Video

Canadian shares Japan's comic storytelling with new audiences

After more than a decade studying the Japanese comic storytelling form Rakugo, a Toronto performer is bringing the ancient art to North American audiences.

Torontonian is sole foreign professional Rakugo storyteller

Katsura Sunshine is bringing Japanese comedic storytelling, to Canada. 3:41

After more than a decade studying the Japanese comic storytelling form Rakugo, a Toronto performer is bringing the ancient art to North American audiences.

In 1999, Toronto artist Greg Robic travelled to Japan to study its traditional theatre. There, he fell in love with the minimalist tradition of Rakugo: a 400-year-old practice in which a kneeling, kimono-clad performer delivers humorous monologues and stories to an audience.

"The first half is kind of like stand-up comedy where you just do your own material and the second half, you do a very traditional story," he explains.

After watching a well-known Rakugo artist perform, Robic hounded the master for nearly a year before he finally agreed to what was considered impossible: taking the Canadian on as an apprentice.

Dubbed Katsura Sunshine, he is now the sole foreign professional Rakugo storyteller.

Sunshine tours Canada and the U.S. beginning later this summer, including dates in Richmond, B.C. (Aug. 30), Vancouver (Aug. 31, Sept. 1), Calgary (Sept. 3), Ottawa (Sept. 5,6), Montreal (Sept. 7), Halifax (Sept. 22, 23) and Toronto (Oct. 5).

In the embedded video, Sunshine offers a taste of Rakugo for English-speaking audiences.

Watch CBC-TV's The National Tuesday night for Zulekha Nathoo's report on Canadian Rakugo professional Katsura Sunshine, a unique cultural ambassador.