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Japanese comedian Ken Shimura dies after contracting coronavirus

  • KYODO NEWS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2011
                                Japanese comedian Ken Shimura in Tokyo. Shimura, the nationally popular comedian has died of the COVID-19 pneumonia, a first known celebrity victim of the virus in Japan. He was 70.

    KYODO NEWS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2011

    Japanese comedian Ken Shimura in Tokyo. Shimura, the nationally popular comedian has died of the COVID-19 pneumonia, a first known celebrity victim of the virus in Japan. He was 70.

Beloved Japanese comedian Ken Shimura has died at age 70 after he was diagnosed with coronavirus and placed on a ventilator in Tokyo, according to his representatives.

The famed funnyman, who died Sunday night, was a member of the popular comedy skit group The Drifters, a household name in Japan in the 1970s and ’80s.

Shimura reported feeling fatigued March 17 and was hospitalized three days later after developing a fever and respiratory problems, his talent agency said, according to Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

He was placed on a ventilator March 21 with severe pneumonia and tested positive for coronavirus on March 23, the agency said.

“We haven’t confirmed if Shimura had a pre-existing condition or an underlying medical problem,” an agency representative said, according to Asahi Shimbun. “But as he smoked and drank quite a lot, it’s quite possible those habits had an impact.”

Shimura was born in western Tokyo and got his start working with Chosuke Ikariya, the late entertainment legend who headed The Drifters. He eventually replaced regular member Chu Arai in 1974.

At the time of his death, Shimura hosted “Tensai! Shimura Dobutsuen” on the Nippon Television Network and “Shimura De Night” on the Fuji Television Network.

Described as “Japan’s Robin Williams,” Shimura also was due to run a torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, representing his hometown of Higashi-Murayama.

Japan has since announced a new date for the Olympic games — the summer of 2021 — amid a spike in reported infections.

Japan’s health ministry recorded 173 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, with 68 in Tokyo. It was the biggest single-day jump for the capital.

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