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Patrick Harlan: ‘Learn to laugh at yourself’

by Elliott Samuels

Name: Patrick Harlan
Age: 43
Occupation: Entertainer (comedian, actor, TV personality)

1. What first brought you to Japan? Misinformed naïveté. And a friend who invited me to Japan then left me here.

2. What’s keeping you here? The wide open spaces. No, actually, it’s the excitement and challenge of a stimulating job, and continuing education in a country I’ve only half-figured out after 20 years.

3. Who in Japan do you most admire? My comedy partner, Makkun. He’s a good father, a talented comedian and great friend. But don’t tell him I told you so.

4. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? I go to Fukui. That’s where I first lived in Japan and have many old friends there. And it takes just about as long to get there as Guam!

5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? 契約更新 (keiyaku kōshin, contract renewal) Japanese showbiz runs on three- or six-month cycles. There’s always a contract expiring.

6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” These are words I strive to live by. Don’t work, play, eat or think too much. But make sure to cut loose now and then. You really can overdo moderation.

7. Where are we most likely to find you at 10 o’clock on a Friday night? On my sofa, folding laundry and watching American football.

8. Where are we most likely to find you at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning? In the studio, on location or on a stage somewhere, wishing I was on my sofa folding laundry.

9. If you had to live by yourself on a deserted Okinawan island for a year, what item would you make sure you packed in your suitcase? A boat. Duh.

10. What makes you laugh? Very little. I almost never laugh at comedy, for example. If another comedian is funny, I’m too busy concentrating on learning his techniques to laugh.

11. What makes you cry? Comedians who make me laugh. I cry in frustration at my own inferiority.

12. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? Move to Tokyo and brazenly declare myself a model, actor and DJ. A friend once told me that if you make business cards with whatever title you want, people will assume you are qualified to do that job. He was right.

13. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? A man once asked me for a handshake. In a public restroom. While using the urinal next to me.

14. If you won ¥1 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? First I’d marvel at the fact that I’d won the lottery. Then, just to test my luck, I’d buy another ¥ 1 million worth of lottery tickets.

15. Tell us a quick joke. Woman: “Doctor, my brother thinks he’s a chicken.” Doctor: “Bring him in, I’ll fix him.” Woman: “I can’t do that. We need the eggs.”

16. What’s your karaoke song of choice? “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin. Or “Matteiru Onna” by Hiroshi Itsuki.

17. How would you find a needle in a haystack? Buy another needle.

18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? The one with the better lawyer. (I am an American.)

19. What do you want to be when you grow up? Unusual. (And perhaps someday influential.)

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Learn to laugh at yourself and your own mistakes. It takes the power away from others to bully you.

Patrick Harlan is appearing in the NHK drama “Taiyo no Wana” on Saturdays at 9 p.m. You can see Pack’n Mack’n perform live on the last Wednesday of every month at O’Carolans Irish pub in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo. The next show is Christmas Day.