English Stand-up Comedy Around Tokyo

ByJason Gatewood
Oct 29, 2019

English Stand-up Comedy Around Tokyo

Turn on the TV at any given moment during “Golden Hour” (what we Yanks call Primetime) and you’ll no doubt see comedy duos interspersed in the endless waves of food tasting, international shenanigans, and celebrity anecdotes that seem to permeate the average Japanese media diet. Those comedy teams, called manzai, form the backbone of Japanese comedic tradition that goes back hundreds of years. If you can understand the Japanese language and culture to the point of “getting” the average manzai routine, I can’t recommend seeing a live performance enough. But remember that comedy always depends not only on the performer’s skills but the audience’s ability to quickly sort out the wordplay, nuanced situations, cultural references, and so-forth; AKA get the joke. Even after 20 years in Japan, I have a fair amount of trouble understanding Japanese comedy and almost none of that has to do with the language barrier— I simply wasn’t raised in Japan and don’t get some of the context.

Everyone needs a laugh

Luckily there’s a critical mass of other foreigners and Japanese doing stand-up in English around Greater Tokyo (with more talent than myself) that don’t mind taking to the stage with nothing more than a microphone, some funny stories, and some time to tell them.

Good Heavens

Located in the bohemian-trendy Shimo-Kitazawa district, this British pub has been hosting possibly the only weekly English language stand-up sets for ages now. So long in fact that you might even see some famous comics from your home country dropping in to do a set while they’re touring Japan just for the hell of it.

Date & Time: Most Wednesdays starting around 7pm or so.

Place: 32-5 Daizawa, Setagaya, Tokyo

Cost: ¥1500, includes drink.

Antenna America

Probably the best place in all of Kanto to enjoy some craft beer and authentic Buffalo wings, this rooftop cafe in a nondescript building in the middle of downtown Yokohama brings stand-up to the Bayside City twice a month in the form of both English and Japanese language showcases.

Date & Time: Usually twice a month Thursdays; one week is English, the next is Japanese.

Place: 5-4 Yoshidamachi, Naka, Yokohama, Kanagawa

Cost: ¥1500, includes drink.

Gamuso Asagaya

A sweet dive bar that plays host to some of the freshest underground music performances and art gallery exhibitions in town, Gamuso also showcases standup comedy from time to time 

Date & Time: Usually twice a month Thursdays; one week is English, the next is Japanese.

Place: 2-12-5 Asagayakita, Suginami, Tokyo

Cost: ¥1500, includes drink.

Improvzilla at The Crocodile

This venerable venue in Shinjuku where some of the best indie music in Japan rocks out also is the main stage of the Tokyo Comedy Store’s main improv show, Improvazilla

Date & Time: Last Friday of the month; on hiatus in December.

Place: 6-8-18 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo

Cost: ¥1500, plus a one-drink minimum purchase

About the author

Jason Gatewood editor

Our Tokyo based collaborator is a tech nerd, Japanophile, train nut, and a veritable fountain of information on Japan. His current goal is to watch Evangelion and actually "get it", sing every permutation of "Hotel California" at any karaoke gathering, ride every bullet train line, and sample all varieties of ramen throughout Japan. Catch more of his musings at · http://jlgatewood.com