Masatoshi Hamada, half of the comedy duo Downtown, came under fire after wearing blackface to play “Eddie Murphy” during the New Year Special of their variety show.
Now, his partner, popular comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto, chimed in — with words likely to influence their friendship.
Speaking to newscaster Yuko Ando on Sunday, Jan. 14, Matsumoto called Hamada “terrible.”
Matsumoto: “I have a lot of things to say regarding this issue, but it’s too much of a hassle. Hamada’s terrible. Just hang him out to dry. Exile him from the country. Were there costumes in the changing room? It’s his fault for not turning down the proposal [of the Eddie Murphy impersonation].”
Ando: “I think it was going well until the impersonation. That bit was meant to make viewers laugh but was taken as racial discrimination instead.”
Matsumoto: “I told Hamada we should knock on Eddie Murphy’s door and apologize to him.”
Ando: “Hamada’s take on Eddie Murphy was interesting, and since some foreigners may be sensitive to things like skin color, it came off as making fun of black people. America had famous blackface singing groups [black minstrels] in the past, and it wasn’t a problem then because they were singing. When that’s put into the context of comedy, it becomes a different issue.”
At this point, Matsumoto can only think of how horrible his partner had been:
“The theme this time was the American police, and we did Eddie Murphy’s ‘Beverly Hills Cop.’ The flow wasn’t bad at all… but Hamada was just horrible. And so I pondered over what we should do. We’re not full impersonators after all, and so we’ll just do our variety shows without blackface from now on. I want to establish a rule book with clear guidelines.”
Music producer Maiko Fukushima, also around in the discussion, shared her thoughts.
“The symbolic blackface has always been condemned worldwide historically. People are now observing a global Japan. People in the television industry must now create programs from an international standpoint,” she said.
What do you think about Hamada’s impression?