Comedy is a strange thing. It takes on many forms around the world. It can be something as simple as a kick in the groin or as complex as an analogy that touches on socially taboo issues. On the spectrum of world comedy I’m not so sure where the Japanese variety sits. Unlike the chicken and that road, it seems the idea of “two guys walking into a bar” never crossed the Pacific. Although present in Japan, the concept of stand-up comedy is far from mainstream. Comedy in Japan is more of a performance based on physical humor and subtle cultural nuances. Perhaps this is a derivative of the classic 能(Nou) and 歌舞伎(kabuki) styles of theater. Maybe it’s just a matter of social differences and taste. I hypothesize that the Japanese want an outrageous and silly escape from the realities of life. However, many American audiences enjoy irony, cynicism, and a very brutal examination of the world we inhabit. (These are very overarching umbrella concepts in order to frame the large and complex idea of geographical-comic-differences.) In order to explore this idea of Japanese humor, lets do a Comic-Case-Study on one of my favorite comedians; エガちゃん。
What do you get when you combine tights, the conservative nature of Japanese society, and a skinny-middle-aged-mentally-ill-weirdo who has no qualms about showing his package to anyone and everyone? Comic Genius? Idiocracy? Television Gold? Dead Brain Cells? Pee-in-your-pants-laughter? Insanity? Or plane old shock, awe, and disgust? Well, maybe you get a little bit of all of that, which is actually exactly what I want. エガちゃん, or Egashira 2:50 (江頭2:50 Egashira niji gojuppunn), is kind of like a mix between Gilbert Godfrey, Richard Simmons, Chevy Chase, and Steve-O. Quite the potent cocktail of a human being huh?
How does one explain the success and popularity of エガちゃん? Although it isn’t hard to see, at least in my opinion, why he’s likable, popularity in Japan is often ultra-fleeting. “Here today gone tomorrow” is given an entirely different meaning. However, despite the media saying he is crude and based only on shock value, he remains a popular character on mainstream tv. So this begs the question – “Is he a complete idiot or a comic genius.” In regards to this style of comedy I think you can be a complete idiot without being a comic genius, but I’m not so sure you can be a comic genius without being a complete idiot. By Complete Idiot I mean; Stupid A*%. And by Stupid A#@ I mean; that rare and magical combination of physical presence and human energy which makes a person larger than life. In that way エガちゃん is both a complete idiot and a comic genius. Egashira san, like so many other performers, is one of a kind. His brilliance lies in the fact that no one could do what he does. The Ega chan formula can not be reproduced. As a performance based comic he relies heavily on his body and physical image. It’s that frail, feeble, and somewhat grotesque physical image that encapsulates much of his character and uniqueness. You can say what you want of is comedy and methods, but there is no denying he’s one of a kind.
Comedians like this give a different window into the world of Japanese culture and human nature in general. These type of loud-mouthed-boisterous-loose-cannon-antics, are not at all what one would expect. Although through the years the peculiarities of Japanese TV and their inconsistency with the rest of the culture, has been noticed.
When first delving into the stylings of エガちゃん, you should be aware of certain themes and inevitable happenings. As mentioned earlier he is keen on getting naked wherever and whenever possible. Thankfully these antics are always blurred out so it’s really nothing more than a pg13 movie. He usually tears his tights off and jokingly attacks the women around him. It sounds much worse than it is. Or maybe it’s much worse than it sounds? In addition to his nude shenanigans, you will almost always see エガちゃん do his trade-mark ドン。This involves him sticking his arm down the front of his tights and thrusting his fist into the air while he screams ドン。 This ドン（don) refers to テポドン －Taepodon; Taep’o-dong; North Korean ballistic missile. This is obviously an analogy alluding to… well I think you get the idea if I said he’s acting like there is a rocket in his pants.
A short mash-up of some great moments
These two videos are of Ega-chan doing chracters which is more like traditional stand-up comedy.
This is a link to a YouTube playlist containing 100’s of Ega-chan videos, which I can’t get enough of.
That should appease your comedy fix for the weekend. ドーン