What was already a tough industry to begin with, seems to be only getting tougher to break into. One of the best ways for aspiring entertainers -- more particularly comedians -- to break into the scene were through short one-act comedy shows. However, such shows are one by one being canceled and taken off air. This isn't just effecting comedians though. Even actors trying to expose themselves through dramas are finding themselves in ruts.
To become a comedian (aka "gagman") in Korea, you need to take the "gag test" and pass. However, passing the test isn't necessarily your ticket to success. Many comedians are finding themselves officially a "gagman", but without a stage to stand on. Comedic shows featuring short one-scene acts used to be much more common. Now, the number of such programs are dwindling, presenting less opportunities for entertainers to hit it big.
For example, the show "People Searching For Laughter", which has been airing for over seven years since 2003 on the major SBS broadcasting channel, aired its last episode this past October 2nd. The plug was pulled on another comedic show on MBC's?broadcasting network, "Heaven.Earth.People", last May after just seven months. Another comedic skit show started airing in July in its place called "Pure Honey", but was canceled after merely three months this past 24th.
Variety programs are anything but slowly taking over all the major networks. You can flip through the major channels and almost every other program is guaranteed to be a variety show. A representative from the Korean Broadcasting Comedy Association said that where there used to be at least five comedy programs in total from all the major broadcasting channels, the number is now down to two (both on KBS: "Gag Concert" and "Gag Star"). He added that although there are rare cases when an old comedy show is attempted to be revived and brought back on air, it's almost inevitable that it will be canceled again due to the lack of interest...and ultimately the lack of profits.
Whereas comedians simply focused on putting themselves down and acting goofy for their audience before, they're now being forced to become more diversified. They're being pressured to actually become actors. As for producers and writers of comedy shows, they're being forced to think outside of the box to survive in this variety program-infested industry.
Last May and September, KBS and MBC, respectively both successfully each revived a one-act drama show that was originally taken off air. The revised shows offered opportunities for no-name actors, producers, and writers to bring their own talents to each episode. Viewers soon started to get into the skits which featured new faces and new ideas that other shows weren't willing to risk trying. Some of the skits on these shows even featured actors in their 60's or 70's as the main characters. Ironically, whereas all other shows have been scrambling to use young idol stars, these older actors garnered a positive response from the public.
It must be noted though that not all of the featured actors were newbies or no-namers. KBS's "Drama Special" and MBC's "Sunday Drama Theatre" both featured big names such as Park Shi-yeon and Lee Min-jung. This only served as more incentive to push newbie entertainers to gain even a supporting role alongside these faces. Although this has helped some ?actors get a bit of attention, the effects are minimal compared to how strong of a success catapult these types of shows used to be in the past. To drop some examples, Han Seok-gyu, Lee Jae-ryong, and Lee Seon-gyun ?were all discovered through these short-skit shows.
The producer from MBC's "Best Theatre", Ahn Pak-seok said, "One-act shows used to be the practice grounds for newbie actors to gain experience in playing main roles. However, now these shows are constantly under the pressure of possibly being cut from the air at any moment, so we have to always be giving it our all. We can no longer use one-act shows as practice sessions and end up losing the show completely."