I'm not laughing, you're laughing...

3min read

Documental is a Japanese reality TV show with a simple premise.

10 comedians (ponying up 1 million Yen each) are locked in a room for 6 hours with cameras filming everything that happens inside.

If one of them smiles or laughs, they get a yellow card. If they do it again, they’re kicked out of the room.

The last comedian left in the room after 6 hours have past is declared the winner, and receives a 10 million Yen prize.

That’s it, there’s nothing else to it.

Annnnnnndd, it might just be the funniest show I’ve ever watched.

It doesn’t sound like much, but you don’t need much to make a great show when you’ve got 10 comedians stuck in a room with each other who are encouraged to make each other laugh while not laughing themselves.

When watching the show, I go back and forth between two states of mind. I’m either laughing my ass off watching these comedians try to hold back their own laughter or I’m gripping the edge of my seat watching them do anything and everything to get each other to chuckle.

The game is designed intentionally in such a way that the participants (and the viewers) are constantly switching between states of tension and release which makes for a fun viewing experience.

The show basically works like this:

When a smile or laugh is noticed by the host of the show (Hitoshi Matsumoto) through one of the many camera feeds in his control room, he hits his big red button which sounds a buzzer, turns the lighting in the room red and pauses the game.

Tension rises as the comedians laugh nervously while Matsumoto walks through the door, and lifts a card up to a player (yellow is a warning, and red means you’re out) which is followed by a big gong sound.

If you’re curious, here’s what this looks like:

Say hello to Daisuke and Jimmy, two of my favorite comedians in the show who appear in season 1 and 2.

Tension is released as everyone reviews the tape, discusses what exactly made the person laugh, says their goodbyes if needed and waits for Matsumoto to return to his control room.

Tension starts to build up again as soon as Matsumoto hits his big blue button, a buzzer sounds, and the comedians go back to trying to make each other laugh.

This sequence of events repeats, over and over again until 6 hours have past or there’s only one comedian left in the room.

This constant building up and release of tension combined with the “anything goes” mentality of the show makes for a great show.

Next time you’ve sat your ass down in front of your TV about to Netflix and Chill, you should instead Prime and Drill and watch some Documental.

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