Who Is Kentaro Kobayashi? Olympics Ceremony Director Fired Over Holocaust Joke

Kentaro Kobayashi, the show director of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, has been dismissed for his past remarks about the Holocaust, only a day before the sporting event is due to begin.

The 48-year-old former comedian—who had been in charge of the opening ceremony's program since 2019—was caught on camera in 1998 seemingly making jokes about the mass murder of millions of Jewish people.

In video footage that recently appeared online of a Kobayashi sketch from 23 years ago, where the Japanese comedian is pretending to be a children's entertainer. Kobayashi later turns to another comedian, referring to some paper dolls, saying they are "the ones from that time you said 'let's play Holocaust,'" prompting laughter from the audience.

The video was condemned by Jewish groups and Japan's Olympics chief Seiko Hashimoto said the video mocked "painful facts of history." She added that she had not been aware about the comedian's comments until learning about them through Japanese media this week.

"As soon as possible, we decided we will have to address the issue, and we decided on the dismissal," she said, apologizing to the Japanese public.

Kobayashi issued a statement responding to his dismissal.

"Entertainment should not make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my stupid choice of words at that time was wrong, and I regret it," it said.

Kobayashi was a popular entertainment figure in his native Japan. As well as being a comedian, he is an actor, manga artist, theater director and an award-winning playwright.

Outside of Japan, he is known for his acting in "The Japanese Tradition" short films and in comedy sketches about different aspects of Japanese culture.

Kobayashi also played the Apple Macintosh computer in the "Get A Mac" advertising campaign in Japan. The other member of his Rahmens comedy duo, Jin Katagiri, portrays the PC.

Hana Usagi, Kobayashi's manga series, ran from ran from 1999 and 2004. It was published in Kodansha's Young Magazine Uppers, a semi-monthly manga magazine for young men.

Kobayashi's dismissal is the latest scandal to rock the games, which has been beleaguered by delays, staff dismissals, administrative hiccups and positive COVID-19 cases. The games were originally meant to take place in 2020, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 19, Keigo Oyamada, the composer for the Tokyo 2020 opening and closing ceremonies, resigned from his post after admitting that he bullied children with disabilities years ago.

In February, Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, resigned after making sexist comments about women. The former Japanese prime minister said women talked too much during meetings.

Final Preparations For Tokyo Olympics
Staff work on the BMX track at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Olympics opening ceremony director, Kentaro Kobayashi, has been fired on the eve of the event after footage emerged in which he appeared to make jokes about the Holocaust. Carl Court