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Audio samples:

Gold [wav 215k]
Beige [wav610k]

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Smile Big Smack Hamster, a Japanese game show skit.
Updated 04nov16.

Hamuemon, Hamu[?], Hamudon, Niihamu

The Fuji TV sketch comedy show "A Laughing Dog's Discovery" (formerly "A Laughing Dog's Adventure") featured a miniature game show skit called (I believe) "Smile Big Smack Hamster" (Niko-niko Punsuka Hamuemon). For more information on the show, please skip to the bottom of this web page.

SBSH opens with an animated theme song, then zooms in on a sign that reads "HAMU," a common Japanese abbreviation for hamsters (from "hamuemon"). "Hamu" also means "ham" in Japanese ("awwww, look at the little hamu ..."). The camera zooms out to show the elaborate cartoony house-like set, featuring one woman (who is the MC), four men and a guest (all dressed as hamsters). The contestants sit in large holes; the costumes have little mouse hands and arms that are controlled by sticks, like a puppet. The costumes only go down to the waist, the rest is covered by a black bodysuit.

After the MC greets the players, a guest hamster comes through some doors and sits down. The MC then runs through the rules (pre-taped), and the game gets underway.

The game progresses via a click track, with a recorded voice calling out groups of three colors to the beat, and each of the six contestants takes a turn to name three objects with those colors in time to the clicks. Usually, the first two colors are the same ("White! White! Blue!"). Occasionally all three of the colors will be the same, in which case the contestant must name three different objects of that color. If someone screws up (wrong color, not fast enough, off the beat), they get buzzed.

Occasionally when someone flubs a color they'll jump out of the hole, shouting and stomping around the set.

V/O: "Yellow! Yellow! White!"
Hamster #1: "Lemon! Lemon! Mochi!"
V/O: "Red! Red! Yellow!"
Hamster #2: "Tomato! Tomato! Mustard!"
V/O: "White! White! Beige!"
Hamster #3: "Cloud! Cloud! BEIGE??? AWAHH!!! AWAHH!"
[buzzer sounds]

If someone screws up three times, they're loaded into a chair sled and shot through a giant cat's mouth. The loser's face/upper body is slammed into the "tongue" of the cat, in actuality a large piece of cloth slathered with an irritant (hot mustard, pepper, etc). That would be the "big smack," I suppose.

These segments are obviously pre-scripted/rehearsed. The chances of Hamuzo/Hamudon/the guest nearly always getting the difficult colors, and Niihamu/Hamuemon always getting meatballs, for example, seems remote.

Hamuzo, Hamuemon

Since they do kanji/kana subtitling in the relevant color, it's like a little Japanese language lesson. This also makes it easy to follow - you might not understand the between-play banter for the most part, but it's precisely obvious what's happening during play, unlike most foreign-language game shows. After awhile, you pick up some of the object names, like "posuto" (you'll hear it pronounced "posto") is a red post-office box, "ringo" is apple (Ringo Starr has done at least one applesauce commercial over there), "karashi" is mustard, etc.

Episode log (airdates US):

02mar10. Guest hamster: Hamutome ("Hamster Maiden"). A regular hamster (the one with the tie in the first picture above) loses it on "Shiro Shiro Beju" ("White White Beige"):

Beige WAV [610k]

Loser: Hamudon.

02apr06. One of two episodes this week. Hamusako (the guest hamster), who looks and sounds suspiciously like Billy Crystal, bombs out on "Kin Kin Kin" ("Gold Gold Gold"):

Gold WAV [215k]

Loser: Hamusako.

02apr06. One of two episodes this week. This episode featured a guest hamster with a strange "just hatching from an egg" costume, a black eye, and a red nose. He got into a hamster-off with one of the other players, so turns alternated between them. He would occasionally forget to name objects matching the colors and would just rattle off different colors. Which means one of three things:

1) The whole show is a set-up. Everything is pre-arranged, etc. This theory is bolstered by the fact that the two older men on the show never seem to flub a sequence. They maintain their dignity while the young turks go down, shouting and laughing.

2) The guest is a set-up. Every other contestant is trying to play as best he can, without knowing what colors are coming down the line, but the guest contestant is actually playing a "role". The hamster-off was apparently part of the concept.

3) That particular guest was completely addled. "Here, have some drinkies before you go on. It'll help you remember."

This guy lost, of course.

02apr20. Guest hamster: "Hamuhei". There's a new ponytailed MC, and Hamuemon ("Hamster") sat the game out perched next to the MC. The earlier format was much tighter, don't know why they bothered to tinker with the winning hamster formula. The MC had something to say about Hamudon and Hamuzo each losing (?) five times and various other player rankings. When Hamuzo lost the game, he was crowned "No. 1". Number one loser, I suppose. Meanwhile, please bring back the MC with the "I just woke up" hair. Thank you.

02may04. It's a clip show! There are a lot of game shows on "A Laughing Dog's Discovery", and this week they decided to have a game show on which the topic was all of the previous game shows ... including Smile Big Smack Hamster. So there were a lot of clips of Hamuzo bombing out. There was a quick shot of a woman guest hamster from who knows when, so there's one for the furries, I guess.

02may11. The original MC is back and the camera operators have stopped sniffing glue ... it's Hamster Classic! Hamuzo was on, so he wasn't eliminated. Hamudon was completely out of his element and apparently appealed to the judges, and it looked like they nullified one of his mistakes, causing the other players to hold a sit-down strike. Hamudon still lost. Guest: Hamusaru ("hamster monkey"), sort of pinkish. I don't know, my reception sucks. Irritant: something yellow and thick.

02may25. The opening animations have been changed a little bit -- there was a World Cup-type still and another mini-animation in which the cartoon hamsters go into a sunflower field and one finds a boot (a language pun?). The special guest this week was a caucasian woman hamster named "Hamukaiya". "Kaiya" is apparently her real name. She was totally harsh the entire game, there was a big argument about the color of peaches (?), and she lost. Perhaps she is a continuation of the gaijin tarento ("foreign stars") tradition -- these were non-Japanese who would appear on game/talk shows and amuse the viewing audience with their somewhat-flawed speaking skills. They were selected because of these factors - being foreign, and not having mastered the language. Irritant: same yellow glop as last time.

See also: Miller, Laura: "Crossing Ethnolinguistic Boundaries: A Preliminary Look at the Gaijin Tarento in Japan" in Lent, John A. Asian Popular Culture 1995
A Commentary on The Japanese Version
Status Among Expats
My Personal Introduction To Japan

02jun08. Today's guest was a blue feller named Hamukatsu. "Katsu" has several meanings; the ones with the most relevance are "win," "defeat," and "a breaded deep-fry cutlet." Which, as someone with more culinary experience has pointed out to me, is a "cordon bleu". Which, as someone with more French experience has pointed out to me, does indeed end with the word "blue." Also, the MC is throwing out some new colors. Someone with more military history experience has pointed out to me that Hamudon bears a hamster-filtered resemblance to Hideki Tojo (1; 2). Now, if someone would tell me what the teakettle on Hamuzo's head is all about... perhaps it's there to take advantage of all of his hot air. Hamukatsu had an argument about the name of an object confused with a color of an object - like "orange" vs. "orange" but it was for a melon or something. He was vindicated on this point, but lost the match and into the pepper for him.

02jul12. I thought A Laughing Dog's Discovery had wrapped for the season, but apparently they're still recording new shows. The new show seems to feature the skeleton of the Niko Niko Punsuka Hamuemon set and logistics, but it's done up in a Star Wars theme. So everyone's wearing half-height Star Wars costumes (Hamuzo becomes Jabba the Hutt, etc). It looks like Admiral Ackbar gets slathered with the irritant ...

"It's a trap!"

2004nov16: The Laughing Dog show ran awhile without any new Smile Big Smack Hamster skits. I am getting the impression that Laughing Dog itself is no longer on. It does not appear in the KSCI (Southern California) line-up, nor does it appear at KTSF (Bay Area California). The Fuji TV website doesn't seem to have it listed in the "current" line-up. The last entry for the show reads like a dying gasp:

(October 14 2003) The Fuji Television hit "A Laughing Dog" series is moving to Tuesday nights. In addition to the already popular skits, "A Laughing Dog Takes a Walk" will host auditions to look for new comedians and entertainers. Short skits will feature various characters, current affairs, parodies, dramas, and invite special guests to participate in the skits.

Finally, my thoughts. Someone should make an actual game show like this in America. I think we've all got enough reality shows under our belts to last another hundred years. Let's return to innocence. Let's return ... to hamsters.

Additional translation help by misterpants. All omissions, errors, etc, have nothing to do with contributors. It is my fault. I am sorry.