In the latest blow for the pandemic affected Games, the show director for the opening ceremony of Tokyo Olympics has been fired over a decades-old comedy skit referencing the Holocaust, organisers said Thursday. Kentaro Kobayashi made the comment that created issues for him in a video of the sketch from 1998 that surfaced online on the eve of Friday’s ceremony.
“It came to light that during a past performance, (he) used language that mocked a tragic fact of history,” Tokyo 2020 Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto told reporters.
“The organising committee has decided to relieve Kobayashi of his post,” she added.
Kobayashi and his comedy partner pretended to be a pair of famous children’s TV entertainers in the sketch.
Kobayashi refers to some paper doll cutouts and described them as “the ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust” while brainstorming about an activity involving paper. The pair then went on to joke about how a television producer was angered by the suggestion of a Holocaust activity.
“It’s inevitable that they’ll face a fireball of criticism,” wrote one online viewer, though others questioned the reaction to a sketch over two decades old.
“In a video that was released in 1998 to introduce young comedians… a skit that I wrote contained lines that were extremely inappropriate,” Kobayashi said.
“It was from a time when I was not able to get laughs the way I wanted, and I believe I was trying to grab people’s attention in a shallow-minded way.”