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Keiko Utsumi, a pioneering comedian who rose to fame as one half of a female stand-up duo, died of multiple organ failure last weekend, her office said Friday. She was 97.

Keiko Utsumi | KYODO
Keiko Utsumi | KYODO

Appearing on stage in kimono and carrying a traditional shamisen, Utsumi and partner Yoshie Utsumi debuted in 1950 and became extremely popular with their fast-paced dialogue strewn with jokes about current affairs.

The native of Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, died at a Tokyo hospital Saturday night, according to her office.

Growing up in Tokyo’s famous Asakusa entertainment district, Utsumi, whose real name was Yoshiko Ando, first performed on stage in 1938 at age 16.

Following her stage partner’s death in 1997, she remained active as a solo comic storyteller, television commentator and actress.

Her forthright messages on Twitter resonated with a young audience, and she had gained nearly half a million followers since her first post in 2010.

She was decorated by the government in 1989 and 1995 for her contribution to the entertainment industry. As the head of an association of stand-up comedians from 1998 to 2007, Utsumi devoted herself to raising the next generation of stars. Her successors include the popular duo Knights.

Utsumi last appeared on stage in January, after which she fell ill and was hospitalized.

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