What is BATSU!?
In Japan, “batsu” refers to a popular style of comedy that uses punishments as a punchline. “One of the most popular game shows in Japan is called Gaki no Tsukai,” says Jin Kim, host of BATSU! Chicago. “The idea is that a group of comedian friends try to make each other laugh out loud in embarrassing situations. Whoever laughs the most loses, and then gets punished.” At BATSU! Chicago, however, the cast of trained improvisers tries to make the audience laugh, and whoever gets the least laughs from the crowd gets punished. “We have taken the idea of challenges and replaced them with the familiar concept of improv games, but kept the punishments that made the game shows in Japan so popular in the first place.”
“We want to create something that no one has ever seen or done before.”
With over 400 shows under his belt, Kim tells us what makes the show so special. “What differentiates BATSU! from a lot of other experiences is the touches we’ve put into making it unique from start to finish. From the food, to the drinks, to the decor, to buying your tickets, to the way we interact with guests at the show. It all adds up to something you can’t experience anywhere else.”
Reopening in Chicago
BATSU! Chicago’s grand reopening was on July 16th and Kim tells us it was amazing. “Just being in a room and having a good time with strangers again was a great feeling,” he says. “It is an amazing time to be back for us performers as well. Although it does help pay the bills, performing at BATSU! is also very fulfilling. Not having that release for two years was devastating, and the joy we’ve gotten from playing together again is indescribable.” While the performers are excited to be back, the audiences have been just as enthusiastic. “On the first night when we announced that BATSU! was back for good, there was huge applause from the crowd, and you could just feel the pent up energy of the last two years being released at that moment.”
Saving the Best for Last
While some elements of the show have changed over its six year span, Kim’s favorite part will always be the ending. “Most people have no idea what they are walking into,” he says. “But by the time that they leave they always say that the show subverted or exceeded all of their expectations.”
Kim mentions that the most fulfilling part of his job is after the show when he gets to have one-on-one interactions with audience members. “They can’t wait to come back to the show and bring their friends. It’s a great feeling, and it helps me realize that getting a theatre degree was worth it after all.”
“Unexpected, immersive, and joyful. That’s how I would describe BATSU! in three words.”
When asked what his favorite punishment is, Kim says, “I’m lucky in that as the host, I don’t really have to experience the punishments as much as other cast members. I will say though, that the worst one for me is the giant rubber band wrapped around our stomachs that gets snapped when a joke we tell falls flat.” Although this punishment is the most painful in the show in his opinion, the worst part by far, he says, is the anticipation and sense of dread that comes before the rubber band is snapped.
“As for favorite punishments, I would say there’s one in the show that gets a huge crowd reaction,” he says. “Without giving anything away, I guarantee once you see it, you’ll never forget it!”
What’s Next for BATSU!?
Kim told us that BATSU! Chicago has recently partnered with the Japanese Cultural Center of Chicago. “We are looking to raise awareness about Japanese culture and the community with our guests. We want to create opportunities for Japanese and Asian American artists.” Kim hopes that in the coming weeks, BATSU! will be able highlight the incredible work of Japanese and Asian American artists by having them perform as part of the show. “We are continuing to explore, and we want to make BATSU! more than just a comedy act. We want to make it a venue for Asian American artists, and I personally find that super exciting.”
Currently, BATSU! Chicago is running on Fridays and Saturdays at Kamehachi in Old Town, and they want to continue adding more shows. “Before we shut down, we were doing three to four shows a week,” Kim says. “We’ll get there soon, but we’re just happy to be doing the show again at all!”
Don’t forget to follow BATSU! on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @batsulive for new shows, special events, and to keep up with everything they’ve got going on!