If you’ve ever watched a variety show, there is a good chance you’ve seen 出川哲朗 (Degawa Tetsurou). He’s everywhere lately. It’s easy to look at him and go “huh?” But if you give him a chance, you may find him to be one of the most valuable native resources in your early Japanese journey. It’s as though his existence was meant to fit exactly with what all Japanese learners need.
Who is Degawa-san and why should you care?
Degawa-san is known as a “Reaction Entertainer.” This means he is often placed in ridiculous situations, given strange challenges, or is pranked, and must react in a way the audience finds entertaining. He has been around since the late 80s, and is friends with every popular Japanese entertainer you know.
In the past 5-10 years there has been a Degawa-san renaissance. While he used to be considered a strange and somewhat annoying performer, everyone loves him now.
He is ridiculously easy to understand
Variety shows are no fun when you can’t understand the jokes, word-plays, and cultural references. Let’s just say Degawa-san is very simple (in a good way). His language is basic, and he often repeats the same things over and over. This makes him popular with children. Anyone can understand him. That means you can understand him.
Not only is his language simple, but so are his actions. As a Reaction Entertainer, his humor is mostly physical or situational. It’s easy to get what is going on despite not understanding the language. “Reaction” is a universal language.
He loves using English, and is terrible at it
Degawa-san loves the West (especially the U.S.) When he visits other countries for location shooting, he cherishes the opportunity to practice and use his special English ability. And boy is it fun to watch him try, struggle, and somehow come out victorious.
There is an amazingly funny segment on the TV show 世界の果てまでイッテQ!, called 出川 はじめてのおつかい. Degawa-san goes around to English speaking countries, and is sent on a solo scavenger hunt. The crew leaves him by himself to fend on his own, and he must survive through his “Degawa English.”
This segment is some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen.
His Japanese isn’t great, and you can learn from this
You can forgive him for his English not being great. But his Japanese also can be a bit strange.
Why would you want to watch someone whose Japanese is filled with spoken mistakes? Because when he makes these mistakes, which result in hilarity, he gets made fun of by other members of a show. They go out of their way to correct (or try to figure out) what he is trying to say.
Watching some else’s Japanese corrected can help improve your own.
His attitude towards speaking a foreign language is perfect
Degawa-san shows that it doesn’t matter how bad you are at a foreign language. Attitude, optimism, and the willingness to embarrass yourself will get you far. Many Japanese learners are shy and lack confidence when it finally comes to speaking the language. You think you aren’t good enough yet and are worried about the mess you’ll get yourself into.
I guarantee you that your Japanese is better than Degawa-san’s English, and if he can do what he does, so can you.
Where to find him
Degawa-san finally has gotten his own regular show. In the past he has always been a semi-regular or guest, but things are looking up for him. Some of the shows that I recommend you check him out in:
Since he isn’t a typical entertainer with his own shows, it’s better to search for specific episodes of different shows he has appeared on.
What do you think about Degawa-san?
Have you seen him before? Were you not impressed? Or do you find that he was the perfect character you were looking for to enjoy some variety shows with, regardless of your Japanese level?