Shōten

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Shōten
Genre Owarai, Variety show
Directed by Ken Obata, Jin Obata
Starring Utamaru Katsura (Host)
Kikuo Hayashiya
Koraku Sanyutei
Koyuza Sanyutei
6th Enraku Sanyutei
Shota Shunputei
Taihei Hayashiya
Takao Yamada
Theme music composer Hachidai Nakamura
Production
Executive producer(s) Motoi Umehara
Location(s) Korakuen Hall
Running time 24 minutes
Release
Original channel NTV
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original release May 15, 1966 – Present
External links
Website

Shōten (笑点) is a Japanese TV comedy program, continuously broadcast on Sunday evenings on Nippon TV since 15 May 1966, the second-longest running TV show in Japan.

The show is based on the Ogiri style of rakugo - a form of traditional Japanese storytelling. The ogiri system sees a host put questions to a panel of fellow rakugo storytellers who must produce a funny or witty response. Shoten's format thus sees the host - currently Japan Rakugo Association Chairman Katsura Utamaru - pose questions to six storytellers (known as "ogiri members") seated left to right (as the audience sees them) as follows: Sanyuutei Koyuuza (sky-blue kimono), Sanyuutei Kouraku (pink kimono), Hayashiya Kikuo (yellow kimono), Shunpuutei Shouta (silver kimono), Sanyuutei Enraku (purple kimono), Hayashiya Taihei (orange kimono).

The rules are simple. In every 15-minute ogiri contest, the host will pose the ogiri members three questions. Each question can be answered an unlimited number of times by any member, and the custom is that everyone must answer each question at least once. Should a member wish to answer a question, he should simply raise his hand and wait to be called by the host. Should the resultant answer be funny or witty, the member will receive one or more floor cushions (zabuton) - the number increasing with the level of audience response and the host's own amusement or admiration. The floor cushion is brought to the stage by hapless sidekick Takao Yamada, formerly a successful popstar with the 70s idol group zuutorubi, but now confined to an object of ridicule in his red kimono. Should, on the other hand, a member's answer fall flat with the audience, or be construed as insulting to the host or fellow members, the member will lose one or more floor cushions. On some extreme occasions, the host may choose to confiscate everyone's zabuton if he deems that all the members have conspired to humiliate him (as most recently happened in January 2015). Sanyuutei Enraku is particularly renowned for persistently losing all of his floor cushions due to his belittling of host Utamaru with merciless wit and accuracy.

The zabuton used are supposedly extra-heavy ones weighing 4 kg (9 pounds), so even a stack of ten or more will not topple. Should an ogiri member acquire 10 zabuton, he is entitled to that day's special prize, which is usually related to a famous quote, such as 'Boys Be Ambitious'. Since Utamaru is notoriously keen on removing zabuton, especially from the intelligent yet arrogant Enraku, it is very rare for anyone to actually achieve the magical 10. The spectacle was witnessed only twice in 50 episodes during 2013, but miraculously occurred twice in successive weeks during 2014, with Utamaru presumably in a generous mood having successfully returned from two lengthy spells in hospital.

The show is also famous for its catchy theme music written by Hachidai Nakamura. This music has been continuously broadcast since 1969. The titles are written in edomoji, but were originally written to show an animated smiling face.

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