What is Shōten?
Shōten (笑点) is a Japanese TV comedy program, continuously broadcast on Sunday evenings on Nippon TV since 15 May 1966, the second-longest running TV show in Japan.
The show gathers a group of six Japanese rakugo comedians wearing variously colored kimono sitting in a row, where they compete to make the best jokes, on topics suggested by the host. The person judged to be the most funny by the host gains more and more zabuton (Japanese cushions), until he may be sitting on a stack five, six, or higher. Comedians whose jokes are judged to be not funny, or whose responses are not quick enough, may have one or more zabuton removed and end up sitting on the floor. The zabutons used are supposedly extra-heavy ones weighing 4 kg (9 pounds), so even a stack of ten or more will not topple. When a person gains 10 zabutons, he wins a special prize. The prize is usually related to a famous quote, such as ‘Boys Be Ambitious’. Since the host judges the one who has close to 10 zabutons very hard, the stack of 10 zabutons can only be seen once or twice a year.
Shōten’s famous opening
All of the participants on Shōten are famous rakugoka, or rakugo performers.
What is rakugo?
Rakugo (落語?, literally “fallen words”) is a Japanese verbal entertainment. The lone storyteller (落語家 rakugoka) sits on stage, called Kōza (高座). Using only a paper fan (扇子 sensu) and a small cloth (手拭 tenugui) as props, and without standing up from the seiza sitting position, the rakugo artist depicts a long and complicated comical story. The story always involves the dialogue of two or more characters, the difference between the characters depicted only through change in pitch, tone, and a slight turn of the head.
Rakugo is often somewhat difficult to understand for people who are not completely fluent in the language – or even for those who are, as rakugo is a stylized performance art that uses standard or somewhat historical Japanese but in a non-conversational way. However, Shōten makes the rakugo style easily accessible to a mainstream audience (though they aren’t actually performing rakugo).
Utamaru Katura is a seventy five year old Japanese comedian and Japanese TV program Shoten’s master of ceremonies now.His clothes are green. Shoten has been broadcasted for a very long time and had changed MCs a few times. Utamaru Katura is the fifth MC. His entertainment career has has already been sixty years since Utamaru Katura started Japanese comedian. Utamaru Katura is also chairman of “Rakugo” art society.