Sunday, 28 June 2009

Korean comedy and Jerry Lewis

This is one of the funnier things I have seen on Korean TV recently.

Maybe it's a case of damning with faint praise. 48 million people seem to like it though. I think that probably means 6 billion people probably may not make it. I could be wrong. Perhaps.

Korea does not seem to have what we would traditionally call comedians/comediennes, someone who either tells jokes, anecdotes or has funny observations on life. Korea has people called 'Gag Men' or 'Gag Women'. They are people who don't tell jokes no invariably do they do say funny things. They SEEM TO just say funny things based on other peoples comments and their comments come quite quickly and frequently. They seem to be reactionary 'entertainers' who would be close to redundant if they had no-one in their company to make comments about. Some of these people are definitely funny, even if my lack of the language prevents me from being in on most of the jokes I can say some of them can be funny. There are a few people on the TV that you can definitely say are smart and quick witted but from my time here I can only say that Korea has no comedians, they have only clowns.

Every now and again here in Korea you seem to notice that trends here are off the pace from other countries - understandable as Korea is a country that has come a long way quite quickly, but is playing catch-up. However, Korean comedy is sixty years behind the Western World. Watching Korean TV makes Jerry Lewis look funny. I have never said the words "Jerry Lewis" and "funny" in the same sentence before, without using the prefix of "UN" (unless I am talking about The Day the Clown Cried). There is a place in the world for slapstick comedy but that place shouldn't be in the form of mainstream entertainment. For that is what we have here as the norm in Korea, slapstick comedy (custard pie in the face standard) usually at a hundred miles an hour and repeated week after week.

Gag Man is perhaps my least favourite Konglish word as it is usually a euphemism for unfunny and an indicator of a poor show. The high level Gag Men and Gag Women are on TV here ad infinitum and present shows on both TV and radio. At the top end they are on a lot of money, relatively. For what it's worth, the people who are on the comedy shows appear to be good at what they do, but that doesn't mean what they do is good. It is family entertainment stuff, but by that I mean that you do not require a brain to understand or think about what's going on, the lowest common denominator. Maybe there is an underground comedy circuit. Once again I wonder if Korea is hiding something from me.

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