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Owarai glossary

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This page describes words and terms (generally of Japanese origin) relating to owarai (Japanese comedy). Many of these terms may be used in areas of Japanese culture outside comedy, including television and radio, music, or some may even be used in normal Japanese speech.

番組 (bangumi). The Japanese word for show.

ボケ (boke [boh-keh or boh-kay]). 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 member of an owarai kombi ("tsukkomi and boke", or vice versa) that receives most of the verbal and physical abuse from the 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.
  • OUTSIDE OF OWARAI: In common speech "boke" is sometimes used as an insult, similar to "idiot" in English, or baka in Japanese, though less insulting; however, the roles of tsukkomi and boke are often adopted temporarily among friends in daily life for enjoyment. It is, of course, insulting not to acknowledge that your friend has adopted the boke role by adopting the tsukkomi role–thereby implying your friend is not playing the boke, but actually stupid.
  • OTHER JAPANESE MEANINGS OF THE ANGLICIZED SPELLING "BOKE": Boke or bokeh—blur in photography, AND, Boke—flowering Japanese quince.
  • FOR NON-JAPANESE "BOKE," see Boke (disambiguation).

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.

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".

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.

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

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".

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.

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.

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.

コント (konto). See conte.

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.

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

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 Hori and Gu-ssan.

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

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.

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, such as Beat Takeshi with his Comaneci gag, where the hands are thrust diagonally like the bottoms of a gymnast's one-piece.

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.

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!).

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's Ueda is known for unchiku and his long-winded philosophical sermons are part of his comedic arsenal.

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 essentially identical to the concept of variety show in English, variety shows in Japan are much more popular and come in many different styles, often venturing far from the average Western idea of a variety show. Waratte wa Iitomo! and Gaki no Tsukai are among the longest running variety shows still on air today.

See also


Published - February 2009

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