For an academic taste 2

Discuss everything Gaki no Tsukai here.
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A link to an overview of the history of manzai.

I found this part by the author the most cool to read as it notes some of the things that Downtown is known to have pioneered in Japanese comedy (a slower-paced, relaxed style of manzai and the coupling of comedians and other entertainers, like singers, on the same show):

This excerpt comes from the duo’s style of “free talk,” which makes up the majority of this weekly show. It is used to discuss an array of mainly personal topics and observations in a manner similar to, but looser than, their old manzai routines. Thus the rigid exchange of blows between the two characters is relaxed to a friendlier style. Following the “free talk,” they read postcards that contain comments and questions from fans. On Hey! Hey! Hey!, a music show they host, Matsumoto takes every irreverent opportunity to dig into the band members or the music idols who appear, acting up to the audience’s expectations. Hamada pounces verbally on the show’s guests, who inevitably come across as (often innocent) boke fools. If the pop music idols who appear as guests try to answer back and redress the situation, Matsumoto will step in with his polished boke act to confound them even further. On many Japanese television shows with manzai performers acting as hosts or guests, the television personalities (タレント tarento) and, especially, media idols (アイドル aidoru) who appear with them are fated to become the satisfying targets of manzai-style boke and tsukkomi humor in this way.
I don't know if a recording of it was ever released on DVD but back during Yoshimoto's centenary celebrations there was a lot of coverage about the early beginnings of Downtown and other comedians. Housei and Endo even acted in a play about Downtown and the Osaka-based Yoshimoto school theater they and others (including Housei when he was in Team Zero) got their start in.
As far as I understand it Downtown was in the first year of Yoshimoto's NSC school, graduated, but stayed on to help run the theater group and whilst filming their early "4 Yo" show before moving to Tokyo.
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