Tony Romani. The name would suit a mafia boss, and he is in fact one of the Godfathers of stand up in Osaka. He's been with the group since their second ever show and has been tickling audiences ever since with his trademark goofy style and hilarious act outs. He's also gained plaudits further afield, winning the Seoul International Comedy Competition in 2015. We sat him down for an exclusive chat...
ROR: Tony, thanks for speaking to us! You've been a member of ROR for 6 years now, but was your experience with comedy before that?
Tony: Before joining ROR comedy, the bulk of my comedy experience came from improvisation. I started doing improv in high school, and then took a long sabbatical from it before picking it up again after moving to Japan.
ROR: That's an interesting route in. How has improv influenced your stand up?
Tony: It’s hard to say what kind of influence that improvisation has had on my standup. They are two very different kinds of performing. Certainly, being comfortable on stage is something that can be helpful. No matter how you are feeling when you’re on stage, you have to give the impression that you are absolutely, 100 percent comfortable being up there. The more time that you spend on a stage, the more comfortable you can be in front of an audience. Another aspect of improvisation that has been a help, is the ability to use some of the comments from the audience, and integrate that into the material. There are times when audience participation can be a hindrance, but if a comment from the audience can be taken and used well, it can create some really great moments in the show.
ROR: What's your process for coming up with new material?
Tony: I try to write down everything that I think might be funny, or at least things that I feel a strong emotion about. Especially things that seem ridiculous to me. I then take that material to the open mic, or run it by the other members of the group. Unlike stand up comedy in other parts of the world, the ROR members work together, and are always up to discuss comedy. It’s maybe the greatest asset of ROR, and one of the things that makes our Osaka comedy club special.
Stand up comedy can be a solitary process for many people, but the ROR members have always been willing to work together on material, vetting it among the members, and giving feedback to try and get the material polished. I will usually take a new idea and talk about it with some of the members of the group to see if they are generally interested in the idea. The birth of the joke may not necessarily be incredibly funny from the beginning, but if I feel like other members of the group are interested in the concept then I will spend more time thinking about it.
ROR: How has your style developed over the years?
Tony: When I started doing stand-up comedy I didn’t think of trying to create a persona or specific style. Over time, I found that certain jokes and bits just worked better for me, and felt more honest and comfortable for me. I think that the audience can tell straight away if a joke is not honest to the style of the performer. My style/persona is a bit goofy, so if I attempt to do jokes that are more serious, political… etc., they don’t come off as well for me.
ROR: You've achieved a lot so far in your time in comedy, but what other comedy-related goals do you have?
Tony: I haven’t spent a lot of time outside of Japan doing stand-up comedy, so I would love to do some more comedy in different places around Asia. At ROR Comedy we have a lot of people from all across Asia coming to our shows, and I feel like our material translates well to the audiences we have. That being the case, we should be able to take our acts to different locations around Asia and have a lot of success.
Tony can be seen every weekend at ROR Comedy Club, the only full-time stand up comedy club in Japan. Whether you're a resident of Osaka, or just here for a quick visit, make ROR a part of your weekend plans, put us on your Osaka travel itinerary, and see what all the fuss is about!