[OP-ED] Danny Oppa's Top 5: Comedians
Danny Cho, Feb. 15, 2016, 7 p.m.
Given that I work in the comedy business, I feel like I am a better judge on "funny" than the average person. Although the Korean sensibilities regarding "funny" might be different from the Western sense of humor, undoubtedly, there are a handful of truly funny comedians in Korea. Here are my top 5 Korean comedians:
Yoo Jae Suk
First on the list has to be Yoo Jae Suk. This dude is called the 'MC of the Nation'. You must be doing something right to be called the best MC/host in Korea. In one poll, he was voted the most famous Korean celebrity in the country, beating out the likes of G-Dragon, T.O.P, and other mega-famous people.
Yoo Jae Suk debuted as a comedian for KBS in 1991. Most comedians have to take a test/audition to become a comedian for the three major Korean networks (KBS, MBC, SBS). Things weren’t always good for Mr. Yoo, though. He was relatively unknown for 10 years. The people that did know him didn’t think he was going to last long in the business, but perseverance and faith prevailed. He has been the main MC for many legendary Korean variety shows such as 'XMAN', 'Happy Together', 'Infinite Challenge', and 'Running Man', just to name a few.
Personally, what makes Yoo Jae Suk great is his quick wit, his willingness to be silly, and his overall smooth control of any show that he is in. He somehow makes situations that are rather boring, actually pretty entertaining. It also helps that he is famously known to have extremely good manners with a pretty squeaky clean image. The guy doesn’t drink or smoke. This is shocking if you know that Korea drinks the most alcohol per capita in the world. Overall, he is just a likeable guy. Matter of fact, I haven’t heard a single bad thing about him from my peers in Korea and that’s crazy given the fact that Koreans love to talk behind one's back all the time.
Shin Dong Yup
Unlike the squeaky clean Yoo Jae Suk, comedian Shin Dong Yup is known to be the king of dirty jokes in Korea. Now it's not as dirty as, say a comedian on HBO, but Mr. Shin finds a way to walk the fine line between being overtly sexual and being suitable for TV according to the Korean Broadcasting Standards.
Also unlike Yoo Jae Suk, Mr. Shin is not so squeaky clean in his personal life. In 1999, he got arrested for smoking marijuana (highly illegal in Korea). Rumor has it, he turned himself in, in exchange for people not leaking a sex tape of model Lee Sora, his girlfriend at the time. Aww, how romantic… Anyway, he went to jail, but his career recovered, and now he is probably the second biggest comedian working today. He was head of the now-cancelled 'Witch Hunt', which dealt with issues on sex and relationships. It was the most revolutionary talk show in Korea, in my opinion. His ability to turn anything sexual is a skill that I can appreciate.
I saw this clip and went, "Wow, that's pretty ballsy for Korean TV.":
Lee Soo Geun
Most people will remember him in the first season of '1 Night 2 Days'. In the beginning, Lee Soo Geun was just relegated to being the driver of the bunch, but he didn’t quit and eventually found his footing amongst an already whacky and well-established cast. He instantly became one of my favorites. He then started doing a handful of other variety shows and did extremely well on those, too.
Things were looking great until he got caught sports gambling on various websites. The judge sentenced him to eight months in prison and two years on probation. He took two years off from being on TV, but he’s slowly working again, and I am happy to see him. Lee Soo Geun makes my list because of his ridiculously quick improv skills as well as his overall physical comedy greatness.
The following clip shows Lee Soo Geun's crazy improv skills:
Yoo Se Yoon
As one of the members of Ongdalsaem, Yoo Se Yoon was one of the first in the group to really gain big success on shows like 'Radio Star' and 'Knee Drop Guru'. Although a lot of people think the only thing he does is act like a gorilla, he has way more comedic chops than that. By the way, his gorilla impression is pretty damn funny.
Yoo Se Yoon makes this group because he isn’t just on TV - he does a podcast, plays music with his group UV, and he's even released a self-created comedic short series. On top of that, he and his Ongdalsaem comrade Jang Dong Min are a perfect mix of the old guard of comedians and the new up-and-comers.
I am sure a lot of you readers are familiar with UV’s work like 'Itaewon Freedom' ft. JYP. The music video is kind of weird, but oddly addictive. Check it out for yourself here:
Things got a little hairy for him when he tweeted that he was driving drunk and was on his way to turn himself in. At first, people thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. That drunk driving incident forced him to step down from all of the shows he was on. However, he's has been back and doing well on programs, which is good to hear. He is also working on another song with UV, so stay tuned!
Jang Dong Min
Another member of Ongdalsaem makes my list of favorite comedians in Korea - Jang Dong Min. Jang Dong Min makes this list because to me, he is the most refreshing comedian I’ve seen on TV. He tends to say the things that are on everyone’s minds, but will not, for the sake of looking impolite or mean. As a matter of fact, people will stop him on the street and ask him to curse them out. Isn’t that amazing?! I wish I could just curse people out and have people feel happy about it.
Jang Dong Min was killing it for a while. He was working on a ton of shows and right when he became one of the favorites to gain the coveted '6th Man' role on 'Infinite Challenge', clips of him saying some pretty sexist stuff on his podcast surfaced. Once that hit the airwaves, he had to pull out of the running for 'Infinite Challenge', and also left all of the shows he was currently working on as a show of repentance. He has started reappearing on a few cable shows now, but I really do miss him calling BS on some of the fakeness in the Korean entertainment industry.