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Top 10 Best Japanese Comedians

First, let me say this: it sucks being famous and having snot-nosed kids like me who don’t know what they’re talking about make stupid comments about you. I think that almost all (if not all) the comedians on Japanese TV are funny, I just picked the ones that gave me the highest LPM (laughs per minute). Probably the main problem for those who have a low LPM is that they are in the wrong situations — Oriental Radio (オリエンタルラジオ) are amazing on stage, but don’t get the chance to shine comically in their current work as late night variety show hosts: the format just doesn’t work for them. Downtown (ダウンタウン) are funny, too — when they’re not just going through the motions out of boredom, i.e. not on their variety show but in those punishment game (罰ゲーム) specials they do, and in their skits from the 1980s and 1990s. And a lot of guys who I used to think sucked eggs are amazing once you take them off those variety shows and put them on a more personal program like Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents: Funny Stories (人志松本のすべらない話). As you can see, it sounds like I have beef with variety shows. I don’t, really, I don’t. It’s just that, when you think about it, having virtually all Japan’s comedians do variety shows is akin to having every athlete in the world play soccer, whether or not they were good at it or even like it, just because it was the only professional sport in the world. Variety shows are cheap and easy to do, and they may have been a good choice when Japan was poor and coming out of WW2, but Japan is rich now. And TV can act like it if it wants to…and get sets that don’t look like they were made by Miss Keene’s class at Pokey Oaks Kindergarten.

There’s also the interesting phenomenon of comedians who are funny in-studio or to other comedians, but not to the TV-viewing public at large. Denis Leary seems like an example of that in the anglosphere; other comedians find him funny. Downtown, when stuck on a variety show, are funny for their guests — if I were to be interviewed on TV, I’d want to be interviewed by Downtown, they seem like great fun to be around — but it just isn’t as funny for viewers.

Anyway, the list. I haven’t bothered to rank it, but there are ten of them.

  • The look that Miyasako gets on his face when he's about to tell a joke[雨上がり決死隊/Ameagari kesshitai/The Suicide Mission Squad at the End of the Rain(?)]: Ameagari Kesshitai, a duo made up of 宮迫博之 (MIYASAKO Hiroyuki) — the tanned one — and 蛍原徹 (HOTOHARA Tooru) — the round-headed one, are that very uncommon thing in comedy (at least it seems uncommon to me) — the perfect combination and execution of both slapstick and verbal comedy. And it’s not the stupid kind of slapstick, it’s the original, funny kind. The kind that you would laugh at even if it were just your friend doing it. That thing where Miyasako slaps his own face and then looks into the camera, or the two-legged flying kick of punishment for saying something wrong that sends Hotohara crashing to the ground. And then there’s the look that Miyasako gets on his face when he’s about to tell a joke [see picture], so you kind of get to laugh twice — once for the look and once for the joke.
  • [JINNAI Tomonori/陣内智則]: Jinnai is a rarity in that he works alone. His skits often involve uncooperative machines — lewd passport photo-taking machines, arrogant arcade games, sassy car navigation systems. Big laughs to be had.
  • [Impulse (インパルス)]: super-funny skits! Mostly revolving around portly 堤下敦/TSUTSUMISHITA Atsushi playing straightman or authority figure to slim 板倉俊之/ITAKURA Toshiyuki’s abject inappropriateness. One of their funniest recurring characters is Johann Riebelt, a young Japanese man with a bad case of alcohol poisoning and major delusions of grandeur who thinks he’s German. They’ve also done great one-shot skits like フック船長/”Captain Hook” and “Mafia Boss”.
  • [Drunk Dragon/ドランクドラゴン]: Another portly-skinny duo. In that sense, they bear a shallow resemblance to Impulse. The content of their comedy is different though, often revolving tangentially around the entertainment industry itself — silly TV shows for learning English, awkward and uncalled-for displays of English “proficiency” [some middle-aged men in Japan looove to whip out the old English to impress other Japanese people…when they really should have kept it zipped up], fanboys who are waaay too overprotective of the object of their fanaticism, and cetera. And of course, it makes you laugh.
  • [Garage Sale/ガレッジセール]: these guys are sketch comedians. Their best stuff is on the show One Night Rock and Roll, where Gori cross-dresses as Gorie.
  • [Bobby KONDA/近田ボビー]: Nigeria in the hizzouse! Although he is actually Japanese now. And technically he’s a tarento rather than a comedian. But he’s funny as heck. I loved reading on Japanese Wikipedia about how amazing at Japanese he has to be in order to suck as much as he pretends to. Playing the fool and raking it in — genius. AFAIK, he acts under his old name, Bobby Ologun (ボビーオログン). Bobby also happens to be an example of a comedian who shines on variety shows.
  • [Taka and Toshi/タカアンドトシ]: 欧米かっ!”What are you, Euro-American?!”, the signature wisecrack of this pair, frequently rolled out when too much katakana Japanese is used. I find it quite useful in my daily life…
  • [Lover Girl/ラバーガール]: do really funny skits often involving one person speaking polite or otherwise euphemistic Japanese and the other person taking liberties with the literal meaning of what was said. That makes it sound really technical and it makes Japanese sound hard to understand, neither of which are true. Anyway, the point is, you’ll laugh.
  • [The Laughter Problem/爆笑問題]: politics is a dish best served hilarious.
  • [Untouchables/アンタッチャブル]: I’ve only ever seen one or two of their skits, but I laughed so hard that they earned a place on this list.

Honorable Mention

  • [Ungirls/アンガールズ]: these guys LOOK funny…tall, lanky, gangly…awkward in a good way, just like their skits.
  • [Anjush/アンジャッシュ]: have made a career of doing situational misunderstandings. Some of the skits are a bit forced, but some are pure genius.
  • [Oriental Radio/オリエンタルラジオ]: rose to fame on エンタの神様/Enta no Kami Sama with their ヒップホップな武勇伝 (“our hip hop legends”) skits. Since that time they’ve been stuck on a boring variety show, so there you go.
  • [Downtown/ダウンタウン]: one of the longest-running and most highly respected comedy outfits in Japanese history. They’re not always as funny as they used to be — not because they can’t be but more because they almost can’t be bothered to go trying to get laughs any more; they’re “beyond that” if you will. But, yeah, look out for their old stuff.

  27 comments for “Top 10 Best Japanese Comedians

  1. December 25, 2007 at 12:49

    I have problems with a lot of Japanese comedians in that I don’t find them that funny. Humour is one of the things which has trouble crossing borders so I suppose it takes a certain type of foreigner to enjoy Japanese comedy. I like funny Japanese shows, but a lot of stand-up comedy I just find childish and rather slapstick.

    I watched a bit of Deryn & Katherine (ディラン&キャサリン) the Katherine did a pretty funny imitation of English. Interesting to see what English sounds like to people who don’t speak it.

  2. khatzumoto
    December 25, 2007 at 18:36

    Well…I personally don’t think that humor has as much trouble crossing over as it is often said to. I would boil down the reasons to:

    (1) Most Japanese comedians aren’t funny. I mean, they’re funny people, but the funnyness doesn’t come out in the performance; the performances aren’t funny. Most comedians anywhere in the world are like that…I think. It’s just the so-called Pareto Principle, at work. A language may have 250,000 – 500,000 words, but most people stick to 3000 – 10,000 of them. Some of the largest electronics companies in the world owe most of their income to a handful of the products they put out, meaning most of the products they put out are effectively financial flops. Stuff like that. So…loosely, 90% of the laughs will come from 10% of the comedians(?). And the other 90% of the comedians are just taking up space and airtime(?).

    (2) I don’t know what your Japanese language + cultural awareness levels are right now, but it is also possible that you might have missed out on certain subtle nuances or references. For me, references in Japanese comedy to old, especially Showa era pop culture tend to go right over my head.

    Of the two reasons, I’d say (1) is most likely. Especially if you’re talking about variety shows — they do suck; they are childish; the people making them hate them, too [I have a friend who quit…], but they’re the biggest game in town right now. But, like, Trick has pretty universal humor, much of which is internal to the show itself.

  3. khatzumoto
    December 25, 2007 at 23:47

    Forgot to add — despite all the weaknesses of variety shows, I would still recommend them to anyone who’s learning Japanese…The pretty colors will grab your attention…and each variety show tends to have, like, a PART of itself that’s funny. So, you [whoever you are] don’t get to look down on them until you understand them fully! 8)

  4. Nivaldo
    December 26, 2007 at 04:54

    Hey, Khatz! Guess what? The program didn’t solve the problem. I found out that I was wasting time focusing on words(the primitives’ “names”) rather than images. And also found that the SRS meets the requirements right from the start, the only change being that I can’t use kanji. I’ll just leave a blank answer and work with the book to look at the kanji. I found that the real problem was only to get the random show of the keywords and that’s already part of the SRS philosophy. So in short, all the work I had done was in major part useless. And something I must say is… a small sentence of yours has just changed my whole LIFE, I mean, I was too worried about numbers(quantity of kanji, time, etc…) until I read some of your sayings, something like “what matters is that letter/character, that sound, that word…”. Since then, I’m trying really hard to think only about the moment I’m learning something, thanks. Now I know I won’t be a three-day monk like two days ago. And yeah…I hope you work an article on the little challenges, it would be fun.

  5. vgambit
    December 27, 2007 at 12:18

    Your list is missing Hard Gay.

  6. khatzumoto
    December 27, 2007 at 17:22

    AHAHAHAHA!!! Hard Gay…OMG…you’re absolutely right! So gross, but so funny. Ironically, I never actually thought of him as a comedian, even though he makes me laugh 110% of the time.

  7. zodiac
    December 27, 2007 at 23:57

    Lol, I like the “subtitles” on Hard Gay. Helps when they talk too fast.

    khatsumoto, I’ve got two questions. Firstly, you started with example sentences from dictionaries, then went on to native sources, dubbed movies etc. Do you think that the dubbed movies etc are more interesting than the example sentences? Did you learn more?

    My second question. I was mining the yahoo dictionary and saw this sentence. 「10時までにここに来られるか」. As usual, I look through for unknown words; I only see one (the other words have appeared in my srs before). It’s “来られる”. I use rikai-chan, a firefox dictionary plugin, and wakan, my offline electronic dictionary, to look it up; they both give me two readings for “来”, which are “くる” and “きたる”. Even worse, they give it to me in some form ending in “る”.

    Do you know any dictionary where you can look up the word and it gives you the exact form?

  8. khatzumoto
    December 28, 2007 at 00:06

    来られる(こられる) is the passive (受身) and potential (可能形) form (respectively) of 来る(くる)

    To make the distinction between きたる and くる, people can (and perhaps should) write them as 来たる and 来る respectively…but that doesn’t always happen.

    BTW, 来れる(これる) is the “dedicated” potential form of 来る…but, there seem to be cases in Japanese of double-loading the passive form — i.e. using the passive form as both passive and potential. So, even though there is 出れる(でれる)and people do use it, people also use 出られる(でられる), and so on. It seems to be kind of officially sanctioned [I don’t mean to make it sound evil, I just mean it has official recognition]. I don’t know either way the WHYs…And it may even be that one way is incorrect. In this case, I just do whatever I see what appears to be a majority Japanese people do: there’s no time to find out the reason for everything…no, really, there isn’t.

    Also, some verbs only have a -られる potential form (no just-plain -れる)…I think…Again, I typically follow rules without necessarily knowing what they are.

    If you’re curious…look up a Japanese source on it. Google these separately:
    [れる られる 可能形]
    [れる られる 可能形 ら抜き]
    [れる られる 可能形 受身]

    A questioner on Yahoo知恵袋 points out that the passive of 読む is 読まれる but its potential is definitely and exclusively 読める…so…
    Anyway, I don’t know why I even brought this up, but don’t worry about it! As you can see, I’ve obeyed the rules all this time without actually being “knowing” (able to recite them). Experiential knowledge vs. declarative knowledge, you could say. In speaking a language fluently, experiential knowledge will serve you much better. Declarative knowledge can always be added later, if at all.

  9. shiisa
    December 28, 2007 at 00:10

    Poor Raamens…Left off the list. Great skit comedy (日本の形, 日本語学校, etc.) and Kobayashi’s 鼻兎 is a super-funny manga…

  10. khatzumoto
    December 28, 2007 at 00:10

    >Do you think that the dubbed movies etc are more interesting than the example sentences?
    If you have to ask, then…that’s pretty much your answer, right? 🙂

    No, um…yeah…movies are more interesting. I mean, I don’t know…just the change, you know? If it’s not movies it’s music, if it’s not music it’s books, if it’s not books it’s face-to-face convos, if not that then dictionaries. Perhaps what matters is that no matter WHAT you do…it’s in Japanese. Hence all Japanese all the time. Any one thing can get boring, but the combination of having your entire life be in Japanese, I think that makes it, you know, essentially impossible to be bored.

  11. khatzumoto
    December 28, 2007 at 00:26

    Oh look! Food for thought…

  12. Jen
    December 28, 2007 at 02:10

    The passive and potential is officially the same for verbs like 食べる and 見る where the dictionary form of the verb is the stem + る. It is normal to use 食べれる etc instead of 食べられる when speaking and writing casually, but as far as I know in formal writing you should use ~られる All other verbs change so they have an e sound 読む -> 読める, apart from する ー> できる and 来る ー>来られる… as far as I can remember.

    Khatzumoto – I know that in general you are generally against lessons, but I think that when they teach you rules like this, then they can be quite useful… I think that one thing that you haven’t addressed as far as I know is the difference between child learners of a language, and adult learners – When children are learning a language, they will often figure out rules for themselves, and then try them out with other words, which leads to people learning english saying things like.. I swimmed in the ocean, and so on. Most children have parents to correct them when they say things like this, and years of schooling where they will learn when they are using the language correctly, and when they aren’t, but as an adult learner, there is generally nobody around to do that. I have tried to ask my Japanese friends to correct my Japanese when I speak to them, but I have so far only found 2 or 3 people (out of a LOT of Japanese friends) who will actually tell me where I’m going wrong rather than saying things like.. but you hardly make any mistakes! or もう十分だから, which isn’t amazingly useful.

    Did you get people to correct your Japanese? Since you have approached it so that you get input of Japanese before output, your mistakes are much more likely to be more like those of a native speaker (unlike me, who has had 2 years of Japanese lessons at university before going to Japan for a year and immersing myself in the language.. I know that I still express myself strangely in Japanese sometimes, because I still have bad habits leftover from when I used to translate from English to Japanese in my head), but do you find that Japanese people are actually willing to correct you, or tell you that you’re wrong?

  13. suffah
    December 28, 2007 at 07:32


    Khaz has mentioned one of his (dear? hehe) friends that used to harshly criticize his Japanese. In another post I think he specifically mentions that you need to find people who are willing to correct you.

  14. khatzumoto
    December 28, 2007 at 08:44

    What suffah said.
    The thing with your 日本人friends is that you often need to ask for correction more than once (initially). That way they know that it’s 本音 and not just 謙遜. Once they know you mean it, you’ll have trouble stopping them!

  15. JDog
    December 28, 2007 at 13:44

    Random question. In the Heisig stage, does it do me any good to browse over Japanese content (text) and just see what characters I know? I realize that knowing the keywords probably doesn’t do much to tell the actual meaning of the text, but I’m just wondering. I guess it would be better than reading English text anyway. I need some books then because I was laying in bed last night and instead of picking up my English novel I realized that that would be in violation of my AJATT environment, so I picked up some random owner’s manual paper that happened to be in Japanese as one of the languages and glanced over that instead.

  16. khatzumoto
    December 28, 2007 at 13:45

    Perfectly fine…it’s immersion. And actually the keywords WILL help you understand. A lot.

  17. JDog
    December 28, 2007 at 13:52

    OK thanks, I appreciate the quick response!

  18. khatzumoto
    December 28, 2007 at 14:07

    >when they teach you rules like this, then they can be quite useful…


    Jenさんの英語も、文法を知らなくてもホボ完璧に使いこなせてるでしょう。多少、仮定法などの『「If I was」じゃなくて「If I were」』とかそういう、どちらかというとマメな所で失敗しても特に問題視できない。実はAntiMoonの奴らもそうだけど。

    僕も今まで、ただ鵜呑みで『「食べれる」は駄目で「食べられる」の方がは正しい』という規則に従って来ていて、今朝からやっとその理由(ら抜き動詞の存在と特徴)を知りました。でも、その規則への服従に変わりが無い。簡単に言えば、「最初は黙って受け入れ!理由を知りたきゃ後で日・本・語・で調べるが良い」ってこと。その方が一石二鳥だしね — インプットによって真の日本語力を身に付けながら、日本語に就いての予備知識も集められる


    とにもかくにも、コメントありがとう 🙂 。

  19. zodiac
    December 28, 2007 at 14:16

    >Anyway, I don’t know why I even brought this up, but don’t worry about it!

    Interesting grammar notes there. I can’t quite read that website you gave without resorting to a rikai-chan, though…rest assured, someday I will…khatzumoto, thanks for taking time out to explain this little quirk of japanese grammar to me – I’ve seen the られる form before and know roughly what it means, but not just the れる form. No, I don’t worry about it.

    However, my question really was simply “Do you know any dictionary where you can look up the word and it gives you the exact form?”

    I’m sorry if I was unclear or sound like I’m giving not trying myself, because I did try out many electronic dictionaries, all of them simply will not tell me what the various forms of the word are, only the…er…dictionary form. Not a problem with nouns and adjectives (those are easy to form), but for verbs…nightmare.

    The closest thing I had was this 501 Japanese verbs book that listed out most of the forms (one page per verb) but it’s not comprehensive (I’m sure it lacked the られる form), and I’ve since had to return it.

    I forgot to mention, that example sentence had a translation, it was “Can you get here by ten o’clock”, so I knew that the “can” is due to the “られ” thingy there. I just didn’t know how to actually read “来られる”, you say it’s “こられる”?


    >when they teach you rules like this, then they can be quite useful

    Yeah, knowing the rule’s definitely very useful – I couldn’t figure out what “ています” was until I saw the rule explicitly written out – but imo you can’t only learn the rule – have to see examples.

    Like when I was learning chemistry, instead of applying rules and exceptions I was taught to figure out which compounds are “allowed” (can be formed) I pretty much memorized the “allowed” ones. Same goes for scales, as far as I know all musicians will memorize the fingerings of all the scales rather than “construct” them while playing.

    I can’t think of other examples but sometimes it’s easier to just memorize EVERYTHING than to remember rules and exceptions, especially when the number of things to memorize is not too big.

  20. Mark
    December 29, 2007 at 02:58

    Well, seeing as everyone is talking about grammar – here’s a pretty good grammar book:

    It has pretty short explanations of pretty much every pattern imaginable, and tons of example sentences- all in Japanese!

    I have been thinking of using the example sentences as part of my 10,000 sentences…


  21. Jen
    December 29, 2007 at 11:14

    「まあ、クラスの有用性を完全に否定したくは居ないが、やっぱりクラスで失うものは、クラスで得られるモノの方より遥かに多いとしか思えない」 ということに賛成です! やっぱりイギリスで日本語を学んだときより、日本に住んでたときのほうは上達が早かったね。

    しかし、まあ、あたし的にkhatzumotoさんとは違うところがあるっていうか、なんかこう、今は ‘all japanese all the time’のサポートがあるから独学できるが、大学に入る前に自信が全く無くて、クラスがなかったら、日本語を勉強し始められなかったと思う。遣る気がなかった所為かな。日本語の授業がなかったら、日本に住んでたときにも日本人とあまり話せなくて、文化に興味を持てなかっただろうと思うね。

    今大学では、英語を通して勉強せざるを得ないところが多くて(日本語の授業で翻訳とかさせられてるし、他の講座でも英作文を書かなきゃいけないしね)・・・khatzumotoさんみたいに完全に自分の環境を日本語化したいけどね — もっと日本人の友達と彼氏と遊んだりして・・・卒業まで半年しか残ってないんで、我慢、我慢。


    (I’m not sure that I can say this in Japanese…. so…) the problem that I have is that I know that I can almost always make what I’m trying to say understandable to whoever I’m talking to, but I’m pretty sure that my Japanese isn’t as good as it could be, partly because I’m sure that I have developed bad habits with it, and not had anybody to say ‘no, that’s wrong’. I’m not entirely sure now what I can do to correct these, or if there are even any significant problems to begin with…. I have asked my friends repeatedly to correct my Japanese, and as they do sometimes offer corrections to what I’m saying, I think that they are trying to help me, but I’m just not sure most of the time whether what I’m saying is right or not, and I’m not an amazingly confident person anyway (it actually took a lot for me to write in Japanese in this comment, because I don’t like the thought of other people who are learning Japanese (note, this doesn’t apply to native speakers at all, although I have no idea why) to judge my Japanese and think that it’s awful.. it’s stupid, I know), so I end up just getting really nervous, and maybe not being as adventurous with my language as I know that I should and could be, because I’m not sure whether I even get the basic stuff right.
    Do you have any advice? I’m trying to take in as much Japanese as I possibly can and I’m trying to note down sentences etc as much as possible, and my boyfriend (who is Japanese) does correct me most of the time (unless it would spoil a moment or whatever) when I speak to him in Japanese, but I’m just not sure at all how to address the basic problems in my Japanese which I’m sure exist, or how to get over the insecurity that I have associated with them.

    (this comment has ended up very rambly, I apologise! I also feel bad for only writing half of it in Japanese, I’m lazy when I’m tired)

    If you have any ideas or input of any kind I would really love to hear it! 🙂 ありがとう!

  22. Jen
    December 29, 2007 at 11:15

    Mark – That’s the grammar dictionary I have! I am in love with it.

  23. JDog
    December 29, 2007 at 11:53

    OK, so I went around my ‘hood looking for any Japanese book, be it manga or whatever, that I could get my hands on. My hood is Denver. I went to this place called “Sakura Square” or “Tiny Tokyo,” which is the Japanese enclave in Denver, and the one and only bookstore that was there closed recently. There was a handwritten note on the door that I couldn’t read. I asked a few employees at other shops there and they didn’t know where I could get Japanese books. Needless to say now I am pretty disappointed. Granted I know there isn’t a huge population of Asians of any kind here in Denver, but still…come on, it’s a pretty big city. I have Googled it to death and called a few places, and everyone seems to have like one children’s book that is bilingual, or lots of English translated manga, which is so disappointing. If the Japanese people I asked don’t know, then I have no idea where to turn. Anyway, ranting over now, I am moving on to buying over the internet, which I didn’t want to do because I don’t have any specific title in mind. What is the cheapest way to get books online given that I can’t really read Japanese yet? I just want something to practice with. I don’t want to do the library because I want to own stuff. I know Khatz would say but where do I even start and do they ship to the US and how would I order w/o being able to read? Suggestions on novels or manga? I don’t want children’s stuff but I don’t want deep big-worded literature either, just a casual novel would be nice or adult manga of some sort.

  24. chibi-san
    July 6, 2013 at 13:50

    Moshi moshi meeeena-san!! Long time since people put anything on here :/… I jus wanted to state a few facts about some of this ruckus about not understanding nipponion jokes (see what I did there lol… I kno childish) most of the manzai acts are very odd for those who havnt grasped the language n as result the punny jokes go (*_*) huh? But like me I moved to Japan about 15 years ago I live in the kansai district n watch a whole lot of shows (manzai mainly.. it originated from here) so I get all the inside jokes n gotten use to the quick pace too 🙂
    I’m quite a boke myself… Jus need a tsukomi :’) lol
    Abayo meeena-san…
    Hope someone reads this lol

  25. chibi-san
    July 6, 2013 at 13:54

    Gomen!! I forgot to put the notify thingy ma jingy on :p…
    Also you forgot jimmy-san who made appearances on practically all of the batsu games :’) he is a legend lol never failed to make me laugh 🙂

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