Have you ever run into someone, on the subway, perhaps, or in line at a Starbucks, and noticed they’d forgotten to close up the zipper on their jeans or had their skirt tucked into their underwear? Inner conflict follows as you weigh the pros and cons of telling them about it. On the one hand, that person is almost certainly going to think you’re a jerk for pointing out their social faux pas, but on the other hand, you’d be saving them the untold awkwardness of interacting with everyone all day with their underwear half sticking out of their open fly.
There may be a good middle-ground solution though, according to one Japanese comedian: Just tell them what you want to say with such a thick accent that it sounds like a totally foreign language. Sure, the person on the receiving end will think you’re a huge weirdo, but at least they won’t think you’re an A-hole, and being confronted with a bunch of unintelligible jibber jabber from some random will probably cause the person to take a quick inventory of their surroundings, hopefully prompting them to realize their zipper is down or underwear on display.
This is the crux of comedian Terumi Ishii’s comedy routine: even the notoriously confrontation-averse Japanese can broach awkward topics by bringing them up with a "Clueless"-era valley girl drawl thick enough that the listener will have no real idea what you’re saying.
If we’re being perfectly honest – due primarily to cultural differences – this isn’t exactly comedy gold in our opinions, but to a Japanese audience, this is laugh-out-loud, knee-slappingly funny stuff. (Remember, this is a country where grinding your fingers into an unsuspecting person’s posterior is still considered a hilarious prank). What’s more interesting, though, is Ishii’s personal story.
In the video below, Ishii proposes using heavily accented Japanese to say such things as, “Hey man, your ‘social window’ is open,” (side note: This is apparently slang for, “your fly is open” in Japanese, but is this an actual phrase in certain English-speaking regions?) “Your nose hairs are sticking out,” and the like. Ishii really nails the accent, which is surprising from an American perspective, since – as we’ve covered before, English education is not exactly one of Japan’s strong suits.
Ishii, it turns out, actually speaks English fluently, boasting a perfect 990 TOEIC score, and having worked at the prestigious consulting agency, McKinsey and Company, she was on track to a lucrative consulting career when she made the fateful decision to quit after about a year and a half with the company to pursue her dream of becoming a comedian.
Unless you really hit it big in the U.S., you can’t exactly count on a stand-up career paying the bills, but things are even worse in Japan, where only the very top rung of "owarai-geinin" make any significant amount of money, which makes Ishii’s decision to pursue her dreams – giving up, apparently, one of the world’s more illustrious and coveted career positions in the process – all the more significant.
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