Shattering the Everyday
Konto 55-gō and the Television Comedy of the Late 60s
In this article, I examine the television comedy of the late 1960s, with a focus on the duo Konto 55-gō. Through analysis of some of the critical and popular reception of the duo, I argue that their meteoric rise reflected a watershed moment in the history of Japanese television, as the medium discovered an aesthetic that, uniquely its own, positioned the affective alongside the visual. Numerous accounts from the era emphasized the pair’s speed, as well as their tendency to disregard the conventions of the industry and characterized their energy as one that seemed to “burst out” from the frame. This reputation, I demonstrate, laid the foundation for a narrative, in which the pair were portrayed as ushering in a new epoch of television. Konto 55-gō, according to this narrative, had overcome the boundaries of the television apparatus and forged a direct and immediate connection with viewers. Exploring several facets of this narrative as well as its resonance with contemporary trends in Japanese television, I consider in conclusion the role that the live audience laughter of Konto 55-gō’s performances played within it. Characterized as being as raucous and uncontrollable as the duo itself, that laughter served within the discourse on the pair as both a vehicle for the affective connection that they created with viewers and synecdoche for the sensibilities of a vast mass audience that extended beyond the studio.