, they’re too safe and innocent for comedy. The best comediennes take risks and offer something both personal and forbidden and, most importantly, they manage to get the audience to see the funny side of this.
The most obvious issue with this show is language. Katsura rarely stumbles with his English; in fact, he’s quite streamlined in his delivery around a heavy Japanese accent. The problem is he doesn’t have that level of ease with English to use the language to enhance his comedy; so essentially the mechanics that make a joke work are missing such as emphasis on certain words or pauses to give the audience a moment to catch up. This means the rhythm that builds momentum is thwarted and the punch line is often rushed and missed. There is also a wardrobe change which took ten minutes. This is far too long for a performer to take especially when it didn’t appear to add anything new to the performance.
The most enjoyable part of the show is when Katsura transcends language with physical comedy using clever props and ideas. It would have been great to witness more of this because Katsura appears most at ease in this segment of the show.
For all its shortcoming, it takes guts to do a show like this and my hat goes off to Katsura for attempting the near impossible.
Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au Until 26 April 2010