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‘Gag Concert’ to go on hiatus after 21 years

May 15, 2020 - 14:54 By Lim Jang-won
A scene from Gag Concert recording. (KBS)

KBS’s “Gag Concert” is going on a break until further notice, signaling the end of comedy shows on terrestrial television networks.

In the 2000s Koreans gathered in front of the TV on Sunday night to watch KBS’s “Gag Concert,” a comedy show that at one point enjoyed viewership rating of roughly 30 percent. Many people closed out the weekend with the guitar tunes that signaled the end of the episode on Sunday night and readied for another week.

As “Gag Concert” goes off the air until further notice, the viewership rating has been sagging, dropping to 2.5 percent on May 8. Even the appearance of past greats on the show’s 1,000th episode last year failed to buoy the ratings, failing to reach above 10 percent viewer rating. It had lost its prime slot and moved to Friday nights before going on a hiatus.

“‘Gag Concert’ received much love from viewers as the comedy program representing Korea for the last 20 plus years. With changing broadcasting environment and comedy trends, limitations of open comedy programs, among others, are the reasons for going on a temporary break for transformation,” said KBS in an official statement on Thursday.

Launched in 1999, “Gag Concert” was a show where unknown comedians could become stars. When those comedians gained fame and moved on to other entertainment shows, new, talented comedians stepped up to fill their place. The latest buzzwords used in new skits caught on with the public and rising comedians became the center of attention.

That kind of excitement has been missing for the last few years as viewers turned to reality shows for laughter rather than preplanned comedy skits. Also, satire, one of the show’s fortes in the past, was found wanting of late.

“We thank all the talented comedians who assumed responsibility for Korean’s laughter on the weekends and the viewers who loved the show. We promise that we will continue to provide laughter befitting ‘Gag Concert’ until the end,” said KBS on Thursday.

The show to be recorded on May 20 will be the last before it goes on a break.

Many comedians who became stars through “Gag Concert” lamented the temporary break, which is generally assumed to be the end of the long-running show.

“The stages for hubae (junior colleagues) to stand on are disappearing. I am sorry I can’t be of help. Please root for all the hubae to stand on better stages in the future,” Byun Gi-soo, one of the comedians who appeared in the show during its heydays, posted on his Instagram on Friday.

KBS announced that the comedians will try new forms of comedy on its KBS YouTube channel “Funtastic” during the break.

“Comedy Big League” of tvN is one of the few remaining shows dedicated to comedy, with around 2 percent viewership ratings.

By Lim Jang-won (