Olympics opening ceremony director fired for decades-old Holocaust joke

Kentaro Kobayashi, a well-known Japanese theatre personality had made a joke on the Holocaust in one of his skits staged in 1998

Kobayashi is a well-known theatre personality in Japan, recognised mostly for his comic acts.

Kentaro Kobayashi, the show director for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, was sacked by the organising committee on Thursday for a decades-old joke cracked by him on the Holocaust.

Kobayashi has been accused of using a joke about the Holocaust in one of his comedy acts, including the phrase ‘Lets play Holocaust’.

Kobayashi is a well-known theatre personality in Japan, recognised mostly for his comic acts.

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“It came to light that during a past performance, (he) used language that mocked a tragic fact of history,” organising committee president of Tokyo Olympics Seiko Hashimoto said in a press meet on Thursday.

“The organising committee has decided to relieve Kobayashi of his post,” she said.

In the skit, Kobayashi and his comic partner pretend to be a pair of famous children’s TV entertainers.

As the two ‘children’ think of ways to play with paper, Kobayashi draws his partner’s attention to some paper doll cutouts, describing them as “ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust’”.

The pair then joke how a television producer was livid over the suggestion of a Holocaust activity.

The skit, which was supposed to evoke laughter, had offended Japanese people.

Kobayashi, however, had later apologised for his ‘inappropriate’ language.

“In a video that was released in 1998 to introduce young comedians…a skit that I wrote contained lines that were extremely inappropriate,” he said in the statement.

He added that the skit 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.”

His dismissal comes a day before Friday’s opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games.

Earlier this week, a composer whose music is expected to be used at the opening ceremony was forced to resign because of past bullying of his classmates, which he boasted about in magazine interviews.

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