AceShowbiz - Japanese comedian Ken Shimura has died at the age of 70 after a battle with the coronavirus, Covid-19.
Ken, who has been a constant presence on Japanese TV since the 1970s, passed away on Sunday, March 29, according to The Hollywood Reporter, nine days after he was hospitalised with a fever and pneumonia, which was later diagnosed as Covid-19.
The TV star, who joined the Japanese rock and roll comedy group The Drifters in 1974, was the first Japanese celebrity to reveal he had contracted the virus, with the country having impressive success to date in limiting transmission amid the global pandemic.
Before his illness Shimura was set to star in Japanese director Yoji Yamada's upcoming movie film "God of Cinema", his first starring screen role. The project has now been put on hold.
The comedian got his big break with Japanese rock band and comedy group The Drifters, famous for opening for The Beatles during their early tours of the country, in 1974.
He was a breakout star of their prime variety show Hachijidayo Zeninshugo! (It's 8 o'clock, assemble everyone!) due to his slapstick humour and deadpan delivery. From the 1980s onwards he became a fixture on Japanese television, starring in a succession of variety shows.
Shimura also voiced The Lorax in the Japanese dubbed version of the hit 2012 animation based on Dr. Seuss' story.
Japan has reported more than 1,800 cases of the virus and 54 deaths.