Preparations for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics have been thrown into further turmoil after the show’s director was sacked over a joke about the Holocaust he made in the late 1990s.
Kentaro Kobayashi, a popular entertainer, was dismissed after a video clip resurfaced online of a skit in which he joked about a game he called “let’s play massacre the Jews”, prompting laughter in the audience.
The 1998 skit, made when he was one half of the Rahmens comedy duo, was a parody of a popular TV educational programme and showed Kobayashi and his partner recounting a discussion with their producer about ideas for the show using paper cutouts of human figures.
It isn’t clear how Kobayashi’s resignation will affect the Games’ curtain-raiser – usually an opportunity to build anticipation for the fortnight of sport that follow, but which in Tokyo will be held amid unprecedented disruption and, due to the coronavirus, in a near-empty main stadium.
Kobayashi apologised in a statement carried by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, saying that as a young comedian he had been seeking “cheap laughs” but quickly recognised he was at fault.