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When referring to a famous person while talking to friends, I always just use their full name, but I always end up unsure if I should add さん.
Part of the reason for that is that when I was watching TV one day, a 芸人{げいにん} was talking about how he hates it when 素人{しろうと} don't use さん for his nationally famous 先輩{せんぱい} when talking to him about them. Leading me to think that 一般人{いっぱんじん} should be using さん.

But then when I heard one such 一般人 using さん when talking about a famous person, someone commented that they don't like using さん with famous people because it makes it sound like you are one of their 後輩{こうはい} or know them personally.

What is the best way to talk about famous people so you don't come off like you know them personally, 偉{えら}そう, etc.?
Does it change between when referring to, say, an 大御所{おおごしょ} vs a 若手芸人{わかてげいにん}?
Does it matter who it is? For example, 浜田雅功{はまだまさとし} (こわいイメージ) vs 上島竜兵{うえしまりゅうへい} (年上{としうえ}だがいじられキャラ).

What I do know is that when a celebrity has an 愛称{あいしょう} then you can pretty much use that in any situation. Also, if I'm not mistaken, 氏{し} is awkward unless you are trying to sound like a news announcer or something.

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An 一般人 usually use no name suffix whatsoever when they plainly talk about someone they know only via TV or the internet. That is, you can safely do 呼び捨て. If you used さん on a regular basis, you would sound as if you were a 芸能人 or 業界人 yourself.

But there are exceptions.

  • Needless to say, when you have a chance to speak to a celebrity or someone working with them, you should use さん properly.
  • Some idols are often called with -くん/-ちゃん as if it were part of their nickname. To take SMAP for example, 中居正広 is often called なかいくん and 稲垣吾郎 is often called ごろうちゃん even by those who are not fans of SMAP. This depends on the person being called.
  • If you (or your listener) personally respect or adore that person, you may want to add -さん. Many baseball fans use 長嶋さん to refer to Shigeo Nagashima, for example.
  • I'll take that as a "No" for the last 2 questions. For clarification on "you can safely do 呼び捨て". Is that also true when only using their last name? 「昨日、テレビを見てたらさぁ、坂上忍が〇〇って言った」は違和感ないけど、(相手が誰の話か分かっている前提として)「昨日、テレビを見てたらさぁ、坂上が〇〇って言った」は違和感を感じます。違和感を感じなくてもいいということですね? – By137 Oct 9 at 7:32
  • @By137: I think you are supposed to use the full name first time, e.g. 「北野武が…」and probably later you can use just the family name 「北野は…」 – Igor Skochinsky Oct 9 at 9:21
  • 北野武 has been referred to as たけし for more than 40 years, so it may not be a good example. As for 坂上, I don't know his nickname, so I'll just use 坂上(忍) without さん to bring him into the discourse. But saying 坂上 many times may indeed sound a bit blunt, so I may avoid it unless necessary. – naruto Oct 9 at 9:56

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