An interview with Yuriko Kotani, that Japanese comedian who went viral

An interview with Yuriko Kotani, that Japanese comedian who went viral

Show me the funny

Text: Adibah Isa

Japanese comedian Yuriko Kotani talks to us ahead of her second show in Singapore at Magners International Comedy Festival

For Yuriko Kotani, comedy was the last thing she ever imagined herself doing. Growing up in Japan, the comedian always tried to say silly things and make people giggle, but she never thought it would manifest into a career. A move to the UK, however, showed her the funny, quite literally. Kotani began performing stand-up in 2014, steadily raising her profile through comedy competitions. After Time Out called her the “One To Watch”, she became the first runner up in So You Think You're Funny 2015, won the Brighton Comedy Festival's Squawker Award 2015 and nabbed the BBC New Comedy Award 2015, beating out five other up-and-coming comedians.

What really caught our attention was the video of her performance on the BBC, which went viral. She shared bits and bobs about her life in the UK, delivering observational punchlines in a blunt, deadpan style. Taking jabs at her own upbringing and culture, her style of comedy is delightfully sharp — there's no denying that quintessentially dry British humour that has seeped through. Find out more about Kotani ahead of her show in an email interview below.

Comedy! A very British word

What happens when a Japanese mother tries to grasp a very British word? Here's Yuriko Kotani.

Posted by BBC World Service on Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Why did you move to the UK?
It wasn't anything to do with comedy. My sense of wanting to see the world brought me to the UK.

What would you say is the most Japanese thing about your comedy style?

Although I am from Japan, I was more influenced by British comedy. For example, I loved The League of Gentlemen or The Mighty Boosh, which were recommended to me when I moved to the UK. The first time I watched them, it blew my mind. I've never seen anything like that in Japan. They are dark, hilarious and wonderful.

Do you think comedy often comes from a place of adversity? 

Everything can become material so sometimes extreme behaviour is a good fun place to start. My comedy is about laughing at things that I notice and find funny. Moving to a different part of the world has given me life experience. And that, especially the tough parts, taught me a lot. Because of that, I can try to see many things from different angles. That's very useful for my writing process.

You recently did your first panel show at The Dog Ate My Homework. What are the expectations from such a panel show? Can we expect to see you in more variety shows?
The pressure of being spontaneously funny is huge, but the production team at The Dog Ate My Homework was exceptional and made me feel so welcome and comfortable. I look forward to doing more. I have recently being taking some improv courses and am working on that side of my performance. I would like to continue improving in all aspects of my comedy — be it panel shows, variety shows, acting or writing. It's all so much fun and a wonderful learning curve.

What are your plans for 2018?
I'm taking another 40-minute work-in-progress show to the Edinburgh Festival and using the time to work on developing my debut hour for 2019. I'm so proud to have been asked to perform at the Magners Comedy Festival this year. Come and say hello or follow me on Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with what I am doing next.

Catch Yuriko Kotani at Magners International Comedy Festival at Beer Exchange, Crazy Elephant and McGettigan's from 8 to 11 March. Book tickets.