Japan 2020 Olympics opening ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi has been sacked ahead of the big day. A comedy sketch he appeared in during the 1990s that mocked the Holocaust led to his dismissal. But who is Kentaro Kobayashi and what do we know about him?
Who is Japan 2020 Olympics opening ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi?
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture on 17 April 1973, Kentaro Kobayashi was appointed chief ceremony director for the Tokyo Games in 2019.
The 48-year-old former comedian is also an actor, theatre director, award-winning playwright and popular entertainment figure in Japan.
Known for his directing and acting in ‘Japanese tradition’ short films and comedy sketches about Japanese culture, Kobayashi also appeared in computer giant Apple’s Mac advertising campaign in Japan.
His creative talent can be seen in his anime works and exhibitions, which resulted in three international tours – in London, Monaco and Paris.
With influences including British comedy legends Charlie Chaplin and Monty Python, Kobayashi created a one-man show in 2005 entitled Mr Potsunen’s Peculiar Slice Of Life. In the show, he performed to music with background animation.
Here’s a trailer for the show:
Following his sold-out performance at Leicester Square Theatre in London in 2015, Kobayashi returned to the English capital in 2017 to perform Mr Potsunen’s Peculiar Slice Of Life exclusively at The Coronet Theatre, just off London’s West End.
Describing Mr Potsunen, Kobayashi said: “It is a performance that depicts the world through a live picture book. Now you can watch it on YouTube. You can enjoy it even if you do not understand Japanese.”
London theatre reviewer Catherine Francoise described Kobayashi’s work: “It is an incredible mesh of comedic mime, animation, film, projection, magic, puppetry, movement and a fantastic imagination.
“(It is) plainly extremely difficult to do yet (Kobayashi) makes it all look absolutely effortless – the hallmark of a great artist.”
So what happened to Kobayashi?
Despite Kobayashi’s renown, he was dismissed from his position of Olympics opening ceremony director just a day before his big day. His dismissal was down to the emergence of a skit he made 23 years ago in which he appears to make jokes about the Holocaust.
In the sketch, Kobayashi and another comedian pretend to be children’s entertainers.
Kobayashi turns to his comedy partner and, referring to some paper dolls, states they are the “ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust,’” as reported by the AFP news agency.
Organisers have been reassessing arrangements ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, July 22nd as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics officially begin.
In a statement Japan’s Olympic chief, Seiko Hashimoto, said she had been unaware of Kobayashi’s sketch before his appointment but apologised. She said: “We apologise for causing concern to those involved in the Olympics, to the citizens of Tokyo and the Japanese public.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of US-based Holocaust research body the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the BBC: “Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide.”
Kobayashi issued a statement responding to his dismissal.
“Entertainment should not make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my stupid choice of words at that time was wrong, and I regret it.”
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