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Learn about お笑い (Owarai, Comedy) in Japanese


Learn about お笑い (Owarai, Comedy) in Japanese

Welcome back to our “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video, Wasabi Japanese tutor Miki teaches about お(わら)い (Owarai, Comedy) in Japanese. Miki will introduce different types of popular Japanese comedy and all relevant related terms and phrases.

Table of Contents

[Related Vocabulary]

[漫才(まんざい) (Manzai)]

[コント & ショートコント]



In this lesson, Miki introduced concepts and vocabulary related to Japanese comedy. Comedy is called “お(わら)” in Japan.
Japan has many unique types of comedy that differ vastly from what you see in other countries, so in this article, we will take a look the most common types out there, what they are called, and which related terms will be useful to learn.

[Related Vocabulary]

First, let’s take a look at some general terms you can use when speaking about comedy.

There are two slang words related to comedy that you will often hear while talking about Japanese comedy shows. The first one is used when jokes go well and is called “うける”.

うける (Sometimes also ウケる)
To be funny

When a comedian is not very funny, you can say “すべる”.

すべる (Sometimes also (すべ)る)
To fail when telling a joke

Ukeru literally means to “to receive, to accept”. Used as a long word it conveys that you get the joke and find it funny.
Suberu literally translates to “to slip, to slide”. When used in relation to comedy, it refers to someone making an unsuccessful joke.

For example:

That comedian wasn’t funny at all today.

That performance is really funny, isn’t it?

(げい)” refers to a performance. Scripted jokes performed in お(わら)い are called “ネタ”. This is interesting because when talking about Sushi the Sashimi part of Sushi is referred to as ネタ as well. It’s the good part of the Sushi!
“ネタを(かんが)える” means to think about or to come up with scripted jokes. Another term that is often used is “自虐(じぎゃく)ネタ”, which means a self-deprecating joke. For example:

A comedian whose strength are his self-deprecating jokes

[漫才(まんざい) (Manzai)]

The first type of お(わら)い we are going to look at is called “漫才(まんざい)”. Manzai is a traditional Japanese style of stand-up comedy which usually involved two people who play the roles of “ボケ”, the silly one, and “つっこみ”, the smart one. These two have a fast-paced, humorous conversation. Puns are performed through a form of intentional misunderstandings by the silly one, which are corrected by the smart one.

[コント & ショートコント]

The second type of お(わら)い we will explain today is called “コント” or “ショートコント”. These terms originate from the French word “conte”, which means “story, tale”. In Japanese comedy, not only to people speak on stage, but they also perform short, comical plays. コント involved dressing up and using make-up and tools, just like a play, whereas during a ショートコント the performer usually doesn’t use a lot of tools. Before they begin their コント or ショートコント, the performers will dramatically state the title of their play.

For example, the comedian will say “ショートコント・店員(てんいん)さん”, and the show begins.

Japanese お(わら)い makes observational jokes not just through words, but sometimes through songs written by the comedians. These comical songs are called “リズムネタ”, which literally translates to “rhythmic jokes”.


The last type of お(わら)い for today is called “リアクション(げい)”. The literal translation is “reaction performance”. This means humour conveyed through physicality – similar to slapstick comedy in Western comedy. One popular comedian who does “リアクション(げい)” is called 出川哲郎 (Degawa Tetsuro). His comical facial expressions and overt physical reactions have been very popular for a long time in Japanese comedy shows. For example:

Degawa Tetsuro’s slapstick comedy is the best, isn’t it?

That’s everything for today. Thank you for reading this article, and please feel free to consult our native Japanese language teachers if you have any further questions!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
(わら) Comedy
英語圏(えいごけん) English-speaking world
様々(さまざま) Various
種類(しゅるい) Type, kind, variety
漫才(まんざい) Manzai, comic dialogue
ボケ The “stupid” one in Manzai comedy
つっこみ The “smart” one in Manzai comedy
うける To find something funny, to be funny
すべる To tell a joke that’s not funny
(げい) Performance
芸人(げいにん) Performer
ネタ Joke material
自虐(じぎゃく)ネタ Self-deprecating joke
コント Comic play
ショートコント Short comic play
リズムネタ Musical jokes
リアクション(げい) Comical performance based on physical reactions

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