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On Stage in America, the Home of Comedy - Livening the Crowd with a Single Mic (Saku YANAGAWA, 4th Year, School of Letters)

From High School Baseball Player to Comedian

"I hadn't the slightest thought that I'd be a comedian, let alone in the USA." Saku YANAGAWA once dedicated himself to baseball in hopes of getting to the tournament at Koshien, leaving his hometown of Nara to attend junior and senior high schools in Tokyo. However, Mr. Yanagawa also was taken by his family to to study ballet and music from a young age, and he has even been in musicals. "I wanted to be either a thespian or a theater critic, which is why I chose OU." 

During his second year at OU, he caught Ryosuke KOIKE, a comedian performing in the USA, on TV simply by chance. "I had no idea there was a world like this," thought Mr. Yanagawa, who made the trip to the States "halfway by force." He continued, "I was a baseball player in high school, so that dream of being in the MLB gave me strong feelings toward America."

A Tense Debut

In August of 2014, he made the trip to the USA alone. "I got experience on stage by offering to wash dishes for stage time in comedy clubs in New York and Chicago, speaking directly with the owners." His debut was just 10 minutes long. He was so nervous that his legs were shaking, but the jokes that he told the audience went better than he predicted. "When the other comedians would say to me, 'Hey, comedian! That was pretty funny!' it made me so happy. It just felt great to be acknowledged (as a comedian)."


Cutting with a Knife Called Satire

The USA is a place with a wide variety of peoples and cultures, making for a society with a strong axis of confrontation. "When you cut with a knife called satire, that's when gaps begin to form and laughter begins to flow. That's why it's important to more deeply understand the culture." Asian comedians are quite rare, so Mr. Yanagawa uses being of Asian descent in his jokes. "I often tell self-deprecating ethnic jokes and talk about topics based on misunderstanding that occurred while I was talking with staff in convenience stores in the U.S."

"We stand-up comedians always perform in front of a live audience. It's a tough world that requires you to improvise clever jokes to deliver to the audience, but this direct interaction with the audience is the best part of stand-up. I think that comedy is the ultimate form of international exchange." 

A Chance

Mr. Yanagawa is currently a comedian with Second City, a famous theater in Chicago, but he dreams of becoming an actor after he's finished there.

He was enthralled with Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when he was a child.

"I watched it so much, I think I memorized every line. It was a movie that captured the heart of a child from a different country and culture, and now that child is an adult who is aiming to be an actor himself. It did more than influence me, it changed my life. I want to be an actor like that someday."

"And I think I've got a good chance to become one." he said staunchly. "If you were to compare it to baseball: you can't hit the ball if you never swing the bat. When it comes to comedy and acting, if you take the stage, there's always a chance."

This year, Mr. Yanagawa received 1,000,000 yen from Osaka University Funds for the Future to further explore his own potential. "I feel that the free-spirited environment at OU is right for me."

He continues to take the stage with the dream of becoming famous in the USA.









Saku YANAGAWA entered the School of Letters at Osaka University in 2012. He is currently with the comedy group "Second City" in Chicago, USA. He mainly performs stand-up comedy and improv. In 2014, he became the first Japanese finalist on "StandUp NBC," a comedy contest broadcast on the National Broadcasting Company (USA).

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