By Takashi Ozaki / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerOSAKA — “If you can’t make up your mind whether to laugh, please just laugh!”
Yutaro Hamada, a 27-year-old comedian who is blind, said this as he talked nonstop to the audience on a small stage while holding a white cane at an event held at a multi-tenant building in Kita Ward, Osaka.
The event was part of a series called “Up To You,” in which fledgling comedians compete against each other in three-minute performances. The series, held by Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., serves as a gateway to success for them to reach a bigger stage in the future. Hamada made the audience laugh with his stories based on his experiences and current issues.
Hamada is a native of Kobe and was born blind in his left eye. He can only sense light in his right eye.
When he was a sixth-grader, he heard a manzai performance on TV for the first time by duo Bikkizu. Though the manzai duo disbanded in 2007, their performance became a life-changing experience for Hamada — he said he laughed loudly and even cried.
After graduating from a local special needs school for the visually impaired, he worked part-time and used the money to enter New Star Creation (NSC), a training school established by Yoshimoto Kogyo.
Hamada doesn’t think of his visual impairment as a handicap, but he feels that the audience can’t concentrate on his performance when they become too aware of it. He senses the audience’s hesitation when they laugh in a reserved manner, asking themselves whether they’re supposed to laugh at a performance by a blind comedian.
“I want to overcome this barrier,” he said. “It’s my dream, on a big stage, to make the audience burst into laughter, with having them forget that I’m visually impaired. That would feel awesome.”
His talent was recognized in a popularity poll at “Up To You.” This gave him the opportunity to perform at Yoshimoto Manzai Gekijyo theater in Osaka’s Minami area in June, where popular comedians also take the stage.