- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
- Dick’s Sporting Goods lays off 478 PGA golf pros
- Senators: Cease-fire must allow Israel to defend against rockets, tunnels
- Sierra Leone doctor fighting Ebola catches disease
- Iraq welcomes Russian fighter jets, helicopter gunships into ISIL fight
- John McCain laments: Obama’s ‘self-pity … is really kind of sad’
- GOP offer to fix VA gives $10 billion in emergency funds
- Paul Ryan offers to repair U.S. economic safety net with a single grant stream
- Kim Jong-un builds bond with Putin: $250M Russia-backed addition to key port opens
- Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death
Japanese comics boldly satirize political leadership
Question of the Day
“It’s easy to spot them nodding away during parliamentary sessions,” he tells the studio audience while a large screen onstage shows a napping lawmaker. “Sometimes they’re even dead.”
Japan’s traditional deference to authority has long limited comedians to nonpolitical slapstick routines. Freedom of expression has a relatively short history in Japan, and fear of violent right-wing groups also has stifled free speech.
But taboos have eroded in the last decade as powerful bureaucrats have been shamed by scandals, politicians have become more dependent on public opinion and ordinary people are growing more vocal.
These days, nearly anything is fair game. Mr. Ota, 42, and his colleagues lampoon the prime minister, joke about policies such as constitutional reform and even tread on the ultimate taboo — the imperial family.
“We try to dissect society with humor,” says Mr. Ota, who teams up with Yuji Tanaka as the comedy duo “Bakusho Mondai” — which roughly translates as “matter of a roaring laugh.”
On “Hikari Ota: If I Became Prime Minister,” Mr. Ota offers fake proposals — Japan should buy up all North Korea’s nuclear bombs, for instance, or impose competency tests on prime ministers. Then a panel of 20 guest lawmakers, academics and entertainers poses as parliament and holds a mock debate.
In a society where keeping your opinions to yourself is a sign of social finesse and maturity, Japan’s satirists are getting mileage from the pure shock value of broaching formerly untouchable subjects.
Comedian Minoru Torihada — whose stage surname means goose bumps — has built an underground following by spoofing figures across the political spectrum. His favorite targets are rightists who revere the emperor and yearn for a return of Japan’s wartime glory. He struts around onstage in tight-fitting uniforms or suits with the pants too short and the jacket sporting wartime slogans such as “Die for the Nation.”
He begins almost every performance by exhorting his audience to “salute the palace.”
“I recommend the policy of a prosperous nation and a strong military, requiring all men from 8 to 65 to be drafted and all women to be fertile,” he declares in a mock political campaign speech echoing Japanese wartime propaganda.
“How do we overcome the aging society?” he asks. “Let’s send them to the battlefront instead of nursing homes.”
Such themes reverberate in a Japan that is still feuding with its neighbors over its militarist policies of the 1930s and ‘40s. But Mr. Torihada says comedians have a responsibility to address the important issues of the day.
The subsidies are a hit with patients who don't exist
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Evidence shows Russia firing artillery into Ukraine: Pentagon
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- Obama's empty tough-talk: Gun prosecutions plummet on his watch
- Algerian plane diverted due to storms, second aircraft: 116 missing
- Obama takes aim at 'corporate deserters'
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- Obama says public not familiar enough with issues
- Michael Moore, movie-making critic of capitalism, has nine homes
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq