Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Tokyo Comedy Store

Photo: Tokyo Comedy Store

Tokyo Comedy Store

Ellen Smyth

As the cool autumnal evenings draw in, it’s time to swap straw hats for wool berets. Trade sweet iced tea for hot cappuccino. Monsoon rains have wrecked rooftop BBQs for the last time. As we wave goodbye to the beer garden ('til next summer, old friend), what will fill the void? The Tokyo Comedy Store awaits.

The Tokyo Comedy Store celebrates two main types of comedy in English: Improv and Stand-Up. The Improvazilla Show is held on the last Friday of every month at the Crocodile Live House in Shibuya. A medley of stories, gags and bantering with the audience, culminating in a different Improvised Musical Premiere each month, with a title and hit songs drawn from the audience. All in 2.5 hours? It's tiring just thinking about it. To reserve tickets for the next show (1,500 yen), click here.


Photo: Tokyo Comedy Store
The Comedy Store goes to it’s audience - mainly English speaking visitors or residents - so performance locations vary around Tokyo. The Two Dogs Taproom in Roppongi hosts the Two Dogs Comedy Show, entry to which costs 1000 yen and includes a free drink (phew!). Fortunately, there is an extensive craft beer selection which you can in turn, gaffaw into and wince behind. Gamuso is a lively bar in Asagaya which hosts comedy store shows and live music events. While the Double Tall Cafe in Shibuya holds a free New Material night on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The Hobgoblin, Shibuya shows sports events and a free comedy show on the third Thursday of every month, starting off with open mic, then bringing in the crowd pleasers. The privilege of being a Tokyo Comedy Store guinea pig is free of charge, lucky us! Although buying a drink or some food is encouraged. I know, the things we'll do for a laugh.

Some performers get their giggles bringing to life personal anecdotes or putting the spotlight on careful observations. Others are downright rude. But some hone in on those subtle things about everyday life in Japan that are difficult to articulate (at least comically, dear audience member). Miscommunication. ‘Combeni’ horrors. Mount Fuji crowds. The saturating number of vending machines. A perfunctory gesture gone awry. Essentially a movie montage of what it's like to be a "Gaijin" in Japan. There are aspects of life in Japan that we share and recognise in each other. Things that gratify, grate, grind, and occasionally, unite us.

Despite, or perhaps because of it’s size, Tokyo can be a lonely place. According to Population News of Major Cities in 2015, Tokyo City has a population of 9, 233, 460 people. While Demographia World Urban Areas states that the Tokyo-Yokohama Urban Area population reached 37.8 million residents this year. Regardless of how we quantify it, Tokyo appears as a big, sprawling metropolis. So whether it’s the familiarity of experience or our alienation from it that makes us laugh, both remind us of an important fact. We are not alone.


Photo: Free for Commercial Use on Flickr
During Stand-Up, comic cultural ambassadors come from all over to regale us in five to fifteen minute slots each. You can imagine the ever expanding range of styles, subject matters and personalities when the performers are from Africa, Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, South America, UK, USA, (and more!) The Tokyo Comedy Store is here to quench your comic thirst so if drinking the draft is not enough, perhaps crafting will do the trick. The community offers Improv Workshops and Stand-up Workshops, so if you think you've got the gift of the gab, or you're looking to try something new, why not give it a go?

The Tokyo Comedy Store tag line is: “Funnier than you think we’ll be!” This addresses the idea that the English comedy scene in Tokyo might not rank highly in comparison to those bastions of performance art: London, Edinburgh, New York. In acknowledging the doubters, The Comedy Store owns the statement. And with it, dares you to judge for yourself.

To find out what’s on this month, check out the Tokyo Comedy Store schedule.