Friday, 16 May 2008

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Japanese Comedy

Sometimes I'll be at a work party or eating lunch with the students and I'll be asked who my favourite Japanese comedian is. The problem is I don't have a favourite so I'll just reply in a very diplomatic way of "Oh that one that does that wee dance." However, that pretty much describes every single 'comedian' that Japan has to offer the world. When I first came here there was a young bloke who used to perform his wee jig in only his underpants. He'd be on pretty much every television show doing the same 1-2 minute performance. It would revolve around some little event like a man telling him "Ye cannae park yer bike there lad" and then he would launch into his spiel of そんなの関係ねえ or "What does it matter?" Here's a wee clip of him for ye:

He's got a degree in Literature from a pretty prestigious University in Tokyo.

Right... so this guy actually lasted quite long by Japanese celebrity standards. All the students in my school would do the little shindig. I remember one day at lunch one kid asked me if I knew who he was and I replied with "Aye... he does this eh?" and copied what he did. The table I was sitting at went totally insane. "OH MY GOD! Look at him dae the thing... everyone come look... come look now"... thus completing my transition into performing monkey. It's a sad state of affairs when I look back on those days rather fondly as he has now been replaced with a new hilarious star:

I really do detest this woman. I'm not even entirely sure what her little act is about. It seems to consist of some terribly unfunny build-up for her to launch into 45 seconds of a funny wee dance and numerous GU GU GU GU GU with her thumb. Thanks to the wonders of katakana English... a lot of words that end in 'g' will have 'gu' instead which make words like 'running' and 'jumping' sound horrendous. Now this talentless old cow has brainwashed all my students and they now run up to me and perform the good old GU GU GU GUGUGU GUGUG.

My basic point is that Japanese comedy is abysmal. It's all based on 1-2 minutes of slapstick and a new act is brought along on the conveyor belt of mundane despair every few weeks. The sad thing is that a nation of 130 million people tune in to watch this and crack up about it. I bet you that every single foreign English teacher in the country now has every kid running up to them and going ''. I've noticed this before in Japan with various other things and I now refer to it as "This is the time to.... ". When there is a graduation ceremony the parents and students will know the overly-reheased and appropriate time to cry. After the first drink is downed at a party it is then the appropriate time to open up and bond... even with minor things that happened weeks before but they were too uncomfortable to mention. With the comedy skits I get the impression people watch the 1 minute of filler at the start whilst sitting patiently... patiently waiting.... "Oh here it comes... its coming" and then they all split a rib laughing at the catchphrase. Now is the time laugh har har har har

Is this racist or is it just harmless 'cultural observation'?


Jānis Lībeks said...

That was a very interesting read. I've observed some of the comedy videos, but I couldn't quite figure out what the joke was. I guess that was mostly because my knowledge of Japanese is not sufficient for jokes.

I thought the Guuguguuguguu lady was funny though.

Mike said...

The answer is a) racist. There's something about that woman here:

From what they say, she may be aiming for a satire of Japanese teachers' use of English, but either way they seem to prefer her funny faces.

I always bump into these things on youtube. How do they get started? Is there a club scene where every night they have fifty acts all doing their one minute funny dance?

Craig said...

Well there you go eh. She's making fun of English education. I still hate her though.

I don't watch much Japanese television but there are a lot of similar shows where they just roll out a good dozen comedians at a time.

Vicki said...

This is great info to know.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.