We interviewed Saku Yanagawa, a senior in the School of Letters Drama Major at Osaka University. (Japanese Version)
――I hear that you are taking part in various theatrical activities outside of Osaka University.
You’ve heard correctly! I am a comedian and actor, active mainly in America. From August to October of last year, I went to Chicago, New York, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and performed in over 30 shows on 13 different stages. I performed stand-up comedy, a type of American comedic art in which the comedian stands alone on stage with a microphone, and says jokes or performs skits. During that time I attended some auditions and luckily passed one that only 4 out of 3000 people can pass. I also had the chance to perform at The Second City, a famous theater in Chicago, where many famous comedians such as Robin Williams, Bill Murray, The Blues Brothers (Dan Akroyd, John Belushi) and Steve Carrell used to perform at.
I have taken part in other types of performing arts too, like Improv (Improvisational Theater) and a play by Bertolt Brecht which we performed in Germany. I have also appeared in two movies.
――Amazing. Do you think everyone can do what you do?
I don’t think it is particularly difficult, if you put your mind to it. Anyone has the potential to do it. I myself never dreamed of being a comedian until I saw a clip about a Japanese comedian performing stand-up in New York, on Japanese TV. I messaged the comedian as soon as I could on Facebook, and told him that I would like to meet him. I actually went to New York to talk to him! That was when I started thinking about becoming a comedian and actively started planning to become one. And because of that planning I was able to perform at many comedy clubs while I was in America. Each theater had about 280 seats. It was the first time for me to perform outside of Japan, and to perform in English. Of course I was very nervous. But it was so much fun. Truth be told, it might have just been beginner’s luck. Now, keep in mind, nothing in life that is worthwhile comes easy. So I had to work to perform: I washed dishes, swept floors during the day, and got permission to perform on stage at night in return for my labor. Sometimes, when my jokes failed and nobody in the audience laughed, I really felt like crying. Someone threw a Heineken bottle at me too [laughs]! But although those things were tough to deal with, it became a really good experience for me.
――Can you tell me what you study in your major in detail?
In drama studies we look at performing arts from various viewpoints. I’m planning to write my bachelor thesis on how Asians have been characterized in American pop culture, based on what I have actually experienced in America.
――Why did you choose drama as your major?
When I was in High School, I just focused on baseball. After I graduated and took some time to think about what I wanted to study, performing arts was what I came up with. Osaka University is the only National University with a drama major in Japan. People in my major study various themes – playwrights like Shakespeare and Beckett, or Noh (traditional theatrical Japanese arts), or even strip shows. They all inspire me, and teach me a lot about types of performing arts I had never been interested in before.