Manzai Pioneer Itoshi Dies

Itoshi - Koishi

The world of manzai comedy has lost one of its pioneers. Kimi Koishi died yesterday of lung cancer. He was 83. According to his management agency, he became ill in January 2010 and spent the last year in and out of hospital, from where he appeared by satellite link on an NHK show last December.

Real name Shinohara Isao, he was just 12 when he formed a “young manzai” comedy duo with his elder brother in 1940. As they matured, and calling themselves Yumeji Itoshi – Kimi Koishi, they went on to become the role models for just about every manzai artist since, in particular the “kamigata manzai” of Osaka and the surrounding region. From 1963-75, they hosted a popular game show on what would later become the TV Asahi network. In 1993, they became the first manzai act to be awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon, given by the government for contributions to culture and the arts. The elder brother passed away in 2003, and apart from a one-off collaboration with Nishikawa Kiyoshi (64), Itoshi never performed manzai again.