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Comedy is what you want to watch when you need a laugh. Comedians around the world work hard every day on television and on stage to make their audiences laugh. Comedy is also very popular in Japan, with live comedy shows on various stages and on television. So what is comedy in Japan? How is comedy in Japan different from other countries? Let’s take a closer look at the colorful world of Japanese comedy.
What is Owarai?
In Japan, comedy is generally called “owarai (お笑い)”, and is a form of entertainment in which comedians make their audience laugh on stage through TV shows and manzai shows. There are many types of comedy, including sitcoms, comedies where one person puts on a show, sitcoms where two or three people work in a group, impersonation comedies, musicals, and more. Comedy shows are held on stages all over Japan, and many patrons come to comedy shows looking for a good laugh.
A popular type of “owarai” is called “漫才 (manzai)”. Manzai is basically a pair of two comedians who play two roles called “ボケ (boke)” and “ツッコミ (tsukkomi)” respectively. “Boke” is the person who says funny or unintelligible things in program material, and “tsukkomi” is the person who points out mistakes or unintelligible things to boke out in a quick, laugh-out-loud manner.
You may have often heard this Japanese phrase “なんでやねん (Nandeyanen, why?)”. He appears a lot in Japanese entertainment. This is one of the typical examples of a tsukkomi phrase. Comedy in manzai is the thrill of doing funny things in a quick and fast way, which leads to laughter.
The actor playing owarai is truly the central figure in the scene. As mentioned above, there are different types of comedians called “芸人 (geinin)”, some of whom perform solo comedy and some of whom perform group comedy. Here is a brief introduction to the types of geinin in Japan.
Pin geinin (ピン芸人) is a solo artist. The Japanese word “pino” originally comes from the Portuguese word “pinta”, which means “point”. At one point in Japan, it changed to mean “one” in dice or karuta, and the rest of this word is said to have influenced the current Japanese word. Since these pinup comedians are one-person comedians, many of them impersonate characters or act with props.
comic duo (konbi)
A comedy duo (お笑いコンビ, owarai konbi) is a group of two comedians. Comedy duos are often in charge of manzai shows consisting of a boke and tsukkomi comedian. “Konbi” is short for “combination,” and unlike a one-person duo, each has their own role to play in their owarai, allowing them to express their comedy in a richer way in front of the audience. .
A comedy trio (お笑いトリオ) is a group of three comedians, because trio means “three”. Due to the composition of the group, members can switch the order and roles of the boké and tsukkomi for various comedic effects.
japanese sense of humor
Compared to comedy shows around the world, Japanese comedy and sense of humor are considered unique. For example, one characteristic point is that while social satire is popular and influential in the West, there are very few comedians in Japan who tackle socially sensitive topics like politics or religion. In fact, in Japan, overtly funny stories and jokes are more likely to be widely accepted than funny versions of a single social issue and turn it into a joke.
Another difference is that in Japan, stand-up comedy is usually performed by multiple comedians as a group, as comedy duos or trios, while in the West, stand-up comedy is usually performed by a single person.
If you want to experience this unique Japanese comedy genre, the best way is to attend a live Japanese owarai performance. One of the best places to catch a show is the Yoshimoto Theatre, which has three main locations in Osaka, Hakata, and Tokyo. Yoshimoto is known as a well-established comedy agency with new and experienced comedians. If you want to see famous Japanese comedians perform live, you should visit the Yoshimoto Theater concert halls. If you want to watch live performances more easily, you can watch comedy shows that are often broadcast on TV. Owarai contests in which comedians compete with their stories to win are broadcast several times a year, and you can also watch these shows on TV. Recently, many Japanese comedians have taken to YouTube to host their comedy, so if you have a favorite Japanese comedian that you would like to watch and enjoy, YouTube might be a good place to start.
We have discussed what “owarai” is in this article, but how is the Japanese comedy different from your country? The laughing point may differ from country to country due to cultural and national influences. If you are interested in Japanese comedy, feel free to visit an owarai theater, watch YouTube videos, or watch a TV show to experience Japanese comedy. We hope you can find your favorite geinin and enjoy their comedy!
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