15 Hilarious Japanese Comedy Shows for Language Lessons While You Laugh
Japanese comedy can be… strange.
But in a good way.
There’s not much else like it, and Western comedy really can’t match the ironic surrealism of Japan’s token comedy styles.
Still, anybody can enjoy good Japanese comedy, whether it’s a game show, cult classic or an anime.
And for Japanese learners, engaging in a bit of Japanese entertainment is a great way to brush up on your fluency.
Read on for our awesome list of 15 Japanese comedy shows, plus a quick primer on the different kinds of Japanese comedy.
- 1. “Last One Standing”
- 2. “Why Did You Come to Japan?”
- 3. “Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman”
- 4. “Mecha-Mecha Cool!”
- 5. “Nogizaka Under Construction”
- 6. “Spooky Romantics”
- 7. “Wednesday’s Downtown”
- 8. The Naked Director
- 9. “Tokyo Tarareba Girls”
- 10. “Showdown! Takeshi’s Castle”
- 11. “The Quest”
- 12. “My ☆ Boss, My ☆ Hero”
- 13. “Overprotected Kahoko”
- 14. “Operation Love”
- 15. “Punch Line”
- Different Types of Japanese Comedy
1. “Last One Standing”
Japanese Name: トークサバイバー！(とーくさばいばー！)
“Last One Standing” has a unique format: think of it as a mishmash of a reality show and a crime drama with plenty of comedic elements.
The story revolves around a mysterious crime at a school, and characters are played by actual comedians, including the popular duo Chidori. The comedians regularly step out of their characters to share real-life anecdotes, and each episode, at least one character gets eliminated based on the quality of their jokes.
Since it’s available on Netflix, you can access both Japanese and English subtitles.
2. “Why Did You Come to Japan?”
Japanese Name: YOUは何しに日本へ？(ゆう は なにしに にっぽんへ？)
This show involves two Japanese comedians who hang outside of national airports to ask non-Japanese travelers why they came to Japan. The results are often much more hilarious than you’d expect.
“Why Did You Come to Japan?” deals with English-speaking foreigners and Japanese-speaking natives, so the show can help learners see the differences between both languages.
3. “Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman”
Japanese Name: さぼリーマン甘太朗 (さぼりーまんあまたろう)
If you love food (and want an extra dose of humor to go with it), then check out this show. It’s a quirky drama-comedy that revolves around Arashi Ichinose, a seemingly serious businessman with an intense passion for wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets). Each episode features Ichinose discovering a Japanese dessert and then exploring its history, craftsmanship and the shops that sell it, with theatrical reactions.
The show mostly uses standard, formal language, and you can pick up both business Japanese (thanks to all the office scenes!) plus more niche vocabulary about food. Since it’s on Netflix with Japanese and English subtitles, even beginner learners can enjoy it.
4. “Mecha-Mecha Cool!”
Japanese Name: メチャ ² イケテル ッ ! (めちゃ めちゃ いけてるっ!)
If you could compare this Japanese comedy show to anything in the West, it could be “Saturday Night Live.” The sketches on this show are hilarious and often absurd, and are mostly based around different types of games. Warning: this one is addictive.
“Mecha-Mecha Cool!” is a perfect choice for learners who want to learn more about Japanese comedy and speech.
5. “Nogizaka Under Construction”
Japanese Name: 乃木坂工事中 (のぎざかこうじちゅう)
“Nogizaka Under Construction” focuses on the members of Nogizaka46, a famous all-female idol group in Japan. Although their line-up has changed over the years, they’ve been around since 2011, and they’ve built up a dedicated fan base.
Through the show, you’ll find out about the members’ personalities, group dynamics and off-stage lives, with a comedy duo as the host.
Episodes are uploaded on YouTube for easy viewing. If you’re curious about Japanese pop culture—especially idol groups—then you can learn a lot from this show!
6. “Spooky Romantics”
Japanese Name: 怪奇恋愛作戦 (かいき れんあい さくせん)
Who doesn’t love a little bit of horror and romance mixed in with their comedy? This Japanese drama-comedy is also known as “Horror Love Operation.” Three wildly different 30-somethings attempt to sort through their personal and work lives, all while battling a very strange monster.
This is a captivating Japanese series with a lot of elements you wouldn’t usually see together. Not only is it entertaining, but it’s also perfect for learning to understand natural spoken Japanese. Even though this show is scripted, the dialogue is a bit faster than regular dramas. As you watch you’ll get more comfortable keeping up with the speed of native Japanese conversations.
7. “Wednesday’s Downtown”
Japanese Name: 水曜日のダウンタウン (すいようびのだうんたうん)
“Wednesday’s Downtown” is hosted by comedy duo Downtown, which consists of Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada. Bothof them have been fixtures in Japan’s comedy scene for over three decades.
In this show, they’re joined each week by guest celebrities and comedians. Expect to watch a lot of improv skits, pranks and silly competitions, plus absurd conversations that poke fun at everyday life.
The show is so well-liked that there’s even a related subreddit and a community-run project that releases fan-made subtitles of episodes. While the dialog can get fast-paced, it’s one of the most approachable Japanese variety shows.
8. The Naked Director
Japanese Name: 全裸監督 (ぜんらかんとく)
“The Naked Director” delves into the life and career of Toru Muranishi, a controversial director who changed the Japanese porn industry forever in the 1980s. It’s a fascinating blend of real-life drama and satire, showing how Muranishi went from a failed salesman to an innovative filmmaker. His driving force? The mission to make Japan’s first ever uncensored film.
There’s quite a lot of laugh-out-loud moments plus more explicit adult humor. Both of its seasons are available on Netflix.
9. “Tokyo Tarareba Girls”
Japanese Name: 東京タラレバ娘 (とうきょう たられば むすめ)
“I spent all my time wondering ‘What if?’ Then one day I woke up and I was 33.“
Wow, talk about relatable. This show gets real, but it’s also totally hilarious.
“Tokyo Tarareba Girls” is based on the manga of the same name. A young woman is unsatisfied in her personal and work life, usually dealing with her displeasure by drinking with her childhood friends.
One night, while loudly complaining about their lack of marriage, someone gives them some hard truth that complaining will get them nowhere. Our heroine then makes a pact with herself to be married within six years.
10. “Showdown! Takeshi’s Castle”
Japanese Name: 風雲！たけし城 (ふううん！たけし じょう)
We mentioned “Showdown!” in the introduction, so there’s no way we could leave it off of this list! This show was a hit in the ’90s—and there’s a more modern version that you can watch now too. Absurd performances, strange competitions, silly games. This show has it all.
“Showdown!” is an excellent viewing choice for all levels of learners because it’s such a Japanese classic. Essential viewing, if you will.
11. “The Quest”
Japanese Name: 世界の果てまでイッテQ! (せかいの はてまで いって きゅー!)
“The Quest” (or “Itte Q”) has been running since 2007, and it’s still a popular variety show until today, with a cult-like following. The premise is simple: cast members—mainly comedians and TV personalities—go on overseas assignments. They participate in quirky local festivals, compete in challenges and even go on treks in remote corners of the world (as far as Antarctica and the Amazon!).
Most of the episodes online are raw (no English subtitles), so it’s best for intermediate or advanced learners.
12. “My ☆ Boss, My ☆ Hero”
Japanese Name: マイ☆ボス マイ☆ヒーロー (まい☆ ぼす まい☆ ひーろー)
“My Boss, My Hero” is a Japanese drama-comedy based off of a South Korean film of the same name. The series follows a yakuza member who isn’t the smartest, but wants to take over the leadership from his father. In order to succeed, his father gives him a deal. If he can graduate high school at 27 years old, then he can become the gang’s leader.
Due to the scripted nature of this dramedy, it’s much easier to keep up with the slow-paced dialogue.
13. “Overprotected Kahoko”
Japanese Name: 過保護のカホコ (かほごの かほこ)
“Overprotected Kahoko” is another great Japanese drama-comedy. A sheltered 21-year-old student named Kahoko relies a bit too much on her mother to do everything for her. When she meets a young man who’s had the opposite life, things get a little crazy.
You can watch “Overprotected Kahoko” on Amazon Prime with English subtitles. Like with most scripted dramas, this one is great for beginner learners.
14. “Operation Love”
Japanese Name: プロポーズ大作戦 (ぷろぽーず だいさくせん)
“Operation Love” is a little bit drama, a little bit comedy and a little bit science fiction. You read that correctly!
Ken is distraught when his lost love gets married to another man. He ends up getting in touch with a fairy who allows him to travel back in time to fix their relationship. Over the series, he tries to correct his mistakes one by one, but then he often ends up in awkward, unpredictable scenarios.
The dialogue isn’t too fast-paced, plus the characters span different ages and backgrounds so you’ll hear a wide range of speech styles.
15. “Punch Line”
Japanese Name: 笑点 (しょうてん)
Also known as “Shōten,” this Japanese comedy is one of the longest-running TV shows in Japan, starting in 1966 and still going strong. This series mixes the Rakugo style of comedy with an almost gameshow style. Much of it involves improv and features some seriously catchy music.
You can watch clips and episodes from “Shōten” on YouTube, though much of what’s available doesn’t have subtitles.
Different Types of Japanese Comedy
To really grasp the humor used in some of these awesome Japanese TV comedies, it’s helpful to understand different types of Japanese comedy:
- 狂言 (きょうげん) — Kyōgen: Literally “wild speech,” this type of Japanese comedy involves traditional theater. When traditional 能 (のう ) — talent performances (known popularly as “Noh”) came about in the early 14th century, Kyōgen came with it and served as a sort of intermission comic relief for dramatic Noh performances.
- 落語 (らくご ) — Rakugo: “Fallen words” can be seen as a type of standup comedy, though the comedian is usually sitting down. (Ha!) A comedian will sit on the stage with only a fan and a cloth for props, and they’ll tell a comical story, often using vocal impersonations of different characters.
- 漫才 (まんざい ) — Manzai: This translates to a form of the word “comedy.” A manzai performance involves two comedians doing standup comedy together. Typically, one comedian is the “dumb” one and the other is the “slick” one. Manzai usually involves a ton of puns, misunderstandings and quick talking.
- コント (こんと) — Konto: “Konto” is a transliteration of the French word conte, meaning “tale.” A group of comedians perform a sketch involving a funny story or a surreal event. They typically wrap up after a few minutes, but the subject matter is always very strange and bizarre.
- お笑い (おわらい) — Owarai: Owarai—literally meaning “a laugh” or “a smile”—is a general term for all comedy, but is mostly used to describe comedy one finds on Japanese TV. Owarai typically involves game shows, performances, chat shows, etc.
- 二人羽織り (ににん ばおり) — Nininbaori: Literally “two person connection,” this one is quite niche. Nininbaori involves two people wearing one big coat, with one comedian being the head and the other comedian hidden in the coat being the arms. The humor comes from the lack of coordination and silliness of the situation.
All of the comedy shows in this guide are entertaining and have merit for Japanese learners. Even if you’re a beginner who can’t keep up without English subtitles, you can still learn about context clues, Japanese speech speed and modern Japanese culture.
There’s also FluentU, which curates clips from Japanese TV series, YouTube videos, comedy skits and more—all with learner features.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Japanese media is an absolute treasure trove. So why not make a day of it and start binge-watching the comedy shows above? Enjoy and don’t forget that 習うより慣れよ (ならうより なれよ) — practice makes perfect!
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