/

Laughs from the past still hitting the spot

by Kris Kosaka

Any well-aimed dart of wit depends upon accurate release. Timing is all, and at first glance a collection of 1990s humor from “The Alien,” a popular Nagoya-based ex-pat magazine featuring irreverent satire and visual gags, may seem dated. That the compilation still makes the reader laugh aloud, while bringing back memories of a not-so-distant past in Japan, frankly surprises.

ALIEN HUMOR: The Very Best of, by Neil Garscadden. Treasure Productions, 2011, 139 pp., ¥1,600 (paperback)

Yet, laugh I did, through the “101 uses and abuses of Obaasans” (her bent-over frame transformed to everything from a footstool to a racing hurdle) to recommendations for how to impress Japanese friends (“devour natto with extreme relish”).

Although the name is a play on foreigners in Japan and their alien registration, my favorite pages transcend ex-pat life Far East, making mockery across the globe.

Under the heading “Really Thin Books,” stacked alongside “Japanese Synonyms for Spontaneity” and “Let’s Cut Down on Noise Pollution by the Japanese Election Committee,” editor and writer Neil Garscadden tweaks at various incongruities, “Humble French People I have Met” and “The World of Australian Cooking.”

Deftly revealing a mind tuned into irony around the world, Garscadden also provokes with “The Neil Zone” — “If Jesus had been on the Titanic, would he have walked home?” — and provides mock psych tests and “official” world maps from differing viewpoints.

Artwork by Wayne Wilson with contributions by Mark Bailey add to the visual fun. “The Alien” ran for over 20 years, gave birth to the comic, “Charisma Man” and outgrew its small, satirical focus to embrace the full Japan experience, eventually changing its name to “Japanzine”. Although the final print edition was published last year, Japanzine continues online.

“Alien Humor” squarely hits the target — our funny bones — despite the passing of years.