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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

British comedy returns to Tokyo

Special to The Japan Times

Stand-up comedians, like parents, have a tendency never to give up on a joke. They keep going until it somehow makes someone laugh, even if it's only because of the absurd amount of effort they've put into it.

Gina Yashere
Gina Yashere

But there is a difference between someone who thinks they are funny and someone who can consistently produce laughs for a living.

"Anyone can be funny. But the real question is whether you can translate that to a room full of strangers and convince them that you are funny," says Gina Yashere in a scratchy London accent.

Schooled in British wit, Yashere is a seasoned stand-up comedian who brings a fresh taste of observational humor to the stage, often poking fun at her Nigerian upbringing and the world-wide perception of Nigerians.

"I like the immediate reaction that comes with stand-up comedy," she says.

This you can see for yourself in her fearless performances; you get the impression she just comes out with exactly what she's thinking when she's on stage.

The north Londoner worked as a lift engineer in Edinburgh before she got her break in the comedy world.

"I decided never to go back to it," she says.

Now Yashere is one of the best-known faces in the scene, performing around the world and up and down the U.K.

In a few short years, she has crammed in appearances on British TV sketch shows, done voice-overs for comic animation series, and presented and hosted TV shows, but next month she makes a welcome return to the stage in Tokyo.

Born and bred in London, her background gives her a different slant on British humor, fusing a feisty, out-of-control attitude with an enchanting and magnetic charm.

"I don't know what makes British comedy unique," says Yashere. "I guess we have far more irony and sarcasm, and we just come from a different perspective and are more downbeat about it."

Yashere represents one third of the latest lineup for the Punchline Comedy Club, which brings comics to Asia from the West on a monthly basis. The June shows will see a mixed bag of British comics take the mike at Pizza Express in Harajuku.

Micky Flanagan has been dubbed an "intellectual cockney" by critics. Ruthless and unstoppable with his wit and relentless in his pursuit of laughs, Flanagan is a natural storyteller, often tapping into his east London background to dispel and reassert stereotypes in equal measure.

Yashere and Flanagan will be joined by Michael McIntyre, an up-and-coming comic who is something of an enigma. His posh comedy act recently won him a performance in front of the queen at the Royal Variety Show on the BBC.

His act usually consists of a long-winded comic soliloquy, with McIntyre questioning everything with his erratic mannerisms — worth watching for his hilarious facial expressions alone.

If British comedy is your cup of tea, head down to the Punchline Comedy Club at Harajuku's Pizza Express on June 7 or 8.

Tickets can be purchased for 8,700 yen.

Phone (03) 5775-3894 for reservations.

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