But I think it all began with what you see to the left: Batsu. This is an underground Japanese game-show style improv competition. The name, Batsu, roughly translates to "punishment." Which is exactly what the contestants suffer when they screw up.
The show is a lot like Who's Line Is It Anyway. There are a variety of improv games and impressions, plus at least one old fashioned drinking game that seems an awful lot like an adult version of musical chairs (just with sake instead of chairs). And those who lose suffer Batsu. Look carefully at the photo. See the guys on the right? the things on their faces that you can't quite make out are clothespins. They were not placed there of their own volition.
The least strenuous of the punishments were the ones the volunteer audience members suffered who went up and competed with the promise of a free beer and a ticket to another show. After they signed a waiver, that is. I did so, and ended up eating five wasabi rolls (California rolls, each with about an inch of wasabi layered on top). Yes it burned, but hey, I can always use the endorphins. Plus the free food, booze, and ticket to another show.
The punishments suffered by the other contestants, however ranged from funny to cringe-worthy to "oh-dear-lord-don't-DO-that-to-him." the funniest and simplest one was when a dude came out in a chicken suit, did a little dance, "laid" two real eggs, and smashed them on the victims heads. The second worst was the either the paintball shots to the chest from across the room, or the shock collar. The worst was when there was a tie breaker for the championship: they brought out a stun gun, and told the final two contestants to do their best Barney impression, winner determined by audience applause. That was not nice.
So if you like your improv with a streak of sadism, Batsu happens in a St Marks Place basement every Monday.