Ken Shimura, a 70-year-old veteran slapstick comedian in Japan, has died of pneumonia caused by COVID-19.
The actor and comedian, who was a household name in the 70s and 80s, was hospitalized on March 20 after experiencing a fever and being diagnosed with pneumonia, according to Kyodo News.
He later tested positive for COVID-19 on March 23 and passed away on Sunday.
Shimura, whose real name was Yasunori Shimura, became the first person in the Japanese entertainment industry to announce his infection. He also had lung cancer surgery in 2016, Reuters reported.
Born on Feb. 20, 1950, Shimura joined one of the most successful Japanese rock and roll and comedy groups, the Drifters, in 1974 after graduating from high school, replacing an original member, Chu Arai. The Drifters opened for the Beatles during their tour performances in Germany, Japan and the Philippines in 1966.
Shimura rose to prominence when he appeared with the group in the primetime TV show “Hachijidayo Zeninshugo!” (“It’s 8 o’clock, assemble everyone!”) in 1969.
One of Shimura’s most popular roles was a clueless feudal lord with a white face and thick black eyebrows.
“I pray for the repose of his soul but want to say on top of this that we are at a very critical period and need to make every effort to prevent the spread of this disease,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a statement.
Feature Image Screenshot via NHBA