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Watching the fast-paced, two-person manzai routines that characterize much of Japanese TV comedy these days, it’s difficult to imagine that two key influences on that genre’s birth were stars of cinema’s silent era: Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin.

It’s also difficult to imagine that Yoshimoto Kogyo, the entertainment company that is almost synonymous with manzai, would trumpet the foreign origins of its staple. And yet, in the second in a series of plays now being staged at its recently refurbished Namba Grand Kagetsu theater in Osaka to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary, that’s exactly what they do.

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