Japan Electric Association ( 日本エレキテル連合) is a female comedy duo which is quite popular in Japan.
The members of the JEA are Soko Nakano, 31 years old and Koyuki Hashimoto, age 30. The group was formed in 2007, when Koyuki, recognizing Soko’s exceptional talent, suggested that they team up. Previously, Koyuki and Soko had been pursuing comedy individually. Soko agreed, on the condition that Koyuki would do all of the house work (making the bed, cooking, dish washing etc.) for Soko. In October 2009, the group went on temporary hiatus due to a shortage of funds coupled with high production costs which were inflated because of Soko and Koyuki’s desire to present as realistic a show as possible. JAE started back up in April, 2010. Off screen, Soko and Koyuki are good friends and roommates, living together in Higashimurayama City, Tokyo. They selected this location because Higashimurayama City is the hometown of legendary comedian Ken Shimura, whom they idolize.
They are famous for a comedy skit where Soko plays an older widower named Mr. Hosogai, and Koyuki plays a female robot named Akemi. Mr. Hosogai lives alone in Kodaira City in a suburb of Tokyo.
Mr. Hosogai orders Akemi from a catalogue which sells a series of talking wife robots. She has been programmed to think that she is a widow whose husband passed away around 3 years ago. During the skit, Mr. Hosogai repeatedly asks Akemi to go to a traditional Japanese hotel with hot spring in his hometown, Yufuin (a famous hot spring resort) by saying “Iijanaino” (Iijanaino means “C’mon” in Japanese), he even says “I will not abuse you like your husband did”, but she repeatedly declines in a robotic manner by saying, “Dameyo. Dame, dame,” each time. (Dameyo. Dame Dame, means I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. in Japanese.) At the end of the skit, Akemi begins malfunctioning, at which point, the viewer realizes that she was in fact a robot. Mr. Hosogai calls the company, and reports that the robot is out of order. He asks the company to exchange Akemi for a new robot wife, Sayuri, who is on parole (early supervised release from prison). Sayuri keeps saying, also in a robotic manner, “I won’t anymore” (in regards to breaking the law).
Currently in Japan, the phrase used by Akemi “Dameyo. Dame. Dame.” has become very popular, especially among children. They use it among their friends and moreover, some children surprise their mothers by saying “ Dame yo. Dame Dame,” to them when they are told to do their homework. On December 1st, 2014, Jiyukokuminsha, a major publisher of encyclopedias and dictionaries, presented the award for Most Popular Catchphrase to the Japan Electric Association (JEA) for their catchphrase, “Dameyo, dame,dame”. At the ceremony, Soko Nakano, who writes the skits, said basically the phrase is just a trivial sexual joke. In spite of that, she was very glad that the phrase has been accepted and used broadly across generational lines from small children to the elderly. During an appearance on a radio show on New Years, when asked what her goal was for 2014, Soko said without thinking that she would get the most popular catchphrase award. Eleven months later, Soko’s offhand comment proved to be prophetic. She was shocked that what she said in jest unwittingly came true. Soko said that she would like to break the curse of this award, as most comedians who’ve won it have ended up one hit wonders.
Japan Electric Association’s inspiration for this joke came from observing an elderly couple at a restaurant. The man, who seemed to be around 70 years old, kept pestering the woman who appeared around 50, to go to the hot spring with him. The woman kept saying no. Their conversation continued like that for almost four hours. Finally the woman left, and the man quietly started eating sauteed spinach alone. Soko and Koyuki were observing them quietly, and they thought the situation quite funny, so they came up with an exaggerated version of the situation.
Underneath their character’s heavy makeup, Soko and Koyuki are quite pretty, however they are not comfortable being told that, as it could affect their image as comedians.
Many female comedians in Japan try to make people laugh by joking about how ugly, obesity and unpopular they are with men. Also, in Japan being single above 30’s are considered to be still pathetic, so there are many Japanese female comedians who make people laugh by playing up their patheticness for being single. While funny, it is self deprecating at the same time. But JEA are making people laugh with only their creative writing and performances. By taking advantage of this source of humor, JAE are empowering women, showing that women can be funny without having to rely on images of them being sad and pathetic because they are not married. (Pictures are retrieved from http://prcm.jp/album/ch1nage1n1n/pic/30179669 )