Written by Jack Herbert
Kings of Comedy
Manzai (double act comedy, see below) rules Japanese TV, and Downtown rule manzai.
Their popularity owes a lot to the brilliant irreverence of Hitoshi Matsumoto (Ma-chan), whose chaotic ramblings inspire increasing disbelief in straight-man Masatoshi Hamada (Hama-chan).
Friends since high-school, the duo worked their way up in Osaka's Yoshimoto Kogyo manzai company, before rising to fame in 1991. They have remained one of Japanese entertainment's hottest properties for over a decade.
Their use of their natural Osaka dialect has helped make the down-to-earth "Kansai-ben" the language of Japanese comedy.
Matsumoto is one of Japan's most eligible bachelors, and his playboy lifestyle (despite a long-term relationship with actress Takako Tokiwa) is a constant feature of the tabloids.