The Japanese Game/Variety Show

“Japanese game shows,” perhaps more accurately referred to as Japanese variety shows, are fairly famous around the world as a genre. Known for their over-the-top wackiness, Japanese variety shows have inspired spin-offs in other countries, such as America’s I Survived a Japanese Game Show, as well as parodies in popular programming like The Simpsons. Of course, an outsider’s view of the genre can be a little warped, as some of the parodies make the variety shows seem even more wacky than they are, but the fact is that a Japanese variety show can be pretty strange to a person not accustomed to the genre.

Most Japanese variety shows combine a series of quizzes, musical performances, stunts, pranks, and comedy routines. They may have Japanese celebrity guests who do more than just answer a few questions and put on a performance–they can participate in all the stunts and quizzes as well. The stunts can range from physical challenges to eating food to designing underwear. There’s always something new and bizarre awaiting those who tune in.

The Japanese variety show may also be known for its over-the-top costumes and set designs. Perhaps more over-the-top than costumes and set designs are actually the actions of the host(s) and guests on the show. Japanese humor relies largely on physical humor and zany expressions, perhaps somewhat like Jim Carrey humor during his height of popularity in the 1990s. So when Japanese variety shows are trying to get a laugh, the host(s) and guests can do some pretty strange-seeming things to someone who’s not into physical humor.

Perhaps the most popular Japanese variety show is Waratte Iitomo! (“It’s Okay to Laugh!”), which has been on air with new episodes five days a week since 1982. Japanese comedian Tamori (real name Morita Kazuyoshi) has been the host the entire time and has even earned accolades in the 2003 Guinness Book of World Records for having hosted 5000 episodes of the show.

Here are a few examples of Japanese variety shows:

Waratte Iitomo


Have you ever watched any Japanese variety shows? Did you like them or find them odd (or both)? Do they remind you of any shows from your own country?

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Tags: comedy, humor, japan, japanese culture, japanese entertainment, television, variety shows