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Pirates of Tokyo Bay announce sponsorship of SMASH CABARET


Pirates of Tokyo Bay announce sponsorship of SMASH CABARET

Photo by: Sho Takiguchi

Photo by: Sho Takiguchi

The Pirates of Tokyo Bay are excited to announce our support and sponsorship of SMASH CABARET. They put on amazing music-focused shows and we are happy to support their growth. Our sponsorship is more than just financial support, when needed, we will offer our advice and support so they can continue to put on amazing shows for audiences across Tokyo.

The Pirates have come a long way in just 8 years in Tokyo. 175 shows, 16 international tours to 10 countries. We pride ourselves on putting on top quality shows and events. It is a similar drive for quality production that drew our eye to SMASH CABARET. In addition, the mission statement of the Pirates is: To get everyone, regardless of their native language, to laugh! We feel the musical performances at SMASH CABARET align with our mission statement in that everyone in the audience, Japanese or foreigner, can enjoy the music sung so beautifully by the performers at SMASH CABARET.

We encourage everyone to check out SMASH CABARET at their website: and you never know, you might catch a member of the Pirates performing at a show, or even the entire Pirates group joining to sing an improvised song!


Photo by: Sho Takiguchi



Announcing Our New Intern: Welcome Jacob Machlis

Hi! I'm Jacob Machlis,

one of the Pirates of Tokyo Bay's newest interns!

I recently graduated from William Paterson University in May with a minor in Japanese Language and a major in Theater and Comedy. so interning with the Pirates of Tokyo Bay (POTB) is a perfect match!

My two month stay in Tokyo began in early June with the inevitable excitement/culture shock set in initially but now living here feels more like a vacation. Everything in Tokyo is new and exciting but also a bit overwhelming.

That change happened when I started working with the Pirates. Their ability to put create bilingual improv shows that really connect with a multicultural audience in Tokyo inspired me to spend the next few weeks working hard to improve my Japanese language skills and work toward coming back to Tokyo in the future to become a member of this talented troupe. #lifegoals

Watching and working with the Pirates has been very exciting. I am getting to learn first hand how much work is involved in creating a show that brings joy to such a diverse audience in Tokyo. My work ranges from the simpler tasks of making and collecting raffle tickets to the more creative aspects of choosing subjects for the performers during practice and taking photographs.

In addition to helping the Pirates, I’m working hard at learning how to be more self-sufficient, managing my time, improving my Japanese language skills, meeting new people from different cultures and exploring Tokyo.

All in all, my experience with Tokyo and the Pirates has been great.  I look forward to every day and try to do things I’d never get the opportunity to do in the United States!


This Japanese improv group is fast becoming recognized around the world as Japan’s top group.

The Pirates of Tokyo Bay (POTB), Tokyo’s only bilingual improv comedy group, which we’ve featured twice before, will mark their 6th anniversary with a special show on December 4th at SuperDeluxe in Roppongi.

Mike Staffa, the founder of POTB, tells you about their vast range of activities in Japan and abroad that they’ve done this year. Also he shares what you can see and experience at the upcoming Anniversary show.

*Past interviews with Mike;
1st (January 18, 2014)
2nd (November 10, 2015)  


Becoming world-famous as the improv group from Japan

We have toured 10 times to 6 countries (USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, China, Malaysia). 2016 was a great year for us as it was our first time performing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We were invited to be the first improv group to perform at a beautiful new venue there called the Live House. The audience, the venue, the hosts, and food were all amazing. We can’t wait to get back to Kuala Lumpur.

Later in 2016, I was able to perform in Hawaii with On the Spot Hawaii in one of their shows. It was a surprise to see Pirate fans in the audience in Honolulu as these fans had seen the Pirates perform in Tokyo for a few years before they moved to Hawaii!

Next year we will be traveling to Germany in January of 2017 to take part in a 27-hour long improv show at the Harlekin Theater in Tübingen, Germany. The Pirates will also be making our annual tours to Singapore and Manila as well. In Singapore we will be conducting workshops at an international school. The UWCSEA (United World College of South East Asia) has hired us for the 4th year in a row to teach their students about improv comedy and to join the student groups in an improv festival in early March, 2017.

Towards the end of March we will return to Southeast Asia to perform in the Manila Improv Festival held by our friends at SPIT Manila, the improv theater in the Philippines. It will be our third time to Manila and the festival there is always something we look forward to performing in.

Due to our vast international traveling, we have become known in the improv community around the world as one of Japan’s top improv groups. Our monthly shows in Tokyo have regularly featured guests from the world’s elite improv groups such as: Second City in Chicago, Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC, Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis. We have also welcomed guest performers from groups from New Zealand, England, China, Philippines, USA and Canada and more.

Improv helps your business

To perform improv, we need to think quickly, adapt to changes in the scene and trust the people we are performing with. All of these skill points are applicable in the office setting too. Sales teams need to be flexible to the demands of their clients. Management needs to trust their team and think quickly to the changing markets. The Pirates have been using their skills to enhance companies’ business output through our customized training sessions. We have trained major Japanese companies from small start ups to major corporations. Each training session focuses on key topics selected by the clients. Areas like: Teamwork, Problem Solving, Trust Building and Communication. More details can be found here. The training sessions can be a one time class or for more concrete results, some clients have hired us multiple times so we can build on what we taught in the previous workshop.

Photo Credit: Michael Holmes Photo  

We have also worked with Embassies and their staff in Japan, Hong Kong and Malaysia to help bridge cultural communication gaps. It is a lot of fun, for us and for the business people we train, to see everyone open up and become more free thinking to enable them to approach work challenges with a fresh perspective!

Improv University launched!

We are also excited to share with MET readers about our newly formed “Improv University”. This is something new we are trying and a first (we believe) for the city of Tokyo.

Classes haven’t started yet as we are still filling up Level 1 and matching them with our teachers. The classes will be taught by Mike Staffa and David Heston. Our goal is to teach groups of students from Level 1 to Level 2 and finally Level 3. And upon graduating from the University, the group of students will have a graduation show and be fully prepared to be their own unique group, trained in the Pirates style.

No where else in Tokyo can students enter as novices, and within 10 weeks (Level 1 + Level 2) be guaranteed a performance in an amazing venue in Shibuya and be set free as their own unique group ready to put on regular shows themselves.

The University is new and growing slowly, but we fully believe once the first group graduates, they will be able to help grow the improv community in Japan alongside the Pirates and the other groups in town.


Happy 6th Anniversary, Pirates of Tokyo Bay!

POTB will turn 6 this year so we’ll hold our 6th anniversary show on December 4th at Roppongi SuperDeluxe. It will feature lots of surprises, many of them secret! We will have appearances from our sister group in Osaka, the Pirates of the Dotombori who recently celebrated their 10th anniversary preforming in Kansai, as well as a few YouTubers stopping by our show. We have new games planned, new songs and new members making their debut performance. It’s really going to be a special show in a special venue!

The 6th anniversary show isn’t just a celebration of our group’s success, but it is also a celebration of our fans and a way for us to thank them for our support. We will have a special photo booth for fans to take photos in by our professional photographer. We’d love to have MET readers get their photos taken and share the photo on the MET website!

Photo Credit: Michael Holmes Photo  

☆See for the details of POTB 6th Anniversary show on December 4 in Roppongi.
☆Buy ︎Tickets:


即興コントグループ「パイレーツ・オブ・東京湾(以下POTB)」 – すでにMy Eyes Tokyo読者の皆さんにはおなじみかもしれません。台本ゼロで舞台を展開していく東京唯一の日英バイリンガルコントグループです。このPOTBが来る12月4日、六本木のライブハウス「スーパーデラックス」で6周年記念ショーを開催します。





僕たちは今年(2016年)、アメリカ、シンガポール、香港、フィリピン、中国、マレーシアで計10回のツアーを敢行しました。 特にマレーシアのクアラルンプールでは初めてショーを行ったので、僕たちにとって記念すべき年でしたね。 クアラルンプールからは、新たに出来た「ライブハウス」という場所で初めてショーを行う即興グループとしてお招きいただきました。 お客さん、会場、運営者の皆様、会場で提供される食事など、どれも素晴らしいものでした。 クアラルンプールには、是非また行きたいです。

今年の後半は、「オン・ザ・スポット」というハワイの即興グループと共演することができました。 しかもホノルルのお客さんに混じって、はるばる東京から僕たちのファンがいらっしゃたんですよ!彼らはハワイに引っ越す前、東京で僕たちのショーを見に来て下さっていたのです。

来年(2017年)1月、僕たちはドイツに行きます。ドイツ南部のテュービンゲンという街にあるハーレキン劇場で、27時間にわたり繰り広げられる即興パフォーマンスのフェスに参加します。 他にシンガポールとマニラへの毎年恒例のツアーも行います。 シンガポールでは、インターナショナルスクールでのワークショップも行う予定です。UWCSEA(ユナイテッド・ワールド・カレッジ・オブ・サウスイースト・アジア)というインターナショナルスクールではこれまで4年連続で、学生たちに即興コントを教えたり、即興フェスで学生のグループに参加させていただいています。このフェスは、来年は3月初めに行われる予定です。




即興に必要なのは、物事を迅速に考えること、状況の変化に適応すること、そして共演者を信頼することです。 これらのスキルはどの職場においても応用できると思います。例えば営業チームは、顧客の要求に柔軟に対応する必要があります。 管理職は部下たちを信頼し、変化する市場に対し取るべき対策を迅速に考える必要があります。僕たちは、ビジネス向けにカスタマイズしたトレーニングセッションを通じて、企業の生産性向上に向けた即興スキルの活用を提案しています。これまで僕たちは小規模なスタートアップから大企業まで、名だたる日本の企業様に向けて研修を行わせていただきました。 各トレーニングセッションでは、チームワークや課題解決、信頼構築、コミュニケーションなどのテーマの中から、クライアントの皆様が選択されたものに焦点を当てていきます(詳しくはこちらをご覧ください)。トレーニングセッションは1回からご対応させていただいておりますが、僕たちを複数回お招き下さっている企業様もいらっしゃいます。そうすることで、前回お教えしたことにさらに研修を重ね、より具体的な成果を得ることが可能です。

撮影:Michael Holmes Photo  

また在日本や在香港、在マレーシアの大使館やそのスタッフの方々に対し、文化の違いをいかに埋めるかについてお手伝いさせていただいています。 僕たちはもちろん、僕たちが研修させていただいているビジネスマンの方々にとっても、心を開き、今まで持ち得なかった視点で仕事における課題に取り組むのを見るのは、とても楽しいことです。


僕たちは「即興の大学」を新たに立ち上げました。この場をお借りして、My Eyes Tokyoをご覧の皆様にも是非お知らせしたいと思います。これは僕たちの新しい試みであり、東京において今までに存在しなかった(と信じています)ものです。





今年は僕たち「パイレーツ・オブ・東京湾」の立ち上げから6年を迎えます。そこで、来る12月4日に六本木のライブハウス「スーパーデラックス」で、僕たちの6周年記念ショーを開催します。 内容はまだ秘密ですが、皆様にとってきっと驚きの連続になると思います。さらに最近10周年記念ショーを開催した大阪の姉妹グループ「パイレーツ・オブ・道頓堀」のメンバーや、話題のYouTuberたちがショーに参加しますし、新しいゲームや新しい歌、新しいメンバーもこのショーで初披露します。「スーパーデラックス」という最高の舞台にふさわしい、最高のショーになりますよ!


会場には、プロのカメラマンによる撮影を体験できるブースもご用意しています。My Eyes Tokyoをご覧の皆様、ぜひ会場で素敵な写真を撮ってもらって、このウェブサイトでシェアしてくださいね!

撮影:Michael Holmes Photo  



即興で笑わせまっせ! 大阪の外国人コント10周年

即興で笑わせまっせ! 大阪の外国人コント10周年























Improv pioneers Pirates of Tokyo Bay plan big bilingual birthday bash


Improv pioneers Pirates of Tokyo Bay plan big bilingual birthday bash

Think “pirates” and you probably imagine frightening sword-wielding thieves with eye patches, but the members of comedy troupe Pirates of Tokyo Bay are anything but intimidating. In fact, these swashbucklers are on a mission to get people laughing, regardless of their native tongue.

Formed by American Mike Staffa with the aim of popularizing Western-style improvisation in Japan, the Pirates, who claim to be Tokyo’s only bilingual comedy group, have been bridging cultures through humor since 2010.

Comprised of both Japanese and non-Japanese members, the Pirates churn out unique improvised performances for each show based on suggestions from the audience. Much like on the popular U.K. and U.S. improv comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, the comedians create scenes, characters and songs on the spot in the form of improv games.

So, in Japan, where comedy styles like manzai (double-act stand-up) are dominant, what motivated the Pirates to attempt to blaze a trail for improv in Tokyo?

“We want to make people feel free to share their thoughts,” says Staffa, 34. “In improv, the audience has to give feedback, and maybe that isn’t really the Japanese style, but we think it’s a fun style that people will eventually warm up to.”

Unlike other improv groups in Japan that use only English or Japanese, the Pirates alternate between the languages in their performances in a bid to keep both the Japanese- and English-speaking parts of the audience engaged.

“The kind of improv we do is short-form, so these are three- to five-minute scenes,” he explains. “How we balance it is we’ll do one three-minute scene only in Japanese and then the next scene will be only in English. We also have pantomime and gibberish games that have no language — that is another way we communicate with the audience, and it doesn’t matter what language since there is no language.”

“The singing games too,” chimes in Masahito Kawahata, 30, a Japanese member who joined the troupe in its early days. “You may not understand fully, but you can still enjoy the music and the beat.”

Translating the comedy simultaneously would slow everything down and kill the comedy, reckons Staffa. “We try to feel the audience’s heartbeat,” he says.

The Pirates have already performed in a number of cities across the rest of Asia. The performers study the culture beforehand so that they can localize their performances and connect with the foreign audience, Staffa says.

A third of the performers are Japanese, but Staffa says he would like to see more of the locals pick up the mic and try their hand at improv, to the point where the Japanese Pirates reach parity in numbers with their non-Japanese crewmates.

“I want to get maybe half,” he says. “That would really show that we’re gonna stay here in Japan for a long time.”

The group sees a valuable role for improv skills beyond just making people laugh.

“We’re starting to do more business training for Japanese companies,” says Staffa. “To do improv you have to trust your teammates, you have to think quickly, you have to adapt. So we really want to grow in that field — of not just being comedians on stage, but bringing improv skills into businesses.”

Staffa also hopes to establish the Pirates as the go-to guys for improv in Japan.

“We want to be the first phone call when Western comedy groups come to Japan,” he says. “I want to build the Pirates and get more brand awareness that we specialize mainly in improv. My goal in five years is to really be known as the Japanese improv group.”

Their upcoming show promises to be their biggest yet, as the Pirates of Tokyo Bay celebrate their first five years in the business. On the night, Staffa says the audience can expect celebrity “appearances” (on a big screen) by American and Japanese YouTube stars, who will assign improv challenges. The 5th Anniversary Show will be held on Sunday, Nov. 29, at Super Deluxe, Roppongi.



5 Things I Learned Doing Japanese Improv


5 Things I Learned Doing Japanese Improv

Learning Japanese is fun! OK, it is sometimes fun, and definitely a major challenge. If you're getting tired of JLPT textbooks, kanji apps and watching TV you don’t understand, why not think about using improv comedy to study the language?

Improv comedy is when a couple of performers create a funny scene using suggestions from the audience to get started. No script, no rehearsal, and no clue what will happen next! 

The Pirates of Tokyo Bay is a Tokyo-based bilingual improv group whose multinational team has powered up its Japanese skills through comedy. The group has performed internationally across Asia and the U.S., for various embassies and international schools, and welcomed dozens of international guests to its regular public shows across Japan. The Pirates have recently started offering business training using improv skills in the workplace as well.

Here are some lessons we have learned!

5. Be a Different Character Every Day


When you study Japanese,you need to master formal, polite, and casual grammar structures. With improv, every scene is different, so you can have fun exploring the different speaking styles as you slip in and out of multiple characters!

4. Stop Overthinking Your Grammar


Perfectionists, this one is for you. Fluency is not just about grammatical flawlessness, it is also about speed. When you do improv, there is no time to slow down. You have to initiate (or react to) conversation—and that means throwing caution to the wind and just diving in!

3. Be Ready for Anything

They key to successful improv scenes is closely listening to your partner and following their suggestions (even the crazy ones!) without dismissing them immediately. Together, you find the right solution. Sound familiar? It should! Japanese people tend to make decisions in the same manner, both professionally and socially.

2. Be Confident

Improv, like life, is completely unscripted. Diving into a scene, the performers can’t show any hint that they don’t know what comes next—they just need complete faith in their ability to find the right way forward. The uncertainties of living in a foreign country and speaking a foreign language are enormous, but learning to have faith in yourself is key for finding happiness abroad.

1. Learn Japanese Humor

Making Japanese people laugh is not just for native speakers! Dates, business dinners, and even regular office work will be far more enjoyable with a healthy dash of humor!

Want to see some Japanese and English improv in action? The Pirates of Tokyo Bay are holding their 5th Anniversary Show on November 29, 2015 in Roppongi at SuperDeluxe. Tickets can be bought at the door or in advance on Peatix.

Top photo © Benjamin Parks. All other photos © Michael Holmes.