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Banzai was a comedy gambling gameshow spoofing Japanesemarker gameshows and general television style. It was produced by Radar, part of RDF Media. Each segment of the show was a silly or bizarre contest. Members of the viewing audience were encouraged to bet with each other on the outcome of each segment.

The Japanese characters seen on screen during the programme are meaningless.

Format of the show

The show plays off like a betting show. In each segment, a bizarre challenge is presented with a choice of outcomes. Viewers are given a short amount of time to 'place their bets' before the challenge starts.

Betting contests on the show included grannies playing chicken with motorized wheelchairs, amputee soccer, egg eating, blindfolded gas pumping, and the length of time it would take an object to hit the ground after being dropped from a roof. The show also sometimes intentionally skirted the bounds of what some people would consider appropriate television content, as in contests to guess which person in a lineup has the longest penis, or the biggest breast implants, or how long it would take a madagascar hissing cockroach to microwave. Many minor celebrities took part in the stunts, and the occasional more major celebrity like Rutger Hauer. Usually the celebrity would be ridiculed in the segment. Actor Peter Davison, for example, who formerly played Doctor Who, was asked which other Doctor Who actor (from Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and Sylvester McCoy) he would most like to have sex with.


The show's MC, Mr Banzai, played by opera singer Masashi Fujimoto, did not speak except for saying and singing the word "Banzai" in different ways. Mr Banzai acted as referee for many of the contests, directing participants to begin by solemnly clapping his hands and emitting a kiai.

Other regular contributors included Mr. Shake Hands Man who maintained a handshake with a people for as long as possible. He was later replaced when he became too well known with Mr. Shake Hands Man 2 (played by Japanese-American actor Tadao Tomomatsu), who did the same thing however his role was mainly with celebrities. There was also Lady One Question played by non-professional Shizuka Hata, who posed as a celebrity reporter, asked a single interview question and then stared silently at the interviewee. In both of these segments, viewers were invited to bet on how long it took the celebrity to put a stop to the ruse. Often appearing between segments was Mr Cheeky Chappie (Jit Loi Chong), wiggling his spectacles and grinning.

Voiceovers were provided by Burt Kwouk and Eiji Kusuhara.

Broadcast history

Banzai first aired in the UKmarker on the digital channel E4. It was repeated a few months later on E4's parent channel Channel 4. Banzai can be now seen on Challenge TV at midnight in the weekend and Dave at 11:40 pm on Fridays. It was later picked up for broadcast in Canadamarker by Citytv, which broadcast the original uncut episodes of Banzai. It was broadcast in the USA for a short time only, and in a different format where the segments were cut up and interspersed with a movie. Then in 2003, Fox picked up the series in the United Statesmarker (and Americanized it by editing content and saying that some of the people were from the United States instead of parts of the UK), airing its first episode on July 13. After six episodes, however, pressure from Asian American groups led Fox to drop the show. In early 2004, the show found a new American home on Comedy Central. Reruns moved once again on March 6, 2006 to G4's late night block, Midnight Spank. The recently-opened Philippinemarker cable channel Jack TV also runs Banzai in a primetime weekend slot. Philippine channel RPN also runs the series every Thursday nights at 7:30-8:00 PM. It also airs in Australia on Channel V. In early 2002 was also broadcast in Italymarker on MTV Italy on friday night with Italian dubbing.

Banzai is sometimes mistaken for a Japanese-produced show, such as on Comcast's interactive guide. It is, in reality, a British show.

Mr Shake Hands Man

Among the people Mr. Shake Hands Man (sometimes known as Shakey Hands Man or Mr Shakey Hand Man), has shaken hands with are:

He also shook the hand of Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen. One of the last handshakes was with Joan Collins and it did not last very long as she forced his hand off hers with her other hand.

Mr Shake Hands Man 2 had a slightly different tactic to the original Mr Shake Hands Man. Mr Shake Hands Man 2 would pose as a Japanese reporter and often translate dialogue into Japanese and make conversations (and handshakes) last a little longer.

DVD game

RDF, the license-holder of "Banzai", has also worked in conjunction with Screenlife, the makers of the popular Scene It? DVD games, to make possible the creation of a DVD board game for the show ( Game creators Gary McGrew and Nick Saad can be seen as animated figures in the "How to Play" section of the DVD. The game DVD is packed with lots of the best clips from the actual show and uses plastic sushi pieces as the main betting and winning device. Players must use chopsticks to transfer four types of wacky sushi characters (King Fu Carl - the world's last starfish assassin, Lois - the Louisiana Squirrel Roll, Chum and Tako's Tentacle) into the main community betting bowl. Whoever transfers the most for that round gets to put down a numbered or lettered betting card in conjunction with the "Banzai" clip in the hopes of getting it right and winning all the sushi in the community bowl. The player with the most sushi wins the game. The "underground" appeal of the show and the game has also contributed to drinking game rules.

The show's MC, Mr Banzai, also starred in the making of the DVD as the man who jumped out and shouted "DVD!" and did a number of comical things on the DVD.

There was another DVD called Super Banzai Video Show, which was similar but players just played with the DVD player and the remote. Mr Banzai shocks viewers by jumping in front of the copyright warning at the beginning of the disc. Players are then asked to guess which letter is the Super-Banzai DVD button, A, B or C. If viewers select C, they see about 30 seconds of Tony Hart standing staring at them without saying anything. The correct button is B.


In 2001, two years before Fox aired its first episode of Banzai, USA Network aired clips of the Channel 4 edition of the show as part of their Banzai Movie Friday. Asian American groups objected to the clips.

When Fox picked up the show, the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans protested outside a presentation of the show in Hollywood. Group co-founder Guy Aoki told BBC News, "It's just all the backward images of Asian-American people. This is like an Asian minstrel show. Can you imagine the black version of Banzai?" [28579]. When sponsors were alerted to the content of the show, many dropped their sponsorship, and as a result, Fox canceled Banzai.

The show also caused controversy in 2002 when they attempted to record a sketch during the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The film crew were reportedly trying to measure the speed of the funeral procession with a speed gun to allow viewers to bet on the speed. The police however stopped this before the procession could pass.


  1. BBC News - Quiz: Know your handshaking history
  2. BBC News - Quiz of the week's news - 12/04/2007
  3. Banzai heads stateside - 02/06/2007

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