July 11, 2002 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Hi-larious! Russian jokes about Americans, while probably not too amusing to begin with, become just too funny in translation. Via Cam.
posted by monju_bosatsu (21 comments total)
I like the four-legged American journalist joke. What a knee slapper...
posted by sharksandwich at 8:40 AM on July 11, 2002

How odd.
posted by ColdChef at 8:52 AM on July 11, 2002

Nixon+Hell=Comedy Gold
posted by MrBaliHai at 9:07 AM on July 11, 2002

Funniest thing I have seen on the internet in a long time.
Thank you.
posted by greasepig at 9:23 AM on July 11, 2002

still not as bad as the yakov smirnoff comedy experience.

hold on to your seat ‘cause this guy is about to blow you away with dynamite comedy!
posted by ronv at 9:24 AM on July 11, 2002

Better than that "Worker and Parasite" cartoon...
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:23 AM on July 11, 2002

Russian humor is quite droll. Soviet humor especially had a kind of resigned-subversive irony, of the order where every Russian is a dissident, every commissar corrupt, and neither really cares. Probably the classic joke of this era was "Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism -- it is just the opposite." I have a whole book of Soviet jokes, and no, most of them aren't very good or memorable. Compared to American jokes, however, they were very attuned to politics and current events in ways that American jokes just don't plumb. (Yakov Smirnoff is popular in America, not Russia. That should tell you something.)

Here's a similar collection, which begins with another Soviet classic, the leaders-on-a-train joke; more soviet jokes.
posted by dhartung at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2002

dhartung- Your collection has some really funny stuff. Morbid and dark, but very funny. My favorite:

"A delegation from his native Georgia leaves Stalin's office after a long meeting. Stalin realizes that he cannot find his pipe and calls Dzerzhinsky to find out if anyone from the delegation took his pipe. After 30 minutes Stalin finds the pipe under the table and calls Dzerzhinsky to let the delegation go. Dzerzhinsky answers Stalin's call: "I am sorry Comrade, but one half of the delegation already admitted that they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning."
posted by kahboom at 11:26 AM on July 11, 2002

"The Soviet Express Card. Don't leave home! Aaah, hahahahahaha!"

Oh, that Yakov. What a card.
posted by chuq at 11:42 AM on July 11, 2002

From Schneider's "The Wall Jumper":
"You know the Russian formula for concrete: a third cement, a third sand, a third microphone."

Also, I found this great collection of Russian jokes about the occupation of Afghanistan here.
posted by bobo123 at 11:57 AM on July 11, 2002

I like American jokes about Russia better.

How do you recognize the bride at a Russian wedding? She's the one with the braided armpits.

How do you recognize the bridesmaids?
They're the one with the clean t-shirts.

Why is it illegal to kill flies in Russia?
It's their National bird.

What's the most dangerous job in Russia?
Riding shotgun on a garbage truck.

Why do flies have four wings?
So they can beat the Russians to the garbage dump.
posted by Mack Twain at 12:38 PM on July 11, 2002

Well, those weren't funny, and I'm pretty sure that I've heard all of them about any number of "furriners" over the years. There's the problem with ethnic jokes in which you can substitute [your least favorite country or ethnic group here] for the original and the jokes still make just as much sense. They're not funny. Ethnic humor, you see, comes from the realities of a particular country or ethnic group's situation - not from your own perception of what those realities must be like. That's why the other jokes in this thread are funny.

posted by yhbc at 1:11 PM on July 11, 2002

I always liked the one about the American industrialist who visits the Soviet Union and is taken to their most productive factory. He is impressed with the efficiency and high output of the workers and asks one of them "What do you make here?"

"Signs," replies the worker.

"Signs?" the American asks. "What do they say?"

"No meat today."
posted by briank at 1:22 PM on July 11, 2002

The joke about the cars: Does the coloration of the Soviet cars have some subtext that needs explaining?

BTW, the Green Beret one is old; I heard it first in a bar outside Fayetteville (That's near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the US Army Special Warfare Center.) It reminds me of a US Navy SEAL joke:

Q. Why do Navy SEALs dislike Jehovah's Witnesses?
A. Navy SEALs don't like any witnesses.
posted by alumshubby at 1:49 PM on July 11, 2002

Hang on. These aren't jokes about Americans. These are Russian jokes about themselves. For example, the calling hell one. These are jokes on Russia. Or is it good for hell to be a local call?
posted by wackybrit at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2002

Hang on. These aren't jokes about Americans. These are Russian jokes about themselves. For example, the calling hell one. These are jokes on Russia. Or is it good for hell to be a local call?
posted by wackybrit at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2002

The author Andrei Codrescu wrote an essay entitled "Where have All the Jokes In Eastern Europe Gone?" in his book The Dog With a Chip In Its Neck."

If I remember the essay correctly, back when his homeland of Romania was under Communism, jokes were the only way to relieve the pressures of living under a harsh dictatorship. The only way to speak out in protest in an environment when neighbors could report each other to the secret police. Now that communism has fallen, and conditions are still tough, its harder to makes jokes, there is no common enemy. A quote I found, "Romanians, up until 1989, had mainly humor to keep them warm. That was the shared culture -- jokes. It was a survival method, really, because when they're coming at you from all sides and over the hills, you might as well have a good laugh before they chop your head off.''

He is also editor of the Exquisite Corpse and I recommend his film, Road Scholar, about his travels across America.
posted by MJoachim at 2:34 PM on July 11, 2002

Oh! I remember a couple:

The CIA and the KGB decided to have a contest to see who had the best agents. Each side was to search the jungle for a monkey, the first side to find one wins.

The Americans found a monkey, and then waited for the Soviets to catch theirs. After a whole day, the Soviets show up with an elephant on a leash.

The CIA says, "That's not a monkey, that's an elephant."

The KGB replies "Stupid Americans! That what he *wants* you to believe. After interrogation, he finally confessed he is a monkey!"


Why do members of the KGB travel in threes?

One can read, one can write, and the third keeps an eye on these two intellectuals.
posted by MJoachim at 2:48 PM on July 11, 2002

alumshubby, my guess is that yellow+blue=police and white+red=ambulance. I really liked that one... "a tank" HA!
posted by whatnotever at 5:47 PM on July 11, 2002

MJoachim, by the same token, Eastern European writers have lost their status -- the great politial dissenters have been replaced by ordinary writers about sex and consumerism. Milan Kundera, perhaps more than any other writer, understood the function of the joke as a distancing mechanism in a totalitarian society and based much of his writing on misunderstood jokes or pranks. One of his novels is even titled The Joke and tells the bitter story of how a young, idealistic communist party member who sends a postcard to his girlfriend inscribed with a sarcastic joke ("Optimism is the opium of the people! The healthy atmosphere stinks! Long live Trotsky!") finds his entire life ruined step by step as a result. This book is more accessible than his somewhat more symbolist The Unbearable Lightness of Being (and never mind the movie).

Similarly, Russian science fiction was lauded in the West for its surreal qualities, which were in many cases merely a way to avoid making overt commentary on the State. I expect the upcoming Cameron/Soderbergh production of Solaris to be much more interesting than a lot of recent sf coming out of Hollywood -- but by the same token, what made it special as a novel (and Tarkovsky's film) is lost on audiences with no familiarity of the circumstances. (Unlike many movie sites, this one gives no short shrift to the book, its author, and the prior film production.)
posted by dhartung at 7:47 PM on July 11, 2002

Oh, and it turns out political dissent / comedy remains viable in Russia (or maybe not): Putin loyalists go after avant-garde writer {scroll down a story or two}. Apparently the novel includes a sex scene between Stalin and Krushchev, but the part that burned them was ... no, that was the part that burned them. Hmm. And they're at least as avant-garde, throwing torn-up copies of the book into a giant toilet bowl. The group, Moving Together, appears to be a latter-day Komsomol, and just a little bit scary.
posted by dhartung at 2:30 AM on July 12, 2002

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