Going Documental: A celebration of frenzied absurdity
As many of us may already be aware, cabin fever can turn an individual stir-crazy. The definition of the phrase has taken on new life of late amid the current coronavirus crisis, forcing the general public to stay inside and amuse themselves with whatever housebound entertainment they can muster. Depending on your enthusiasm, this can range anywhere from participating in Joe Wick’s commendable morning work-outs, to finding out what kind of bread you are on Instagram.
Though, once you’ve found out that you are in fact a ‘garlic naan’, self-isolation means three things; Netflix, Amazon and (if you’re lucky) NowTV, usually on our own, or with whoever can hack our taste in television. Whilst many of us are fortunate enough to live with friends or family, spare a thought for those living alone, or worse, with those they don’t like, who are forced to self-isolate and reluctantly wallow in their lack of social contact. To those people, and in fact all people, we have a remedy.
Documental takes place in a room that resembles, in part, both the Big Brother house and also a spacious charity shop with hundreds of eccentric trinkets. This large room is fitted with a dining table, kitchen area, various bizarre props and populated by ten of Japan’s most celebrated comedians, the aim is simple, to make each other laugh. With a six-hour time limit, Documental is, in theory, a celebration of frenzied absurdity, documenting the hilarious consequences of social confinement. Of course, this is amplified by the fact that the room is full of the finest Japanese comedians, hosted by one half of the comedy duo ‘Downtown’, Hitoshi Matsumoto.
As is now well known, thanks to the genius of Takeshi’s Castle and various other television marvels, Japanese comedy is extremely idiosyncratic, characterised largely by overt physical comedy and self-deprecation. Such is the perfect recipe for the comedy cauldron of Documental, where masks, costumes and contorted faces are commonplace, before being swapped-out for the hard hitting props ; a bottle of breast milk or a vacuum cleaner and a willing participants’ testicles.
As surface level as Japanese comedy is, this unprecedented format unearths some enlightening questions regarding the subjectivity of comedy, the constructions of a joke and why one might find it funny. As regularly discussed throughout the show, as well as illustrated in it’s suitably raucous introduction, comedy is a mental battle, as whilst the comedian misleads and dupes, the punchline hits you from left-field. Though, just like when two boxers face-off, when a comedian throws a punchline at another, they are leaving themselves vulnerable to attack from the recipient, or worse still, from their own flailing joke.
When cooped up inside for so long, especially with friends you know so well, a similar situation may occur, finding yourselves in hysterics at something you can barely remember, or even comprehend. So whilst in this current period of social isolation,quarantining with ten Japanese comedians, equally as stir-crazy, may be the perfect remedy to your lonesome woes. It’s the same sense of companionship that one would receive from watching Gogglebox under normal circumstances, but instead imagine ‘Giles & Mary’ are dressed up like babies, slapping each other with wooden spoons.