The December issue of Wired has an article about Japanese humor and the painfully hilarious batsu game culture.
Much has been written about Japan’s gross national cool—the worldwide demand for the country’s fashion, cuisine, anime, manga, videogames, and consumer electronics. But less attention has been paid to the country’s gross national gross—unscripted TV shows focused on imaginatively disgusting and cruel physical challenges—even though they’re just as popular and influential.
You might remember that way back in the day I posted about Nasubi, the guy who was stuck in a tiny apartment for over a year writing letters to sweepstakes in the hopes of putting some clothes on his back and maybe feed himself something more than uncooked rice. I also taught you how to do the kancho (very important if you want to prove your know-how in Japanese culture.) And you can always tell a real Japanese person from a fake one by whether they think this Shimura Ken Thriller parody is ridiculous or funny. (A real Japanese person would think both, of course, and the two are never mutually exclusive.)
The kicker of the Wired article really takes home the idea that Japanese and American humor are truly very different:
Yoshimoto CEO Osaki is cautiously optimistic. “It might take a thousand years for us to reach Hollywood, but I think we have a shot at it,” he says as he puffs on a Lucky Strike. But he’s not betting on Louis CK and Sarah Silverman performing batsu game challenges. And he isn’t sure that different humor styles always mix. “I personally don’t find American stand-up that funny,” Osaki says. “Maybe it’s lost in translation.”