According to Yuriko Kotani’s bio for the BBC Radio New Comedy Award, the 34-year-old Japanese expat decided to try her hand at standup because “it was the last thing she could imagine herself doing.”

Less than a year after that humble debut, Kotani’s career as a jokester is looking quite promising, thanks to her first place finish in the British broadcaster’s competition.

Her awarding winning set (which can be streamed here) finds her opening with a simple enough setup that is executed with expert precision: “Hello everyone!… I’m from Japan. Have we got anyone from Japan here today?” When no one replied, she delivered the punchline: “Because all the Japanese are at work.”

The audience laughed heartily at the joke, and applauded her other observational bits about the lateness of British subways versus those of her homeland, and the English use of “ish” at the end approximate times (Kotani’s mother apparently didn’t take kindly to her daughter suggesting they meet up “at 1-ish” while she was visiting back home).

Her five-minute routine was one of ten such acts that incorporated stand-up, sketches, music and more. Kotani prevailed over her more seasoned competitors with her culturally dynamic content and a delivery that’s somehow both gently self-effacing and bluntly deadpan. She and her fellow contestants did have some things in common however: they all had less than five years of experience, and had to prepare and deliver a five-minute routine.

As the winner, Kotani was not only awarded £1,000 (¥185,00) but also unique monitorship from the BBC Radio Comedy department, along with the opportunity to snag guest spots on the broadcaster’s series. It may be the most high profile milestone of her young career, but it’s not her only strong showing in a comedy contest. Kotani also secured the runner-up spot in “So You Think You’re Funny,” England’s longest-running comedic showdown, in August. After that, she snagged the Brighton’s Squawker Award, which features entries from a wide swath of British humorists.

But the BBC Radio New Comedy Award, broadcast nationwide and beyond, is Kotani’s true breakthrough. She was clearly touched at being selected the winner, telling The Japan Times: “I’m speechless. … This is so wonderful!”

You can listen to Kotani’s award-winning routine here.

– Kyle Mullin

Image: BBC