For the class of 2011, humor's a tonic they're eager to share

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

The Japan Times quizzed three current NSC tudents about their motivations and dreams — and about their thoughts on how the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11 will influence the future of the Class of 2011.

Ryosuke Yusa (19; high school graduate; member of duo Astros)

Why did you want to be a comedian?

I joined NSC with my partner in Astros, Sosuke Masuda. We met at high school and, after we started talking, we realized we both liked comedy. We’re from Miyagi Prefecture, and it’s pretty rare to meet someone like that up there, so we became friends and started performing together. Each year we entered the High School Manzai competition, which is run by Yoshimoto Kogyo, and the third time we won!

How did the tsunami affect your decision to be a comedian?

We were in Miyagi when the tsunami occurred. We couldn’t go to school anymore. I’m from a town called Shiogama, a bit south of Ishinomaki. Everything went about 50 cm under water. But, even after that, none of the people around us became dispirited. If you said something funny, then they would still laugh. I really got a sense that laughter is good and powerful. I realized this is no time to be depressed. We have to try hard to get people to laugh. And so we became more resolved to succeed.

Tamami Kawashiro (21; university graduate; solo comedian)

Why did you decide to be a comedian?

When I got to university I was working a part-time job and an older colleague there was very shy. I asked her what she liked and she said comedy, so I ended up watching a lot so I would have something to talk to her about. My interest grew from there.

Which comedians do you admire?

Gekidan Hitori: I like how in his comedy, the whole story, a whole world populated with characters, is so well constructed. And within that there is always something totally unexpected.

Where do you get inspiration for your material?

Often when I’m waiting for a train. Like one time, there were a lot of women with babies and they were also carrying cabbages, and then I remembered there’s a story that babies come from cabbages. So I wondered what would happen if the babies were cabbages. I wrote that down and maybe it will find its way into something.

Akane Sasaki (18; high school graduate; Darth Vako in the comedy duo Ag)

Why did you decide to be a comedian?

When I was in primary school. My mum used to watch comedy late at night, and I could hear her laughing. So I also started watching and decided I wanted to do that.

What have you learned at NSC?

I’ve gained the confidence to get up in front of people and perform.

Where do you get inspiration for your material?

It falls from heaven, often when I’m sitting on the bus. It’ll be something going on around me, something I notice — something will suddenly occur to me, so I type it into the note pad on my cellphone.

How have the events of this March affected your desire to be a professional comedian?

My father’s family is from Kamaishi, one of the hardest-hit areas in Iwate Prefecture. My grandma lives there now. She survived the tsunami. But in February, I had actually borrowed the ¥400,000 for the NSC tuition fees from her, so I felt bad about that. To be honest, grandma wanted me to become a nurse. But now I send letters telling her that I’m trying my best with the comedy and she writes back telling me to try harder.

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