Kitao Sakurai is well known within the comedy world as the vanguard director/executive producer/writer of The Eric Andre Show and Netflix’s hidden camera comedy Bad Trip. Kitao has created innovative, surreal, and genre-bending work throughout his entire career, and was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema by Filmmaker Magazine for his debut feature film Aardvark.
Born in rural Japan and raised in Ohio by a video artist single mother, Kitao’s unique life story has driven his singular approach to filmmaking. As a shy five-year-old, Kitao discovered stage acting as a way to express himself. Becoming a prolific child actor and eventually appearing in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, Kitao maintains a profound connection to the craft of acting and to the needs of performers.
It was Kitao’s love of theater and film that led him to New York City, where he became an apprentice to legendary opera director and designer Douglas Fitch. Setting the groundwork for his later work, Kitao helped design opera productions and developed new techniques for fusing live puppetry with orchestral performance and video projection.
A self-taught cinematographer, Kitao then teamed up with music video director Edwin Decena. Using a poetic, cinematic vérité style, Kitao lensed acclaimed music videos for artists such as T-Pain, Plies, Norah Jones, Lil Boosie, Jeezy, Fabolous, Diddy, DG Yola, Swizz Beatz, Shawty Lo, and many more. Kitao’s music video work then led him to photograph Ry Russo-Young’s groundbreaking mixed-format feature You Won’t Miss Me.
At 24 years old, Kitao went on to write and direct Aardvark, which won the Best First Feature prize at the Locarno Film Festival and played widely across festivals in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Kitao then met comedian Eric Andre and developed what would become The Eric Andre Show in an abandoned bodega deep in Brooklyn. Since getting picked up, Kitao has directed and executive produced every episode of The Eric Andre Show, which has been the top-performing show on Adult Swim.
On the feature side, Kitao directed and co-wrote Bad Trip, a narrative hidden camera feature film starring Eric Andre and Tiffany Haddish. He also directed and co-wrote The Passage, a wordless short film starring Phil Burgers that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018 and won Best Short Fiction at the LA Film Festival and Best Comedy at Aspen Shortsfest, both Oscar-qualifying film festivals. It also won the Grand Jury Prize at the Nashville Film Festival, Best Picture in the Shorts category at Fantastic Fest, and Best Director for Comedy at the New York Television Festival.
On the commercial side, Kitao continues to create memorable and comical campaigns, including two Super Bowl 2022 spots for McDonald’s “Can I Get Uhhhhhh” and Gopuff “The Gopuff Quartertime Show ft. Lil Dicky”, and SAXX’s cheeky campaign “How a Gentleman Treats His Balls”.