Glossary of owarai terms

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The following glossary of words and terms (generally of Japanese origin) are related to owarai (Japanese comedy). Many of these terms may be used in areas Japanese culture beyond comedy, including television and radio, music. Some have been incorporated into normal Japanese speech.

Glossary

bangumi

番組 (bangumi). The Japanese word for television show.

boke

ボケ (boke [boke]). From the verb bokeru 惚ける or 呆ける, which carries the meaning of "senility" or "air headed-ness," and is reflected in this performer's tendency for misinterpretation and forgetfulness. The boke is the "simple-minded" member of an owarai kombi ("tsukkomi and boke", or vice versa) that receives most of the verbal and physical abuse from the "smart" tsukkomi because of the boke's misunderstandings and slip-ups. The tsukkomi (突っ込み) refers to the role the second comedian plays in "butting in" and correcting the boke's errors. It is common for tsukkomi to berate boke and hit them on the head with a swift smack; traditionally, tsukkomi often carried a fan as a multi-purpose prop, one of the uses for which was to hit the boke with. Boke and tsukkomi are loosely equivalent to the roles of "funny man" or "comic" (boke) and "straight man" (tsukkomi) in the comedy duos of western culture. Outside of owarai, boke is sometimes used in common speech as an insult, similar to "idiot" in English, or baka in Japanese.

conte

コント (konto). From the French word conte, konto refers to the style of manzai or owarai performance focusing on telling interesting tales, many of which, one must assume, are made up for the sake of humour. Also often called manzai konto (漫才コント). Short conte (ショートコント) are skits often less than 30 seconds long where the comedians act out some sort of odd encounter or conversation.

corner

コーナー (kōnā). Rarely taking the literal English meaning of the word "corner" as in "street corner" or "corner of a shape", this word is usually used in Japanese to mean "segment", as in "television segment".

dajare

ダジャレ (dajare). A type of Japanese pun or word play in which the similarities in sound of two different words or phrases are used in a joke.

dokkiri

ドッキリ (dokkiri). Recently popularized in the west by shows such as Punk'd, these hidden-camera surprise pranks have been very common on Japanese television since the 90s. Traps such as pitfalls, falling objects, and seductive idols are often used.

gag

ギャグ (gyagu). The same as the English word gag, gyagu are generally cheap jokes (though the word often describes any joke) employed by a geinin in their act. Gyagu tend to be short, physical, and often predictable. American English speakers might say "a corny joke".

geinin

芸人 (geinin). Gei means "performance" or "accomplishment", and the word geinin is often translated as "artisan". The un-abbreviated form of the word is 芸能人 (geinōjin), which means "performer" or "entertainer", but it is usually used in a context similar to the English "celebrity". Japanese comedians are usually called お笑い芸人 (owarai geinin, comedy performers) or お笑いタレント (owarai tarento, comedy talents) and talents that appear on television variety shows are usually called 芸能人タレント (geinōjin tarento, performing talents) or sometimes 若手芸人 (wakate geinin, young/newcomer talents) for newer additions to the talent pool. A ピン芸人 (pin geinin) is a solo stand-up performer.

kire

キレ or 切れ (kire). A casual word for "anger" (similar to "pissed" or "ticked"), the キレ役 (kireyaku) is a role sometimes taken by owarai geinin who have very short tempers, or pretend to. Cunning's Takeyama is well known for his short temper; his kire is his defining feature. Also, 逆ギレ (gyaku gire) is the act of getting angry at someone/something in reverse. For example: A girl cheats on her boyfriend, but then gets angry at her boyfriend when he finds out insisting that it was his fault; a man trips on a rock while walking and swears at the rock, throwing it into the woods. This is a very common role in owarai and manzai performances.

kombi

コンビ (kombi). An abbreviation of the English word "combination". Usually refers to the "combination" of two Japanese owarai talents to form a comedy unit.

konto

コント (konto). See conte.

Lumine

ルミネ (rumine). Short for "Lumine the Yoshimoto" (ルミネtheよしもと), ルミネ is a stage (劇場, gekijō) in Shinjuku's LUMINE2 building, exclusively for owarai performances. It has considerable prestige as only the best performers in Japan ever get a chance to appear on this stage in front of a mere 500 live spectators.

manzai

万歳, 万才, or (currently) 漫才 (manzai). A more traditional style of Japanese comedy.

monomane

モノマネ or 物真似 (monomane). Usually impressions of other famous Japanese people, monomane is very common in Japan and some talents have even made a career out of their monomane skills. Some geinin famous for their monomane are Korokke, Hori and Gu-ssan.

owarai

お笑い (owarai). A general term for modern Japanese comedy.

neta

ネタ (neta). Reverse spelling of the word tane (種), meaning "seed" or "pit". A neta is the background pretense of a konto skit, though it is sometimes used to refer to the contents of a segment of an owarai act, a variety show, or a news broadcast. Warai Meshi almost won the 2004 M-1 Gran Prix by doing several acts on a neta about the somewhat poorly built human models in the Asuka Historical Museum in Nara. The neta of variety shows hosted by London Boots Ichigo Nigo almost always have to do with cheating girlfriends and boyfriends. See also shimoneta.

pin geinin

ピン芸人 (pin geinin). See geinin.

shimoneta

下ネタ (shimoneta). Shimoneta is the combination of the characters shimo, meaning "low" or "down", and neta. A shimoneta is a dirty joke, usually focusing on sexual or revolting topics. Some geinin are famous for their shimoneta. For example, Beat Takeshi with his Comaneci gag, where the hands are thrust diagonally like the bottoms of a gymnast's one-piece. Another equally well known comedian is Shimura Ken, who uses the character 'Henna Oji-san' to prowl amidst nubile girls.

sur

シュール (shūru). From the French word surréalisme, sur (sometimes romanized shule) is comedy with no apparent reason or logic to it. Sur itself is not very common, or popular, though many Japanese comedians are known to try out sur on occasion in their acts. Sur exploits the natural, uncomfortable feeling that occurs when people are confused and don't know how they are supposed to react to a meaningless or unexpected joke or comment, and so they just laugh. Sur may be compared to some of the unusual humor of the late American comedian Andy Kaufman. Strictly sur kombi do exist, but it is extremely hard for sur performers to become popular.

tsukkomi

突っ込み (tsukkomi). From the verb tsukkomu (突っ込む), meaning something like "butt in", this is often the role of the partner to the boke in an owarai kombi. The tsukkomi is generally the smarter and more reasonable of the unit, and will criticize, verbally and physically abuse, and generally rail at the boke for their mistakes and exaggerations. A typical tsukkomi often slaps the boke on the back of the head, an action always accompanied by an intentionally cheesy slapping sound effect. It is common for tsukkomi in manzai to end an act with the phrase, "Let's quit!" (やめさしてもらいますわ!Yamesashite moraimasu wa!). The American equivalent is known as the straight man.

unchiku

うんちく or 蘊蓄 (unchiku). Literally a person's "stock of accumulated knowledge", unchiku usually refers to the act of complaining about something while teaching a lesson to an often uninterested audience. Cream Stew is known for unchiku.

ureteru

売れてる (ureteru). From the verb uru (売る), literally meaning "to sell", ureteru is often used in conversation referring to a performer's ability to sell their act (or themselves), and gives a little insight into the way many Japanese comedians think. An ureteru performer gets many more variety appearances, commercials, and pay from their agency than an uretenai (unable to sell) performer, and many performers determined to succeed will stop at almost nothing to promote themselves, and get "selling".

variety bangumi

バラエティ番組 (baraeti bangumi). Though similar to the concept of variety show in English, shows in Japan often venture far from the Western concept. Waratte Iitomo! and Gaki no Tsukai are among the longest running TV variety shows still on air today.

See also