Name: Jason Danielson (aka “Atsugiri Jason”)
Occupation: IT manager, comedian
1. What first brought you to Japan? I originally came to Japan in 2005 to work as a research intern on a voice recognition project in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture. I was still a student at the time, so I had to go back to the U.S. to finish my studies. However, I always wanted to return to Japan someday. I was finally able to come over for a second time in 2011 to start the Japanese office of an IT venture company I had been working for in Chicago.
2. What’s keeping you here? My wife is Japanese and we have been blessed with two daughters born here.
3. What first inspired you to give up the IT industry to become a comedian? I have not given up the IT industry. In fact, I still work full time at a Japanese IT company, managing the operations of its U.S. office from Japan.
4. Why choose the name “Thick-sliced Jason”? I currently live in Atsugi and the term “atsugiri” contains “Atsugi.” Also, my chest is thick and the Japanese phrase for “thick-sliced bacon” (“atsugiri-bēkon”) has a similar ring to it.
5. Describe the kind of jokes that make you laugh? In general, I like bad puns (oyaji gyagu) and hidden-camera surprise shows (dokkiri).
6. Name your favorite comedians in Japan? What makes them funny? My favorite comedian in Japan is Zabunguru (ザブングル). I really like Ayumu Kato’s over-the-top reactions and his dedication to his roles while acting in skits.
7. What’s your favorite Japanese kanji? “一” — it’s so simple! One! There is no possible way to go wrong. It is one!
8. Why Japanese people? People stand on the left side of escalators in Tokyo but on the right side in Osaka. WHY, JAPANESE PEOPLE?!? Let’s pick a side!
9. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? I once climbed Mount Fuji, starting in the afternoon, with no equipment or preparation. I ended up getting to the top just as the sun was setting, with no light and it was freezing. Luckily, there were some Japanese college students (at the top) in nearly the same situation, so I joined their group and we walked slowly down the mountain together, using the glow from their cellphone screens to guide us. It took us twice as long as it would have in daylight, but at least we all made it without getting hurt.
10. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? I was handed a plate of thick-sliced bacon once and asked what it was several times until I got mad and said, “I am not thick-sliced bacon!”
11. Which kanji is most at odds with the radicals that make it up? The “始” (in hajime, or “to start”). What exactly are you going to “start” after putting a “woman” on a “table”?
12. Why Japanese people? People throw beans at demons (oni) at setsubun on Feb. 3. WHY, JAPANESE PEOPLE?!? There is no way a demon would be kept at bay by a bean!
13. How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? Make the inside of the refrigerator a perfect vacuum and tell the elephant there are some extra tasty peanuts inside.
14. Name three uses of a stapler without staples. A tablet candy dispenser; an attendant call button at an office supply store; glue it to an office supply cabinet for a stylish handle.
15. What do you think about while standing on the train? I usually work on my comedy skits.
16. Tell us a quick joke. Why would you never starve on a desert island? Because you could survive on “sand-wiches.”
17. How would you find a needle in a haystack? Burn the hay and the metal needle would remain.
18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? The tiger, because his enemy spends all his time “lion” around.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? Happy!
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Try lots of different things, always do your best and give it your all and don’t worry about what other people think of you.
“Atsugiri Jason” will appear in the “R-1 Grand Prix 2015″ on Tuesday. The comedy final screens nationwide from 7 p.m. to 8:54 p.m.