One-Joke Wonder Japanese Comedians

While some Japanese comedians stick around for a really, really long time, there are others who appear then disappear faster than you can blink an eye, not to mention two. Why? Because they really only have one joke… and despite that one joke being really funny, there’s only so much you can do to it before it gets old and you’re sent to the secret Japanese Comedian Graveyard.

Over the years there have been a lot of Japanese comedians like this, and I’d like to take you through a window to the past where all of you can experience the laughter as if it were your first time (because, most likely, it will be your first time with a lot of these).

Although there are other Japanese One-Joke Wonders out there, these are my favorites. I hope you enjoy them all as much as I do and did.

Sekai No Nabeatsu

Know how to count? Know how to do basic multiplication? Willing to make a fool or yourself? Good. Then you can become a one-joke wonder Japanese comedian.

Sekai No Nabeatsu (世界のナベアツ) was known for his ability to do just that. Although there were variations, his main act just involved him counting (1…2…3…4…5…6…7…etc), one time up to 2,000. This in itself isn’t all that great, of course, so he made it so that every time he counted a number that contained three or was divisible by three, he’d make a fool of himself (アホになる). Often times he’d throw in other rules as well, like in the following video, where he counted the number eight like he was “feeling good.”

He was able to extend his one-joke wonder status by changing this “variable number.” In the following video, he counted the number “eight” like he was searching for someone and then again in another session he counted “five” as if he was a narcissist.

Then, just to show you that anyone could do this (not like you actually did it though, did’ya, sucker!?), he had a bunch of other comedians join in on the fun with him.

Sekai No Nabeatsu, I’m sorry you were a one-joke wonder, but you can “count” on me to remember you for a very long time… har har har har.

Dandy Sakano

Dandy Sakano is best known for his catchphrase “gets!” where he points at something with his index fingers while saying “gets” at the same time. It was really (and I mean really) big for a little while, but just like any one-joke wonder, it couldn’t last forever. He had a couple TV shows, some commercials work, and even had his own “gets” game. People all around the country were saying “gets gets gets!”

To be fair, he did more than just “gets,” but that’s what he became known for (and forever will be known for).

Just somewhat recently (Feb 2011) he actually tried to revive his career by going to Dundee, Scotland, where he filmed a TV show with the goal to make 100 different people laugh, despite not knowing any English. Why Dundee? Because his name “Dandy” kind of sounded similar. During his time there he was made an honorary citizen of Dundee. At least he has that to fall back on when his attempt to revitalize his career doesn’t work out.

Tetsu & Tomo

Oh man. So nostalgic! I remember playing along with this one with people nearly ten years ago (I’m so old). Tetsu and Tomo were a pair of comedians (which is a common comedy thing known as an “owarai duo”). Tetsu would dress in red and Tomo would dress in blue. Then they’d do their thing.

Their main one-joke wonder was the song “Nandedarou” (means “I wonder why?”) which just asks about unusual things that most people don’t notice. For example, in the below video they’re doing the “Kochikame” version of “Nandedarou” (they had many versions other than this, too). Kochikame is a popular police-themed manga/anime. In their song, one of the things they say is “he’s wearing sandals but he can run super fast.” Basically, just stuff like that. It’s funnier because of the way they dance and sing, I think?

Because they were able to change the song around to all kinds of different themes they were actually able to last pretty long (I’d say a year, at least?) before going under.

This is always a fun and easy one to bring up to impress your Japanese friends with how old and behind the times you are. Throw in the arm movements where you cross your hands over and over nice and fluidly and you’ll be a Nandedarou pro. If anything, these guys were good at the physical humor (without degrading themselves too much too, which is impressive for Japanese comedy!).

Koriki Choshu

This one-joke Japanese wonder’s entire joke involves pretending to be famous Japanese pro wrestler Riki Choshu. The “ko” in “Koriki” means “small” (小), so it’s like his name was “Little Ricky.” His act has him wearing some short shorts and a small t-shirt. He speaks in a strong lisp so that even when he is acting all tough nobody will take him seriously.

The interesting thing about Koriki is that he’s actually not part of any entertainment agency. Instead, he’s part of a comedian pro wrestling organization, whatever that means. I thought pro wrestling was already comedy? Ammiright?

The thing that I think he might be most known for, though, is a ParaPara (it’s like disco, maybe?) dancing routine where he always dances to the song “Night On Fire” by Bratt Sinclare. After getting popular, he got to do a more pro version of his ParaPara routine that involved the Hinoi Team.

I was surprised to find a pretty recent looking video showing him doing billiard tricks. Maybe he found something to do after his routine ran out of juice?

Good for him.

Hiroshi です。

Hiroshi (a name taken from announcer Hiroshi Ikushima) is the character that Kenichi Saito made up when he became a comedian in 2004. His routine was a very simple formula. He’d go on stage dressed as an announcer and talk about sad stories in his life. That’s it.

Between each story he’d say “Hiroshi desu” (I am Hiroshi), then start on the next story. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly hilarious, but he did have his moment in fame, even if he did have to feel all sad the whole time :’(

Kojima Yoshio

Like Hard Gay (if you don’t know about him you’ll learn everything you need to know down below), I’d say Kojima Yoshino is known pretty well in America, though not as much. He’s known for wearing a small bathing suit and basically making a fool of himself (awesome). He has a couple of catch phrases (そんなの関係ね! aka “What does that matter,” and “おっぱっぴー,” short for “オーシャン・パシフィック・ピース / Ocean Pacific Peace”). He usually says these after or during his signature dance (see a signature-pattern here?) where he punches at the ground while kicking his knee up… Probably just best if you saw it. Try it out if you’re feeling brave.

He did pretty well in the “get-a-lot-of-commercials” department as well, doing things like Nintendo DS commercials:

Pizza…

MiniStop…

Clothes…

And even Pachinko…

Kojima rode his one-joke-wonder wave pretty well, I gotta say. If you’re going to make a total idiot of yourself, you might as well make some mad yen while doing it. Japanese commercials pay out way better than American ones as well (that’s why so many American Celebrities do Japanese commercials).

At least Kojima did some good with his “talents” by helping out the environment…

Environment saved. Children scarred for life. Check.

Koume Tayuu

I’m no fan of Noh theater in general, though this is something I might be able to get into.

The comedian’s name is “Koume” while Tayuu/太夫 is “high ranking Noh actor.” Obviously if you couldn’t tell this person is a high ranking Noh actor you don’t know the finer points of Noh, though I won’t blame you. As far as I can tell, he is just a comedian dressed up for theater being as irritating as possible.

A mix of the old and new, you know? Must be hard to keep the act up when he does TV specials like the one above.

Bob Sapp

I’m not sure if I’d call him a comedian, though he is a pretty goofy dude. Bob Sapp started out as a pro football player for the Chicago Bears, but then got suspended for supposed steroid abuse. Then, he spent two seasons with the Vikings, though only played in a single game. What else is there to do with your life at this point, other than join Japanese Pro Wrestling, then eventually MMA?

This in itself isn’t all that funny though it is what caused Sapp to get famous in Japan. He eventually started showing up in Japanese TV shows. While his Japanese wasn’t all that good, and he didn’t really have an “act” …  we’ll pretend he’s a comedian nonetheless. So, Bob Sapp’s one-joke wonder? It was just being a big goofy black dude. I guess he could make his eyes really big, does that count?

Here’s Bob Sapp hanging out with Morning Musume. Then they do battle. In the physical challenge, HE DESTROYS THEM (The Bob Sapp cam is amazing). In the mental challenge… not so much.

Before the main part of his career ended, he got to be on TV, commercials and even a movie or two (though, I don’t know if “Devilman” counts as being a movie… so bad). He lasted quite a long while, probably because he didn’t really have a gimmick quite so much as the others. His gimmick was just being himself, I think, which will go a little further than something you’ve just made up.

Passion Yara

Passion Yara (also known as Yara Chobyo) is a Japanese comedian known for wearing a tight-fitting white gym outfit with a P on it. His one-joke-wonder? During his comedy routines he’d start beating his chest with one fist in a maniacal rage.

He was originally going to be a physical education teacher (you can kind of see it in his routine, right?). Though… not sure how far he’d make it after his first fist-chest-raging if he was teaching in a real school.

At least he has something to go back to now that his moment in the limelight is gone. Though, actually he did compete in Sasuke (aka “Ninja Warrior” in America) twice. While I don’t think he completed it (who did, really?) he did win the title of “5th craziest competitor.” Always good to stand out in the television biz, right?

Tanoshingo:

Tanoshingo is apparently a massage therapist in real life, but on television he has the persona of a very flamboyantly gay man that makes fun of his own femininity. Basically his pattern involves him going from super manly to super feminine.

He’s gotten pretty popular and is appearing in some TV shows, even. People love him.

Kind of reminds me of Fred on YouTube, strangely, and I do not like Fred. Tanoshingo is equally annoying, but being annoying is what it takes to be a one-joke-wonder in Japanese comedy, so more power to him. It’s not just about being funny, it’s also about what reactions you can evoke from all the famous people watching you in the Picture In Picture. Tanoshingo is very good at this.

Hard Gay

Oh Hard Gay. We can’t forget you. You even lasted quite a while, and made a couple recent appearances out of (forced one-joke-wonder) retirement.

Obviously the kind of thing you can only do in Japan, a country that doesn’t sue you for every possible thing.

Hard Gay is actually Masaki Sumitani, a (actually not gay) professional wrestler known as Razor Ramon Hard Gay. He got popular after getting featured in Bakusho Mondai no Bakuten. After getting big, he got to be in a ton of shows where his character would basically just interact with people (or “help” them, as was often the case).

And, because there’s so many videos, I thought it’d be easier to show you this compilation of “the best of Hard Gay” that someone made on YouTube.

Hard Gay was hardly gay, and probably not very helpful to any pro gay movements out there (maybe not detrimental, either, though? I have no idea), but he was probably one of the most popular one-joke Japanese wonders out there, ever. Combine physical humor, embarrassing situations, humping everything, and an easy to remember tag-line (fuuuuu!) and you’ve got yourself an almost… but not quite… long lasting Japanese comedy career. Nice try Hard Gay – even though you humped children in the face for comedy, even you couldn’t quite make it.

And Then There Were Others

Of course, many one-joke wonders didn’t make my list. These are my favorites, though, so let me know what your favorites were too, down in the comments below.

It’s strange though. Comedians get recycled so quickly on Japanese television. One moment you’re on top of Japan and everyone is doing your catch phrase (“gets gets gets!”). Then, you’ve disappeared, only to be replaced by some other one-joke wonder.

And, just in case you were wondering if any of this could make it in America… well yes… kind of… These old ladies seemed to like it, at least?

End of article FUUuUUUUuuuU!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=630637211 Brandon Inoue

    Don’t forget guitar samurai

  • Mescale

    Hard Gay may not be on the TV in Japan any more, but there is one thing we can be sure of, he’s still on the TV in our hearts.

    Oh and this page totally screws up Google Chrome seems it tries to cache all the You tube videos, using like half a gig of memory and half the processor time. FUUUUUUUU! Hard gay you little minx.
    ふううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううううう

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    hahaa, I’d never heard of Guitar Samurai before – funny!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I’m not totally sure how to fix that issue… hmmm, any ideas? :(

  • Mescale

    Not really, that’s new media for you, down with flash! Its OK at least with chrome you can just kill the naughty tab, yay for tabs as processes, down with stupid programmer controlled multi threading.

    I think the problem was I played a movie, for like a minute then I got bored, and watched the next one, meanwhile back on the farm, google chrome was buffering all the movies down a well.

    Remember kids short attention spans are ba

  • The Guest

    Thanks for this article! I met Kojima Yoshio on my first journey to Japan and was pretty shocked. But then i realized that the people around him in the street saw him not as a naked pedophile but just a nice comedian.

  • ಠ_ರೃ

     d for your health. But at least it isn’t as awkward as finishing other people’s sentences.

  • Joseph Goforth

    i’ve never quite gotten japanese comedy of that sort very well. :  but i suppose i lean more towards dry brit humour and sarcasm.  that said, this article definitely helps me get the weird references of dance moves and whatnot that pops up in anime sometimes, pretty sure i’ve seen kojima yoshio’s weird dance pop up several times.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    そんなの関係ねぇ!そんなの関係ねぇ!そんなの関係ねぇ! ブウィぃぃぃぃぃ!

  • Ryushi

    I actually thought Hiroshi was quite funny. Esp. the one about buying a loaf of bread with his otoshidama.

  • Joseph Goforth

     i wanted to respond with monty python’s lumberjack song in japanese….then realized how much insane work that is….

  • Sukibeam

    Kojima-san is actually still quite active :) He was on Quiz Hexagon II until its sudden end last year, and still has regular recurring roles on programs, like the kid’s show Oha Star.

  • Savage

    Hiroshi wasn’t an announcer but a failure of a Host. When I lived in Osaka I saw this great show where they moved all his stuff out of his apartment and reconstructed it on a sound stage. Then they took him around and showed him new apartments and he had to pick one to move into. How real it was, I have no idea, but he was basically living in a closet at the beginning of the show. The funniest apartment they showed him was all glass and faced out on a busy street, so everyone walking past could see everything inside.

  • Zaywex

    I would say there are plenty of comedic fads in America too (Chocolate Rain, I’m on a Boat, Friday, etc.). I don’t think in this case Japan and America are so different.

  • Mescale

    I’m not sure its exactly they’re the same, they’re more internet fads / memes aren’t they?

    * I move away from the keyboard to breathe *

    I kinda assumed the one trick comedians are more mainstream Japanese TV than internet fads / memes.

    I’m pretty sure the one trick comedians are older than internet fads/memes, its only recently that internet fads/memes have started crossing over into real life. 

    That said I try and avoid real life as much as possible so my sample size isn’t adequate to make any valid conclusions.

    ( I used to do real life… until I took an arrow to the knee. )

  • Zaywex

    Well my conversations with friends are inundated with references, but then again everyone I know is in love with the internet. I used to live in a less nerdy place, but then my bro got suspended in school and my dad said “You’re movin’ with your mother and your brother to Seattle.”

    I guess I’m not that representative of mainstream America either. Especially when Yahoo and MSN discover and feature three year old videos as recent fads.

    That said, it’s more the music industry than the comedy industry where I can recall many one-hit wonders offline.

    Confound these cultures, they drive me to drink.

  • Jon E.

    Hard Gay will always have special place in my heart (my comedy space, I mean).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Elizabeth-Robinson/681638783 Caroline Elizabeth Robinson

    I now know why my cousin’s Japanese foreign exchange student from a few years back would run the house yelling “gets!” Everyone thought he was just yelling “gets!’ randomly. No wonder I lost every “gets!” battle with him…

  • http://profiles.google.com/chocolightning Rachel Mark

    There’s a comedienne (?) I remember seeing on a few variety shows in Japan, back in 2009; I’m not sure what her gig was about, but she had huge fake eyebrows and people seemed to love her. I wish I could remember the name for reference! ><

  • GetIronic

    No female comedians there, just like America.

    And for the same reason.

  • Guesterman

    migi kara….migi kara…

  • http://twitter.com/stateside Jim McBride

    I miss Baka Fish some times but the same routine over and over does get tiring – for instance the blue collar comedy tour.  Larry The Cable Guy is a one hit wonder that has over stayed his welcome here

  • Chrispowell86

    That was great, well done Koichi!

  • http://twitter.com/xalking Xalk

    sounds like the life cycle of youtube celebrities.

  • Kira Minaki

     This was awesome! I wish you would put in the guys from Cocorico and Downtown though ^^ Cause they’re amazing comedians as well

  • kash

    zabunguru!

  • Ultra_Kraken

    You’re probably thinking of いもと (Imoto). She’s still around and frequently appears on the TV program イッテQ (Itte Q), travelling around the world to do stunts like race a cheetah or grapple with a bull. She’s also the co-host of a program called 世界番付 (Sekai Banzuke)。

    Racing a cheetah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z1eIzrs23Q

    A clip from Sekai Banzuke where you can also see Imoto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxVUVleAvEc

  • Shambolique

    Wow, so basically Bob Sapp’s act consists of playing off tired old sterotypes and perpetuating the “aggresive black man” as a beast schtick to Japanese audiences? That’s really depressing and certainly NOT funny.

  • grotesk_faery

    I saw a whole group of people dressed up like Hard Gay at a con once, but I had no idea they were cosplaying a character, I thought they were just dressing like leather gays to be funny.

  • http://profiles.google.com/chocolightning Rachel Mark

    I know I’m super-late, but thanks so much for taking the time to reply to my comment with so much info. I really appreciate it! :)

  • Ultra_Kraken

    No problem!

  • http://twitter.com/MrScotchpie Andrew

    Tetsu and Tomo are still pretty popular. Their song is really irritating but I see them a lot on the TV,

  • Zackitty

    Right, wrestling’s totally a joke…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxge7UY_w_Q

  • http://twitter.com/Riechanster Riechan

    I still see a lot of these appearing in Variety shows :D This helped to understand what’s so funny about them haha :D