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Japanese Improv Game Show 'Batsu!' Brings Laughs And Some Pain To Chicago

By Mina Bloom | June 21, 2016 7:18am
 Brian Walters hosting the Chicago debut of Batsu! in Old Town.
Brian Walters hosting the Chicago debut of Batsu! in Old Town.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

OLD TOWN — For most improvisers in Chicago, the punishment for flubbing a line is a bad reception from the crowd and perhaps a bruised ego.

The stakes are way higher for improvisers in Batsu!, a hilarious, cringe-worthy improv game show that has made its way to Chicago from New York City. 

Mina Bloom describes what a Batsu! show is like.

Billed as a Japanese game show, Batsu! combines improv games with punishment and pain. Improvisers with the comedy troupe Face Off Unlimited get slapped, kicked and shot with paintball guns for flubbing improv lines — and those are just a few examples. 

The first-ever Chicago show, held in the cozy upstairs lounge at Japanese restaurant Kamehachi, 1531 N. Wells St., Thursday evening, was full of energy. 

Whenever any of the performers messed up, the host — a Japanese transplant — immediately banged a gong and led the audience in a rousing chant of "Batsu! Batsu! Batsu!," which loosely means punishment in Japanese. 

Characters like a pirate and a dominatrix delivered the punishment, which ranged from as mild as eating sushi off a man's body who has the build of a sumo wrestler (and drinking soy sauce from his belly button) to as wild as getting shot with a paintball gun in the stomach. 

Some audience members were also invited on stage to join the party. 

Batsu! landed in Chicago by way of New York City, where it's been running for the last six years. The show has seen critical success, and nowadays it's regularly sold out, which host Brian Walters called a "long time coming."

"I'm always inspired by the warriors and their quick wit," Walters said. "[The show] has such a raw, energetic feel."

The 25-year-old moved from Yokohama, Japan to the United States seven years ago. He's been with the comedy troupe for the last four and a half years, which means he's hosted more than 350 Batsu! shows. 

Walters said bringing the show to Chicago was a natural choice.

"It's an improv show and Chicago is the home of improv," he said, adding that it's an honor to be performing on the same street as the iconic Second City. 

The show runs every Thursday and Friday night in the upstairs lounge at Kamehachi, 1531 N. Wells St., beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25.50 for general admission. The lounge has its own menu and bar.

For more information, visit the website or call 347-985-0368.

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