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2020年 5月 10日

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Japanese Comedian Ken Shimura Dies From COVID-19

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Beloved Japanese comedian Ken Shimura, who entertained people for over four decades on Japanese TV shows, died in late March from pneumonia caused by COVID-19. He was 70.

Shimura became the first Japanese celebrity to be diagnosed with the new strain of coronavirus. He was hospitalized in middle of March, and tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after.

The news of his passing shocked Japan. News announcers held back tears while reporting the news, while users of social media platforms such as Twitter shared their memories of Shimura and expressed deep sadness over his sudden death.

Broadcaster Fuji TV aired a tribute show to Shimura on April 1, featuring clips from across his career and commentary from people who knew the comedian well. According to reports from marketing firms, around 40 million people tuned in to watch.

Many commentators believe Shimura’s death might help raise awareness among Japanese people about the dangers of COVID-19. The number of people who have tested positive in the country remains low compared to other nations, but the government still worries that a rise in cases could come in the near future.

Shimura first came to national prominence in the early 1970s as part of the comedy group The Drifters. That group launched a long-running comedy show, and during which Shimura could showcase his skills with musical numbers and skits that helped turn him into a household name.

He soon started appearing on other variety programs, and over the course of the 1970s and 1980s he starred in his own shows. Shimura rose to fame thanks to a style of comedy that emphasized simplicity and directness, highlighted by an emphasis on physical gags and facial goofs.

Shimura also created characters that went on to become some of the most celebrated in modern Japanese entertainment. They include the white-faced Baka Tonosama and Henna Ojisan. He also created many sketches that riffed on elements of modern Japanese life.

One of Shimura’s most important innovations came in the late 1980s. He asked viewers to send in their own funny videos recorded on video camera, and he would play the best ones on his show. This inspired dozens of similar shows around the world.

While many comedians tend to only be remembered for one routine and often only remain popular for a few years, Shimura remained a staple of Japanese TV from the 1970s to the 2010s. He was able to adjust to the times, and generations of Japanese viewers developed a connection with him.

Even before his death, Shimura was slated to star in a new movie that was set to begin filming in the spring.
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Key Words and Expressions

  1. comedian — someone on stage or television whose job is to make an audience laugh
  2. air — to broadcast something on radio or television
  3. prominence — the state of being important, superior, or well-known
  4. long-running — something that has been continuing for a long time
  5. skit — a short humorous performance
  6. household name — a name of a famous person, product etc. that most people know of
  7. star in — to play a main role in a film, television show, etc.
  8. physical gag — comical performance which is conveyed by using actor’s body
  9. remain popular — to continue to be liked, enjoyed or supported by a lot of people
  10. a staple of — a main person or product of something

Reading Comprehension Test

Questions

  1. Why were people shocked by Ken Shimura’s death?
    a. He was the first person in Japan to die from COVID-19.
    b. He died suddenly as a result of COVID-19.
    c. He died in a car accident.
    d. He first tested negative for COVID-19.
  2. Which of the following is NOT true about Ken Shimura’s career?
    a. He was known for direct and simple comedy.
    b. He created beloved characters.
    c. He wrote many books.
    d. He performed for over four decades.
  3. What separated Ken Shimura from other comedians in Japan?
    a. He remained a staple of Japanese entertainment for decades.
    b. He had many famous catchphrases.
    c. He’s strongly associated with one decade.
    d. He appeared on many TV shows.
  4. How could Ken Shimura’s death affect Japan’s approach to COVID-19?
  5. Why was Ken Shimura’s use of viewer-recorded home videos so innovative?
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