Monomane (ものまね) is Japanese for imitation, and it plays a frequent part in variety shows. The Monomane Grand Prix (ものまねグランプリ) assembles pretty much everyone who thinks they can do a good imitation – from the best among the professionals to hack comedians to amateurs off the street who called in claiming they look like somebody. The top performers get the most time, of course, but everybody gets some seconds of fame. Close to the end of the year, the pros will compete for a cash prize, but in the middle of the year, it’s purely for fun, and a lot of the show is composed of pre-recorded clips.

Monomane Grand Prix Title

This time, the theme of the show emphasized a “festival” (祭り – matsuri) with the collaboration of the strongest (最強) and selected real persons (本人). The best thing about watching a monomane show is that you  get introduced to the best known people in Japanese culture by people making fun of them. Later on, it’s fun to the real people show up on other shows. Even without subtitles, the show’s interesting to watch, since the imitators generally play it for laughs, and do so in ways reminiscent of vaudeville comedy instead anything sophisticated or genuinely satirical.

At a show length (without commercials) of three hours and twenty-four minutes, it is certainly a festival of comedy, and ultimately took me an entire day to get through watching. Here are some highlights for me (though there’s a lot more than these moments in the show):

After Korokke-san (コロッケ), one of the top three monomane pros, imitates him, the great enka singer Kitajima-san (北島さん) says it was nothing like him, and Korokke bows down in apology:

Kitajima-san rejects KorokkeKorokke Apologizes

Shortly after that, we got the chubby (デブ – debu)Arashi imitators:

Overweight Arashi Impersonators

An act that’s become a recent staple of monomane is Endo-san performing with a group of girls imitating (hilariously) the Korean group Girls’ Generation (少女時代 Shoujo Jidai):

Endo-san's eccentric performance

This time, we found out that Endo-san was, in his teenage years, the backdancer for one of the panelist/judges.

The best moment of the show, though, was during the thirty-second imitation segment, where people tried their luck surviving thirty seconds without getting buzzed out by one of the ten judges. This fellow stepped up, doing a (rather good) imitation of Kawamura Ryuichi (河村 隆一):

Kawamura Ryuichi Impersonator

And, much to the surprise of the hosts, got buzzed out after only nine seconds:

Out in Nine Seconds

How could this happen? He was doing so well! They turn to the judge who had hit the buzzer and asked. She responded that she pressed the reject button because the imitator was Kanou Eikou (狩野 英孝), who really is a lackluster comedian. The funny thing is – you guessed it – the imitator was not Kanou Eikou at all, and nobody except that one judge thought it was. Shocked face:

Shocked Face

But, wow, she had a really strong anti-Kanou prejudice, didn’t she? I mean, she couldn’t stand nine seconds just suspecting that it was him!

There’s a lot more to this monomane festival than the bits I’ve got here, and I hope you’ll give this sort of show a try.