Kilara Sen, the “Pink Unicorn” of comedy
By Stephanie Meditz
Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Kilara Sen always knew it was her destiny to move to New York City.
Sen is a bilingual, feminist comedian whose humor deals with mental health, diversity and critiques of gender roles.
Sen was inspired to pursue comedy when she saw Chris Rock perform at Essence Music Festival in New Orleans as a Theatre Arts student at Hampton University.
She was shocked by the difference between American and Japanese comedy.
“He totally killed it,” Sen said. “It was a music festival, but he didn’t use any music. He just talked for an hour and he nailed the night, so I was really impressed…I thought to myself, ‘I’m gonna do this when my English is good enough.’”
Sen started a career in Japanese comedy upon returning home, but never truly felt like she belonged in the industry.
“Standup comedy in Japan is nothing. Nobody knows about it,” Sen said. “Especially as a woman bringing her opinion and sometimes telling jokes criticizing politicians…people didn’t like it at all.”
As a survivor of childhood abuse and mental illness, Sen was inspired by comedians like Tiffany Haddish and Hannah Gadsby to incorporate her trauma into comedy.
“Japanese women are usually recognized as good wives, both in and out of Japan,” she said. “I really want to represent a new image of Japanese women.”
To achieve this goal, Sen refers to herself as a “Pink Unicorn” and calls her fans Unicorns.
“I used to blame myself for a long time because I was different, but now I feel my uniqueness is my value,” Sen said. “I love my uniqueness, and I think that everyone has their own uniqueness.”
Sen uses pink, a traditionally feminine color, to reject sexist stereotypes about women.
“From Japan…there is kind of a social system to make all women be a good wife. I have a lot of experiences of that kind of sexual harassment too,” they said. “I want to deliver the message to everybody: don’t live as somebody’s wife or somebody’s something. Just be yourself.”
Sen visited New York before the pandemic, but officially moved to Woodside in June 2022.
They performed at various open mics and comedy shows in Queens, and loved to see Queens’ younger crowd of comedians perform.
Sen has performed at The City University of New York, where students were intrigued by Japanese comedy and culture.
“For those audiences, I do jokes introducing and making fun of Japanese culture,” she said. “It’s more based on my experience.”
Before moving to the U.S., Sen made various TV appearances, including Asia’s Got Talent, Paul Hollywood’s Food Adventure and Henry Golding’s Welcome to the Railworld.
All of her TV credits were facilitated by her social media presence — she got invited to perform on Asia’s Got Talent after her YouTube video went viral.
“[Social media] has brought me a really great network with a lot of talented young performing artists all over Asia,” they said. “Usually, in the Japanese TV industry, managers always bring auditions or TV show offers. In my case…I was really looking for some opportunities outside of Japan but I didn’t know how. I was very lucky to get those offers from my social media directly.”
“In Japanese media, women really cannot be so loud, but I’m basically very loud and hyperactive…and have a very tomboyish personality,” she continued. “People all over the world outside Japan found me and they like who I am. It’s a really great place to connect people who speak the same language.”
A key illustration of Sen’s goal with her comedy is kintsugi, a Japanese traditional art of fixing broken pottery with gold.
“As a survivor…the message is not to give up, even if you fall,” she said. “Scars can be your gold sometimes.”
To see Sen’s comedy in action and learn about her upcoming shows, follow their Instagram, @kilaracomedy and subscribe to her YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/@Kilaracomedy.