"It was the first time I'd performed to an audience where there wasn't a single person from Japan, and I don't think anyone had even been there — yet their reaction was electric," Katsura Sunshine said with a beaming smile as he talked about his first show at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival — adding that he couldn't wait to return to Britain in November, because he felt the people "really appreciated the humor and the language."

Born Gregory Robic, the 44-year-old Canadian may be an unlikely ambassador for rakugo, Japan's traditional art of solo comic storytelling that's said to have its roots in ninth-century Buddhist monks' efforts to stop people falling asleep during their lectures.

However, after 25 performances at Edinburgh's New Town Theatre in August, and a few more down south in England, he thought nothing of jetting straight off to Africa to introduce the joys of rakugo — which means "falling word" (as in a punchline) — to the people of Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone before making a flying visit to Japan this month and then returning to for more shows in Britain in November.