KITAMOTO, Saitama Prefecture--Elementary school classrooms will be full of a lot of side-splitting guffaws if town officials here have anything to say about it.
In an effort to improve children's communication skills, the Kitamoto city government is teaming with entertainment agency Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. to bring stand-up comedy teams to the classroom.
Officials said that "manzai," a traditional form of stand-up comedy that involves a pair of performers trading jokes, will help kids learn how to express themselves and cultivate creative thinking.
At a news conference held last month, Kitamoto Mayor Kenji Ishizu and Yoshimoto Kogyo chairman Isao Yoshino said they want to spread similar efforts throughout the country.
The manzai workshop will start from the second trimester. Yoshimoto will send Cowcow, Fukurotoji and other comedy duos to demonstrate manzai acts to the children. They will also tell how they had struggled to get by before they became famous, as well as how backstage staff members work, to give a glimpse of the real manzai industry.
After the classroom lecture, children will be grouped into pairs to perform manzai and gain hands-on experience.
The students will be required to come up with their own topic for a manzai skit based on their dreams of the future, favorite things and other themes. The comedians and other professionals will help them brush up their performances.
Natsuo Kanai, a comedy writer who has taught at workshops and classes at companies and universities, will also serve as an instructor.
The manzai workshop was the brainchild of Ishizu, who said he wanted to encourage Kitamoto through laughter.
The city government has set aside 5 million yen ($62,500) in its initial budget for the project this fiscal year. The two parties signed a contract to jointly implement various projects under the "Kitamoto x Yoshimoto Project."
"As a start, I'd like to work on an effort to make children and elders smile," Ishizu said.
In addition to the manzai workshop, dancers will be sent to a public junior high school in the city to teach the basics for students as part of a "dance program."
The move follows the education ministry's decision to make dance compulsory in physical education classes for first- and second-year junior high school students from this fiscal year. Around 10 sessions will be offered for first-year students starting from the third trimester.
Other events, including "yose," traditional comic storytelling and dance lessons for the public are also under way.
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