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Osaka-based Yoshimoto Kogyo, the giant talent agency that celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, has made an enduring business out of that fleeting phenomenon: laughter.

Most of the nearly 700 tarento (TV personalities) on the Yoshimoto roster are comics, including many practitioners of manzai, the comedy duo form that originated in Yoshimoto’s Kansai (Western Japan) heartland and has been a TV staple for more than three decades.

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