Called manzai in Japanese, this is a kind of Straight Man and Wise Guy duo, but it's also the interaction between two characters who constantly play off each other. The tsukkomi is the Straight Man of the pair, roughly, while the boke is more or less the Wise Guy — but it's not an exact match. The act usually involves the duo having a conversation on some subject, with the tsukkomi trying to correct the boke's misconceptions; the tsukkomi will sometimes try to have his partner act out a scene with him in order to help make his point. The boke, meanwhile, sets up the gags by getting everything completely wrong, either because he's a moron or because he's being a smartass to the tsukkomi. Every line of conversation repeatedly leads up to the boke saying or doing something unbelievably stupid, at which point the tsukkomi will finally lose his patience and Dope Slap him; a good manzai act needs both halves of the duo to be funny, both for the boke's idiocy and the tsukkomi's short temper.
It is common in Osaka so normally both members of the comedy duo will speak in Kansai-ben. Frequently, manzai teams will dress in one of two ways: 1) similarly tailored outfits with complementary color schemes; 2) one (usually the boke) wears casual clothes, and the other (usually the tsukkomi) a respectable business suit. Ironically, the most famous manzai duo of all time, Downtown, reversed this — Hitoshi Matsumoto, the boke, always wears a suit and tie (albeit with the tie tucked neatly into his trousers), and Masatoshi Hamada, the tsukkomi, always wears something casual. (They're also pretty much single-handedly responsible for the equation of Kansai-ben with funny characters.)
When the characters do this purposely to impress, it's not supposed to be very funny and no one will laugh, despite good intentions. When someone is the tsukkomi for an entire cast, they're probably also the Only Sane Man. When someone is a boke for the whole cast, they're probably also a Cloudcuckoolander. Do not be surprised in a show with a large cast if one character is boke to one person and tsukkomi to another.
On a side note, this routine was (and sometimes still is) very popular in Russian live comedy shows, where it is universally known as 'White Clown/Red Clown' skit, with the latter playing role of boke and former being tsukkomi.
Can be Those Two Guys. Compare Right Way/Wrong Way Pair.
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Lampshaded in the Japanese version of the Mac & PC commercials. By maintaining the outfits from the US version, Mac has inadvertently become a casual-clad Tsukkomi while PC is the formal-wearing Boke. Given that these two actors form the comedy group Rahmens, this may have been deliberate. Watch all 12 of them here.
Anime and Manga
Sket Dance is one giant Shonen-style Boke and Tsukkomi Routine, quite arguably. Although all of the Sket Trio can be any of the two roles depending on the situation, Bossun and Himeko are able to pull off this act masterfully, even when in their everyday interactions with each other.
Chiaki Takahasi pointed this out when Bossun met Himeko for the first time.
In one chapter, Bossun and Himeko partnered up on the spot during the closing round of a live Manzai contest. Their flawless performance eventually gave them the win against their cheating opponent.
Himeko once participated in a TV show pitting two pro or amateur comedians against each other in an "all-out tsukkomi clash", delivering line after line of loud comedic reactions to see who was the superior tsukkomi.
In Ranma One Half, Kasumi occasionally tries to pull off a sequence of these jokes playing both parts herself.
Shows up in Azumanga Daioh quite often. Tomo occasionally demands to be the "boke" to an utterly unsuited Osaka's tsukkomi, and Yomi (who is eminently suited) has played that part at least once. Osaka was once asked to do this with Miss Yukari, and was asked which person should take which part. She asked Yukari to be the boke, prompting Yukari to bop her. As Yomi stated, "So it begins..."
Chiyo unintentionally acts as the tsukkomi to Tomo once, and gets berated by her and Osaka for doing so.
On Keroro Gunsou, Natsumi frequently refers to Keroro as boke-gaeru (usually translated as "stupid frog"). Episode 18 of the series involves Natsumi being turned into an adult and given a Kansai Regional Accent by Kururu's latest inventions, so she can perform manzai in a beauty pageant/comedy contest.
In the "Tower of Terror" episode of Pokémon, the Ghost Pokemon trio (Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar) are first seen watching such a routine on TV.
In the Diamond and Pearl saga of the Pokemon Special manga, the goal of the two main characters is not to be great Pokemon trainers, but to be great manzai performers. They take a chance to practice their act in every chapter.
When Team Rocket accidentally capture Brock's Lombre (they were aiming for a Mawile), Wobbuffet appears to Lombre and they do a bunch of random slapstick skits in the process, all in Pokémon Speak. Funnily enough, it was Wobbuffet, the biggest idiot in Team Rocket, who was playing the tsukkomi. What does Meowth have to say? "A really bad comedy routine".
Haruhi Suzumiya's and Kyon's actions toward one another appear to be a version of this comedy routine- at least in the first season and first light novel. Haruhi makes some outlandish remark, and Kyon comments on how it doesn't makes sense, often to himself or someone else.
Playing on the Anachronic Order in which the Melancholy episodes were first broadcast, the next-episode announcements at the end of each show of the first season were a compressed boke-tsukkomi exchange between Haruhi (giving the number of the episode in chronological order) and Kyon ("correcting" the number according to the broadcast order and stating the episode title).
In an episode of Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer, Kaede entertains guests at a victory party by performing both parts of the routine with herself as the tsukkomi and Blanche as the boke.
Aizawa Sakuya from Hayate the Combat Butler more or less views life as a non-stop series of gags and comedy routines, frequently treating the unwitting Hayate as the boke and viciously assaulting him for any number of completely nonsensical reasons (mainly for being really bad at being a boke) whenever she makes an appearance. Her antics, in turn, often set her up for the boke role whenever Nagi is nearby, who answers attacks on Hayate in the name of comedy in kind.
In Get Backers, Emishi and Amon pull off a number of these. (The first involves Emishi trying to describe the appearance, by comparing her to various celebrities, of a woman he's never met; in the second he insists on the existence of "stomach trilobites" to the point of drawing one on his abs in marker...)
Kunogi Himawari of Xxx Holic misinterprets Doumeki and Watanuki's constant arguments as an attempt to be a humorous Boke and Tsukkomi team.
In The Prince of Tennis, doubles partners Hikaru "Dabide" Amane and Harukaze "Bane-san" Kurobane from Rokkaku frequently pull these off. More often than not, boke Dabide makes some rather bad word puns, and tsukkomi Bane kicks him on the head as a punishment. That even happens during matches, where Bane slaps Dabide across the face if he's slacking.
In the Senbatsu arc of the anime, Amane is paired up with Oshitari (who is an Osaka native) in doubles. He attempts to pull the other into a similar dynamics...only to make the always calm Oshitari losehistemper. It's theorised, however, that Oshitari may not be that upset, just playing the tsukkomi role relaying on verbal insults rather than physical violence.
Less explicitly, there's also Hitsugaya to Matsumoto, Soi Fon to Omaeda, Ichigo to Kon (with Rukia), to his Dad (with Karin), to Keigo, to Urahara, and to Nel, Hiyori to Shinji & vice versa, Nanao to Kyouraku, Maki-Maki to Yachiru, etc., etc. With so many characters, it's no surprise there's a lot manzai duos in Bleach.
In Souls, the Bleach character book (for the manga), a short omake chapter has Mayuri Kurotschi discussing this with Nemu, while both wear stand-up comedian suits — however, Kurotschi is taking "tsukkomi" in its alternate Japanese meaning of the verb "to stab" and is apparently looking forward to the part where he gets to stab Nemu. Then again, this isMayuriKurotsuchi we're talking about; he doesn't seem content to produce anything less than half of the horrors in the entire series.
Around the time Ichigo first used his Bankai, one Omake held a manzai routine with Ichigo as the straight man and Ganju, Orihime and possibly someone else as the comic counterpart. The entire think was based off of similar sounding words to Bankai and manzai (such as banzai and sempai), in sentences that are worded so as to be self-referential humor and correct. Surprisingly, this skit of Japanese wordplay was brought over in the dub. The important words were explained in a series of rapid-fire notes, but left untranslated.
This series loves it enough to use it in a 100 year flashback. Both Shinji and Urahara with Hiyori, Kensei with Mashiro (which continues in the present), and Shinji with Aizen.
Maria in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei once spent far too long time watching Boke and Tsukkomi and started slapping people who were looking dazy...on the first day after New Years Eve!!
Not to mention she tended to make people A Twinkle in the Sky...And then, because it's that kind of show, she joined a secret Boke and Tsukommi underground political organizationnote They were partly that, but they also represent far right-wing Japanese ultra-nationalists, who complain about Japan's "peacetime boke" (in comparison to its earlier attitude).
When she returns from Japan in Kaleido Star, Sora gives Anna a set of manzai props (a Paper Fan of Doom and an idiot mask) as a souvenir. Anna then immediately tries to get Ken to play boke to her tsukkomi. Ken is not thrilled by the idea.
And then there's Chisame, who wishes she could give everything the tsukkomi treatment so very, very badly.
Chisame takes on this role physically when dealing with Jack Rakan although most of the time its usually a knee to the face instead of an actual fan (He could take a Nuke and probably not feel it). They make (made) a very good team.
In Akamatsu's earlier work Love Hina, Mutsumi's...different way of thinking is based on the idiot half, with Naru or Keitaro providing the straight man's reaction.
In episode 7 of Sailor Moon, two female classmates of Usagi's develop this act for a talent show, which turns out to be set up by the Dark Kingdom to harvest the Life Energy of aspiring stars.
In Motto! Ojamajo Doremi, former SOS Trio member Sugiyama forms this act with straight-A student Ogura as rivals to the new Trio. Helped along by Aiko (who's from Osaka), Momoko finds them as stupidly hilarious as Hazuki does for the other team
In Love Roma, Hoshino's relationship with his girlfriend Negishi mainly consists of him saying or doing something stupid and her slapping him for it. In one scene he mentions their romance is like a boke and tsukkomi routine. She's about to agree, when he mentions he's the tsukkomi and she's the boke.
Black Lagoon features this in an omake, which has Yukio and her kohai trying to do a manzai. No one in Yukio's yakuza gang apparently gets the idea of slapstick, and it doesn't end well. Brass knuckles get involved.
In a strange example from The Law of Ueki+, this trope is actually part of a character's Dark and Troubled Past, where he was badly injured while practicing one of these routines and his partner left the city without him, so he stopped believing in friendship. This character is otherwise completely serious, and upon the other characters being told about this, they decide to proceed to use Brain Bleach.
B Gata H Kei is essentially one big manzai routine between Yamada and her best friend Takeshita. Whenever Yamada bugs her best friend about something sex-related, Takeshita is there to smack her (verbally and/or physically).
Bakemonogatari's often odd dialogue centers around the main character Araragi as the tsukkomi and the other person in the conversation as the boke. Whether or not the boke is acting as such intentionally is a matter of debate.
Koganei (a newscaster) and Amasawa (a weatherman) from The Weatherman Is My Lover have a strong manzai dynamic together which creates much of the appeal of their program, as the audience is waiting for the moment Koganei will crack.
Nodame Cantabile has a notable gender-flip of male-on-female variant played for laughs the same way it would if female-on-male. Tsundere Chiaki often resorts to violence Cloudcuckoolander Nodame does something that annoys him. Nodame herself even admits to playing up the role since Chiaki is the perfect Straight Man.
In an early episode of Fushigiboshi No Futagohime Gyu!, Fine and Rein meet a girl named Lemon who comes from a planet where everyone is into comedy, and wants to team up with them for a manzai act. She tries to be the boke, even though she's more suited to be the tsukkomi, and eventually she tells them that she quit being a tsukkomi after she hit her brother (her old partner) so hard that he fell unconscious and quit comedy for good. Later, her brother confesses that he didn't actually faint, he just realized that he couldn't be a good enough boke for her, so he stayed down.
This is a good part of One Piece's humor. A character will say or do something completely absurd and act like it's no big deal, while someone else will flip out. A more literal example would be the interaction between One Piece Film: Strong World'sGod Created Canon Foreigner villains Shiki and Dr. Indigo, who, apparently, have been doing it over 20 years ago.
Eyeshield 21 has this as a lot of it's humor. Hiruma tends to play a sneaky boke to his team, though almost everyone the team has their boke moments. Kakei and Mizumachi are this pretty much all the time.
In Ichigo Mashimaro, Miu is the boke, while her usual tsukkomi is Chika. In one episode, Chika's trying to concentrate on homework, but Miu wants to know who'll be the straight man for her antics. She tries to get Matsuri to play the role instead, but she's too "boring" for it. Her other common tsukkomi is Nobue, Chika's older sister.
In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha INNOCENT, an alternate Lighter and Softer continuity, the Big Bad of the first season, Precia Testarossa, is the boke, and the Big Good of the first two seasons, Lindy Harlaown, is the tsukkomi. The reason why it works so well is that Precia is both a Doting ParentandAmazingly Embarrassing Parent, unlike her incredibly monstrous Evil Matriarch portrayal in the original series. While Lindy is a very friendly and nice person who never gets particularly angry in the original series, Precia's various antics and sudden disappearances in their workplace just to see her (cute) daughters pisses Lindy off in this continuity.
Hayate can also be count as the boke to Dearche's tsukkomi.
In Yuyushiki, Yuzuko and Yukari act as a dual boke, with Yui as the tsukkomi.
In one episode of K-On!, Yui and Azusa enter a show on their own, and start their performance with actual manzai, with Yui as the boke, mostly utilizing malapropisms but also by "forgetting" what they were going to play, and Azusa as the fan-wielding tsukkomi, correcting her.
Usually it's Takatoshi to play the tsukkomi of Shino's perverted remarks. Ranko even notes that without Takatoshi there to tsukkomi, Shino has no one to play off.
When Takatoshi takes a leave, Shino or (primarily) Suzu will take center stage, depending on who's boke.
Even Suzu makes note of Takatoshi's absence when she's the only one left to take up the role. In an OVA episode, Suzu actually suffers physical and mental fatigue being the designated Tsukkomi when Takatoshi was absent from school for one day from an illness.
And, after Kotomi enters Ousai, Toki, the only member of the cast without the slightest hint of perversion.
Kaede goes Oh, Crap when she realizes that because Takatoshi and Suzu are both on their second year trip. She has to Tsukkomi for the student council with includes Kotominote Takatoshi asked his sister Kotomi to take his place while he is out.
One of the welcome surprises resulting from the Crazy Awesome that is Shinji And Warhammer 40 K is the Rei-Asuka comedy duo. Rei is the boke, while Asuka, perhaps understandably, thinks "tsukkomi" is some sort of bizarre Japanese perversion and refuses to listen whenever someone attempts to explain it.
In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Kanae and Kunikida think that Yanagimoto and Taniguchi are trying to invoke this while dating.
The TouhouM-1 Grand Prix is a long-running manzai competition between the girls of Gensokyo. This is a play on the real-life Autobacs M-1 Grand Prix. The prize for the 3rd iteration was to have the winning pair overwrite Reimu and Marisa as the main characters; Reimu and Marisa won.
The Scarlet Tsukkomi Routine has Flandre and Cirno pull a fast one on Remilia by trying to cast Cirno (the ultimate Boke) in the role of a Tsukkomi.
Yuyuko and Youmu are known to do this in canon, most infamously in Imperishable Night where Big Eater Yuyuko implies that after defeating Mystia she ate her. She didn't. While Yuyuko is just acting, Youmu isn't. Poor Youmu.
The French live-action movie Bluebeard has a scene where the two little girls narrating the story come to the part where the heroine marries Bluebeard... and then they start arguing over what "marriage" means. The younger girl plays the boke in this bit, while the older girl plays the tsukkomi.
Live Action TV
Downtown, possibly the most famous manzai duo, could be considered a subversion nowadays, having shifted from the rigid manzai to a more fluid conversational style of humor.
The Autobacs M-1 Grand Prix is an annual manzai tournament, sponsored by Yoshimoto Kogyo (the largest jimusho (artist management company in Japan) and broadcast on Asahi TV. Many of the most prominent Japanese comedians of the last ten years came into the public's eye through their appearances in the competition.
Bert and Ernie are also known to play this, possibly the best known Western example.
Yuto and Deneb do this in Kamen Rider Den-O, though Deneb is more naive than stupid, and Yuto, as a Jerk Ass, tends to overreact badly.
More explicitly, the Kamen Rider Decade stage musical (yes, it exists) has several imprisoned Riders doing it to kill time. The Hoppers (complete with gigantic bowties) try it out, but then, lampshading the Kansai part, Den-O changes to Ax Form and does a bit alongside Ohja.
In the early '90s in the WWF, this was the schtick of legendary announcer duo of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon. Together, they were the very first heel/face announcing tandem to do comedy, as opposed to Monsoon's work with the more serious Jesse Ventura, interacting as much with each other as the action in the ring. Often, the Brain would say something obviously biased or obviously untrue in support of a hell wrestler, with Monsoon reacting with an exasperated "Will you stop?". In the modern era, it's a formula that's been repeated with Michael Cole and Jerry "The King" Lawler to varying levels of success, though Cole comes across as much more petulant as a heel announcer, while Lawler doesn't quite have Monsoon's straight-laced gravitas to pull off being the straight man in the routine.
The tag team of extreme Cloudcuckoolander, Al Snow and badass martial artist, Steve Blackman. Snow insisted on calling the team Head Cheese, based on the fact that Snow carried a mannequin head around with him and he had Blackman wear a block of cheese on his head.
In Persona 2: Innocent Sin, if you have Maya and Yuki contact a demon together, they'll do one of these, with Maya as the boke. Notable example: "Did you know that when a tsunami hits it can send you and your family on a trip?" "That's not what they mean by 'it sends you packing.'"
One example, however, is based on misinterpreting Japanese characters:
Maya: Oh, yeah! I was just reminded that I found this interesting dish at a ramen shop!
Yukino: What's so special about it?
Maya: It was "Tonkatsu ramen"! I've never heard of it before. I wonder if anyone would really eat soup with deep-fried pork in it.
Yukino: Er, Maya... I think it was "tonkotsu" ramen.
In an extra segment for Persona 3: FES, the main character and one of his classmates, Kenji, act out an impromptu comedy routine. The response the player chooses for Kenji's setups determine whether you are a master of Japanese humor or not.
Devil Survivor 2, another Mega Ten game, gives you the option of doing one of these in all Hinako's Fate route conversations. The protagonist is the boke, and Hinako (who is from Osaka) cheerfully plays along as the tsukkomi.
In one Ryu Ga Gotoku side mission you are supposed to help a man get him and his friend back together for the act because of recent failure. Turns out the problem was their roles were mixed up. The guy dressed in street clothes tried to be the boke but was the tsukkomi and vice versa with his friend who was dressed in a nice suit being the tsukkomi when he was naturally the boke all along.
Solt and Peppor from Chrono Cross display this kind of interplay during their boss fights. In fact, when we meet their Home World versions, they are doing this routine as a comedy duo on Fargo's ship.
In an optional minigame when Koh visits the Monsbaiya Theater in Azure Dreams, he can be roped into playing the tsukkomi to one of the regular performers' boke.
Two birds perform this as one of the endless minigames in Rhythm Heaven Fever, which is appropriately just called Manzai Birds.
...But only in the Japanese version. The translators found Manzai Birds too pun-riddled and culturally specific to find a way to translate it so they were forced to give up. As a replacement, they included an update of "Mr. Upbeat", a game from the original Rhythm Heaven, in all other versions of Fever.
The WiiWare Sega title Pole No Daibouken is an unusual example of this: the entire game is the boke, what with all the weird and zany gags, and the narrator is the tsukkomi trying to be the foil to all the insanity.
In Legend of Legaia, Gala ends up acting as a stand-in in one of these routines. He's quite naive and his religion forbids laughter, so he makes a perfectly clueless boke.
In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, one of the scenes unlocked by linking with the original Black or White version is Skyla reminiscing about a conversation with Elesa in which the latter was considering changing her image. The examples Elesa gave of how she could become more approachable clearly cast herself in the role of the Boke, although Skyla didn't really get it, and so did not make a very good Tsukkomi.
In the Japanese, PS3 version of Ni no Kuni, fairy comedians Smiley and Surly are this kind of comedy duo. (In fact, all fairies seem to be Kansai-accented comedians to the point where their souls are literally made of comedy.) In the dub, although there's still shades of their manzai roots (they still have an obvious Straight Man and Wise Guy dynamic, and they decide to act out a scene), it's been localized as a dry British comedy-style sketch in the vein of Monty Python.
Pretty much the core comedy dynamic in the Ace Attorney line of games. Your sensible but put-upon attorney plays the tsukkomi for their usually Cloudcuckoolander boke sidekick. Additionally, the same dynamic carries into the courtroom with the judge and loony witnesses, and the roles trade off fluidly between the prosecution and the defense in each game.
Tomoya Okazaki and Youhei Sunohara are basically a manzai duo, lampshaded by Yukine Miyazawa. For most of the time, Tomoya is the tsukkomi and Sunohara is the boke, but they often switch roles, depending on the situation. However, Tomoya is the one who is in control of the gag scenes.
Both the Visual Novel and the anime, Tomoya and Kyou try to teach Kotomi how to perform a proper tsukkomi. Sadly, the poor girl has boke written all over her face, and she regularly ends up on the receiving end of a tsukkomi immediately after attempting her own. At one point, she expresses the desire to become a great manzai performer. Both Nagisa and Ryou motivate her to work for her goal, but Kyou and Tomoya are quick to point out that all three of them are boke to the core.
There's an extended reference in Kanon during Mai's route. As the local Emotionless Girl, she has trouble expressing herself. Eventually, she gets embarrassed with Sayuri's teasing and bonks her on the head, leaving Yuichi and Sayuri to stop in utter shock. 'She...she played the tsukkomi!' She continues this throughout when feeling nervous. Sayuri and Yuichi get hit a lot because they find it hilarious to see Mai do that.
At one point in the main route, the characters are trying to entertain Kyousuke. Haruka suggests that she tell a joke and that Mio provides a tsukkomi. The joke itself is rather weak... and then Mio provides an absolutely devastating response, pointing out how terrible the joke is and giving her performance 5/100, while thunder cracks ominously in the background. Then Mio pauses and half-heartedly gives the line Haruka asked her to give in the first place, complete with light tap. Kyousuke is unmoved.
At another point, one of Rin's instructions given by the mysterious person are to perform a tsukkomi on Masato. As a Tsundere who normally performs the tsukkomi role you'd think it'd be simple, but Rin is impatient and more willing to just kick Masato rather than give a funny response or actually wait for him to say something boke-worthy. This leads to a minigame where the player has to quickly choose a tsukkomi-worthy response for Riki to suggest to Rin before she just kicks him and yells something generic.
In Super Dangan Ronpa 2, Monobear makes Monomi join him in one of these routines, making her play a tsukkomi to his sneaky boke. This isn't just about Trolling her or putting on a performance; he's luring her and their audience off guard so that he can reveal she tampered with their memories without her realizing what he's doing until it's too late.
Happens quite often in Grisaia no Kajitsu. Usually, being the serious guy he is, Yuuji plays the tsukkomi, especially when talking to Machina or Michiru, though between his habit of interpreting situations as what they might have implied if he were at work, and his tendency to be a total smartass, he often plays boke as well.
Waldorf: Personally, I never could get behind Japanese comedy. Statler: Why not? Better than being in front of it! Both: Do-ho-ho-ho-hoh!