Q Why do Japanese comedians slap and hit their partner?

A This is particularly true in manzai or a stand-up comedy act. This type of slapstick comedy called dotsuki manzai was at its height in popularity during the manzai boom on TV in the 1970s.

Manzai roles are divided into the boke or "not with it" ro le, and the tsukkomi or the "clever" ro le. Their rapid-fire exchange d raws laughter for their wit and humor. The hoke plays dumb and the tsukkomi is the know- it-all who carries the verba l exchange along.

To emphasize the contrast between the tsukkomi and the boke, the boke would be l1it on the head with the palm of the hand or slapped in the face with a paper rolled up in an accordion-like fashion. There are some who are even kicked and sent flying.

The United States places strict restrictions on violence and sex scenes, and Americans may find slapstick comedy like the above to be a little too violent. But people who know each other we ll might sometimes slap the other on the back with something like, "Hey ! What do you think you're saying!" Women might say, while lightly slapping the other on the back, "Oh, how awful!"

To some extent, slapping and hitting is a show of affection for the other and when it is not a fight, it is a type of encouragement that is not meant to offend, but of course it all depends on the degree.