Takashi Wakasugi: Japanese Aussie | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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Takashi Wakasugi: Japanese Aussie

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Japanese comic Takashi Wakasugi has been living in Australia for five years and likes what he sees – even if he doesn’t always fully understand it. His desire to be more Aussie gives his comments on Western culture an infectious enthusiasm, even when he’s teasing something that makes no sense, like some of the peculiarities of the English language.

Nor is he oblivious to Japanese habits that outsiders might find peculiar, from a troublesome sort of sashimi to high-tech toilets (he’s a fan) and how KFC has become an integral part of Christmas celebrations. Understandably, perhaps, for someone enjoying the fruits of two cultures, he’s keen to espouse the benefits of compromise and sees the Colonel’s deep-fried treats as part of that.

Even when he’s teasing the audience for behaviour that’s inexplicable to him, it’s from a place of affection. ‘Did you get that?’ is something of a catchphrase, like a teacher revealing a lesson we must absorb. Occasionally his tone is even more stern, impatiently imploring ‘Please use your brain more’, but the high status he adopts is impish, never sincere. There is never any danger what he says will go over our heads, and his playful, generous manner is thoroughly endearing.

Visit Melbourne Melbourne International Comedy FestivvalMelbourne International Comedy Festiva news and reviews with Visit VictoriaSuch phrases add a pleasing rhythm to the delivery, which already has a distinctive cadence. He tends to repeat key words in his set-ups, possibly to ensure we catch his meaning if his accent isn’t clear, but it also proves very effective in drawing focus on the topics, emphasising the punchlines and strengthening that faux-arrogant persona.

It is so obviously an act, as the desire not to alienate shines through. That imperative means Wakasugi also sticks to mainstream observations, but often brilliantly and with a quirkiness he commits to.

His routine about how people eat leftover pizza and how it reveals a social hierarchy is exquisite stand-up, relatable yet silly and hitched to a ridiculous premise. It crescendos nicely, and when crowd work - both here and previously – reveals even more possibilities he hadn’t considered, he becomes comically outraged at our collective oddness.

He loves an analogy, although remarking upon how AFL is virtually a religion is a more obvious one to make. It’s also easy to see how another routine about whether or not to pay your tram fare will develop. However he sets out the premise well and lets the gags unfold naturally and at a purposeful yet unhurried pace, while his adorable persona wins over the audience.

Winner of the Directors’ Choice Award last year and nominated for the main prize this time around, the supremely likeable Wakasugi looks set to exceed his dream and become not just more Australian but a beloved part of the county’s cultural landscape.

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Review date: 19 Apr 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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