Reverse Import Yumi Nagashima Brings the Laughs in Shibuya
This last Saturday (5/25/2019) I had the pleasure of seeing the stand-up of Yumi Nagashima in a sold-out performance at the Millennials in Shibuya. Yumi is an interesting case of a Japanese comedian who found her creative voice abroad before returning to Japan. According to a very informative article in the Georgia Straight, Yumi moved to Canada with her English teacher husband only to find married life a poor fit. She struck out on her own and was eventually introduced to stand-up comedy through her now partner, Byron Bertram (who also headlined on Saturday and brought the house down with a great 30 minute set himself). Again, for more background info on her read this excellent article.
On Saturday night, Yumi certainly made it clear that she would not play the role/stereotype of the traditional, demure Japanese woman. After describing her mother’s advice for her to settle down and have kids, in a sweet tone she replies with, “Fuck that shit”. Certainly, no one watching her somewhat raunchy set on Saturday would confuse her the (often mistaken) image of the subservient Japanese woman. In fact, Yumi uses the gap between her small stature, unmistakable Japanese accent and her fowl mouthed material to her advantage comedically, consistently eliciting laughter from her audiences.
The tone of the material, while in the realm of current stand-up in the West, is completely different than what one might see of female Japanese comedians when performing domestically. In general, in Japanese comedy most comedians shy away from sexual humor or shimoneta and women certainly do not address sexual acts with the glee that Yumi does on stage. It would seem that English language and the world of stand-up has freed Yumi up to speak her mind and allowed her to get away with a kind of humor that just doesn’t happen in Japanese.
Actually, Yumi was first brought to my attention by a Japanese comedian who sent me a link to one of her YOUTUBE clips that recently has helped greatly to boost her notoriety in past year or so. Her dry and somewhat black humor was right up my alley so when I heard she would be performing in Tokyo I decided to see her for myself. Time permitting, in the future I would love to interview her for her views on performing as a Japanese woman in the world of English-language stand-up. For now, I’ll just have to settle for her promising performance last Saturday. Check out some of her stand-up below: