Comedy in the US is a pretty lonely business. When you think of major comedians, you think of solo acts like Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., or Chris Rock. True comedy duos haven’t been around since the days of Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy.
It’s a lot different in Japan. While there are definitely a ton of successful solo comedians, there’s also a lot of comedy duos. My favorite Japanese comedy duo of all time is probably the Rahmens (ラーメンズ).
The Rahmens is a sketch comedy duo that have been around for almost 20 years, and in that time have done some of the funniest sketch comedy I’ve ever seen.
The Japanese Tradition
The Rahmens is the creative mind behind the most genius video series of all time, The Japanese Tradition. The premise is pretty simple: just imagine every TV special you’ve ever seen about ~the mystery of Japanese culture~, and you’re almost there.
The Japanese Tradition gets enough of the details to appear credible on the surface, but the rest of the details are . . . less than accurate. See for yourself:
This is the first video I saw from the Rahmens, and it left me both laughing and kind of baffled. In case you’re wondering, the Japanese don’t actually eat panda sushi. You can and should, however, ask sushi chefs about their secret histories.
When I was little, I learned how to use chopsticks the wrong way and have never been able to rectify it. Fortunately, The Japanese Tradition has helped me master the daimyo technique of holding chopsticks. Very useful!
The origami edition of The Japanese Tradition is probably my favorite out of them all. The “fold off” is just so absurd and over the top that it doesn’t even pretend to be real. I love it!
Apple has put out some of the most iconic commercials ever, including the “1984” ad, colorful iPod commercials and the “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” commercials.
The format of a lot of these commercials have been successful overseas too, including in Japan, where the Rahmens acted in the “I’m a Mac” commercials.
Even if you don’t understand Japanese at all, you can more or less get the gist of what’s going on in the The Rahmens’ version since it’s more or less just like the original.
Besides The Japanese Tradition and the Apple commercials, the Rahmens have worked on a ton of their own original projects, including the most educational comedy sketch ever.
It’s called 不思議の国の日本, or “Japan: The Myserious Country,” and it breaks down Japan prefecture by prefecture, taking a look at all of stereotypes.
Ironically, this is probably more educational than funny to me, since I don’t know a whole lot about all the different prefectures in Japan. I’m mostly just thankful that whoever subbed these videos included cultural notes.
The Rahmens haven’t been as high profile in recent years, which isn’t surprising considering that they’ve been around since 1996. Still, their amazing sketches are more than enough to last me.