In Communist Russia, joke tells you!
July 13, 2006 6:06 AM   Subscribe

In Soviet Russia, joke makes YOU!
posted by blue_beetle at 6:19 AM on July 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

A man is driving his truck on a country road in Ceausescu's Rumania. It's late, he's tired, the brakes don't really work, so when he finds a huge pig in the middle of the road he can't avoid to hit the animal.

He jumps out of the truck, tries to see if the animal's hurt really bad, and in the process he gets blood on his hands and pants.

The pig dies quickly. The man, horrified, sees that there's a farm nearby, and being a decent man decides to go in and take responsibility. He knocks on the door, an old Rumanian farmer opens the door.

The guy goes: "I killed the pig"

The farmer smiles, happier than he's ever been, hugs the man, and asks him to come in, "Let's celebrate! Do you need help? A hiding place? And even most important, did you manage to kill his fucking wife, too?"
posted by matteo at 6:31 AM on July 13, 2006

Good article. Jokes are a good way to share "unpopular" sentiments in a way that distances the teller from the content of what they're saying. It's no wonder they can act as a semi-anonymous revolution. It's also a way of simultaneously humanising and dehumanising those in power. Which makes them both less scary and more scary.
posted by talitha_kumi at 6:33 AM on July 13, 2006

There was a similar one from the Phillipines:

Ferdinand Marcos and his right hand man General Ver are in hell. Ver is up to his next in boiling tar, but Marcos is only up to his knees. Ver says "Wait a minute, I've done some horrible stuff in my life, but it's nothing compared to what you've done, so how come I'm up to my neck and you're only up to your kness."

Marcos replies "I'm standing on Imelda's shoulders."
posted by jonmc at 6:35 AM on July 13, 2006

This does seem to be a peculiarly communist phenomenon but I feel there is bound to be a western equivalent of humour under duress. Did McCarthyism inspire any jokes?
posted by Shave at 6:45 AM on July 13, 2006

I don't think the McCarthy era lasted long enough for folks to start joking about it. He blazed, then bombed, and people were just glad to the the last of him.
posted by JB71 at 6:51 AM on July 13, 2006

For those who have never heard the original "In Soviet Russia" joke, here it is:

"In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, The Party can always find you!"

-Yakov Smirnoff
posted by sindark at 6:52 AM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Did McCarthyism inspire any jokes?

Not that I know of, but Reagan inspired a few:

Did you know Reagan opened a Kentucky Fried Chicken?

It only serves right wings and assholes.
posted by jonmc at 6:57 AM on July 13, 2006

Not that I know of, but Reagan inspired a few

It's dated by technology now, but I always liked the joke about the reagan typewriter.

It had no memory and no colon.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:07 AM on July 13, 2006

Mu favorite Reagan joke was always:

You know what else the doctors found in Reagan's colon?

Rock Hudson's watch.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:13 AM on July 13, 2006

Jokes are a good way to share "unpopular" sentiments in a way that distances the teller from the content of what they're saying.

Kind of like the anonymous sarcastic metafilter comment.

On that note,
Q: how many labourers does it take to make a Trabant?

A: 3.
One to cut,
one to fold and
one to glue.
posted by spazzm at 7:14 AM on July 13, 2006

It's 1988. A Warsaw man is sent off to the store by his wife to bring home some ham. Naturally the queue goes on for miles and when he finally gets to the counter, all the shelves are bare.

He loses his temper. "I'm sick of this stupid country, sick of this government, sick of the communists!"

Suddenly a shadowy-looking man in a trenchcoat approaches him and says "Calm down, comrade. You remember what this sort of outburst would cause back in the bad old days..." and mimes a trigger being pulled against his temple.

Back home, the man's wife looks at him returning empty-handed and asks, "They're out of ham again?"

"It's worse than that. They're even out of bullets."
posted by genghis at 7:17 AM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

In Soviet Russia there was a farmer who managed to save enough money to purchase a car of his own. He made the journey to the local distributor of automobiles and waited his turn in queue.

When he reached the counter the official told him, "Ok, you can come back to pick up your new car," the official ran his finger down a list, "you can pick up your car two years from tomorrow."

The farmer asked, "Morning or afternoon?" The official replied, "What do you care, it's two years from now?"

The farmer replied, "Well the plumber is coming in the afternoon."
posted by tvjunkie at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2006

This is great.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2006

I would like a list of those 900 jokes.
posted by absalom at 7:59 AM on July 13, 2006

Моя собака не имеет никакой нос. Как она пахнет? Ужасно!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2006

Obligatory Kundera mention.
posted by muckster at 8:37 AM on July 13, 2006

More motherland mirth at Laughing Under the Covers:
A judge walks out of the courtroom, laughing loudly. A colleague asks, "What is it you laugh about?"
"Ah, I just heard an excellent anecdote," the judge says, sweeping tears of laughter.
"An anecdote? Tell me!"
"Are you crazy? I just sentenced a man to ten years for that anecdote."
Closer to the homeland, we have the No Joking Zone.
posted by cenoxo at 8:38 AM on July 13, 2006

So, Stalin, Khruschev and Brezhnev are all together in a train car on the Trans-Siberian Railway when all of a sudden, the train breaks down screeching. The three are sitting there discussing what to do about it and Stalin says "Let's go interrogate the conductor." "No no, let's go find out what's wrong and help fix it," says Khruschev. They argue those two points for a while and then finally Brezhnev says, "Why don't we just draw the curtains and pretend like we're going somewhere?"

I also remember Martin Amis using several examples of similar Communist jokes in his book Koba the Dread, but to a different end: he was more interested in what it was about Soviet totalitarianism vs. Nazism that allowed for such jokes to flourish even though the atrocities committed by the former were by no means on a smaller scale.
posted by Oobidaius at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2006

blue_beetle, isn't that the joke used in a Monty Python skit, superimposed under footage of Hitler giving a speech?
posted by Oobidaius at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2006

One of my biggest used bookstore mistakes was not picking up a huge compendium of these jokes for like two dollars. Educational, hilarious, and depressing all at once.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2006

A Russian general attends some American Army exercises as part of detente. He boasts to the Americans that his soldiers thrive on 2000 calories a day. The Americans reply that their soldiers consume 3000 a day. "Nonsense", the general replies. "No One can eat that many potatoes!"
posted by A189Nut at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2006

A grocery shopper walks into a Moscow store that has been quite picked over. He looks around and says to an employee, "Let me guess--you're out of meat." The employee replies, "No, no, we're out of fish. The store next door is out of meat."
posted by Mapes at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2006

posted by padraigin at 8:54 AM on July 13, 2006

posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 9:12 AM on July 13, 2006

A Russian, a Frenchman and an Englishman argued about Adam's nationality.

The Frenchman said, "Of course Adam was French. Look how passionately he made love to Eve!"

The Englishman said, "Of course Adam was British. Look how he gave his only apple to the lady, like a real gentleman."

The Russian said, "Of course Adam only could be Russian. Who else, possessing nothing but a sole apple, and walking with a naked ass, still believed he was in a paradise?"

More jokes and anecdotes here.
posted by funkbrain at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2006

I love the jokes; the article, not so much. It's pretty arrogant to keep repeating how lousy the jokes are; the author may not find them funny, but who appointed him the universal judge of humor? But of course depressing scholarly analysis of jokes is an ancient tradition. I did like this bit:
Eulenspiegel [the East German humor magazine] once tried to make common cause with Pardon, its West German left-wing counterpart. After all, Pardon also attacked Adenauer and American imperialism. But the editors of Eulenspiegel were stung when Pardon rebuffed their advances, on the grounds that the communist satirists should criticise their own leader, Walter Ulbricht, the same way the capitalist ones went for theirs. The editors of Euelenspiegel printed a rebuttal entitled "How do we write about Walter Ulbricht?" in 1963: "We know from various reliable sources that President Ulbricht has a terrific sense of humour… [but] the transparency and virtue of our state makes it not only difficult but simply impossible to write a satire about its representatives. Where there is nothing to uncover, the satirist will find no material. So how do we satirists write about Walter Ulbricht?… We send our greetings and best wishes to the first secretary of the central committee. We wish comrade Ulbricht health, stamina and a long life."

This article could have been satirical, but wasn't. Rather, it occupies the strange socialist space where the serious and the humorous are identical.
posted by languagehat at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2006

During the Great Proletarion Cultural Revolution, three men find themselves together in a Beijing prison cell.

Finally, one of the men asks, "Why are you here? Me, I opposed Deng Xiao-ping. "

"Why I, I supported Deng Xiao-ping."

"And you comrade, what about you?"

"Ah, me, I am Deng Xiao-ping."
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2006

Woops! Proletarian
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2006

A man and his son are struggling to keep a stub of a candle lit in their tiny Moscow apartment, the father asks "Son do you know what we used for light before we had candles in Russia?"

"No I don't, please tell me father."

posted by Divine_Wino at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2006

In the late 1980s, a man is waiting for the train in Europe. Another fellow, strugging with two large and heavy briefcases, arrives on the platform and sets them down with a sigh. He checks his watch, a golden, glittery thing, with a cable running into one of the briefcases.

Curious, the first man asks the time. The reply comes in a thick Russian accent: "Is 7:02 AM, and train is four minutes late."

"How do you know?"

"Watch tells me. It also tells me that sun rises at 7:12, and sets at 4:54. Moon is full in three days. Moscow is that way," he finished, pointing firmly to his left.

"That's a fine watch you have there!"

"Is product of superior Soviet technology!"

The train pulls up, and the Russian fellow grunts as he once more lifts his briefcases.

"Those look heavy.. what are they?"

posted by Malor at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

This is a 50s joke from communist Poland:

What is this: Eisenhower has a long one, Bierut has a short one, the Pope doesn't use his, while a wife gets it from her husband?

A last name!
posted by jedrek at 9:57 AM on July 13, 2006

I'm actually gonna try to find a funny one in this book of political humor.
posted by jedrek at 10:01 AM on July 13, 2006

An Italian man gets a permit to go work for a clinic in Yugoslavia in the early 80s. He comes from Trieste each morning across the border. Every day he comes across the border on a bicycle. Every day the border police check his passport and then disassemble the bicycle looking for contraband and then, finding none, send him on his way to work. This goes on every day for years.

After the liberation of Slovenia, one of the border guards sees the man in a cafe in Trieste and introduces himself.

He says, I used to check you everyday for contraband and found nothing. So, what were you smuggling?

The man says "Bicycles."
posted by parmanparman at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2006

This has always been my favorite:

Brezhnev gives a speech at a Party congress, and says, "Comrade, the Planning Committee reports that next year we'll have no meat."
A lone voice from the audience sounds, "Then we'll work ten hours a day!"
Brezhnev continues, "The planning Committee reports that in two years we'll have no milk products."
The same voice sounds, "We'll work sixteen hours a day!"
Brezhnev continues, "The Planning Committee reports that in three years we'll have shortage of bread."
The man stands up and exclaims, "Then we shall work day and night without rest!"
Tears appear in Brezhnev's eyes. "Thank you, dear comrade! Let me ask you. Where do you work?"
The man says, "In a crematorium!"
posted by rolypolyman at 11:48 AM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

This made my morning.

I love the thought that jokes were considered so subversive to the state that telling them was prosecutable crime. It made me recall the recent discussion we had here on MeFi about how some folks believe that John Stewart's "Daily Show" posed a danger to American democracy.

Also, the jokes in the article are fairly hilarious. This is a subjective judgement, of course, but if the author was not finding them funny, or actually telling his interview subjects that the jokes weren't funny, he doesn't understand a whole lot about humor. The important thing isn't whether he found them funny or not, but whether the original audiences found them funny.

I may as well get a bunch of old Johnny Carson monologues together and accuse all the people who were laughing at them as having no sense of humor.

Anyhow, great article and thank you to everyone who added (and will add) jokes. This one is absolutely getting marked a favorite.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:57 AM on July 13, 2006

I was in St. Petersburg about a year ago, and we hired a local tour guide to take us around and explain everything. The nice part was she agreed to have lunch with us and talk about life in Russia... which was what we were really interested in.

I asked her for a Russian joke. She hesitated and kind of suggested that Russian's weren't big jokers. I persisted. Here's what she gave me:

A woman is walking down the street in her new fur coat, and she meets a friend.

"What a lovely coat!" says her friend. "It's very beautiful! What animal is the fur from?" the friend asks.

"Mother-in-law" the woman replies.
posted by ewkpates at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2006

"Comrade Stalin, do you collect anything?"

"Yes, I collect jokes about myself."

"How many do you have?"

"Enough to fill three prison camps."
posted by QuietDesperation at 12:06 PM on July 13, 2006

Kind of like the anonymous sarcastic metafilter comment.

You mean the one line response/rebuttal to the thoughtful italicized quote? ;)
posted by taursir at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2006

Q: What's green, other than money?
A: A ruble!
posted by equalpants at 1:03 PM on July 13, 2006

Russian ruble jokes...

It is payday, and a Russian Army captain is paying salaries as he goes down the list.
"Ivanov! Take 3 rubles and sign here!"
"Petrov! Take 3 rubles and sign here!"
"Korsakov! Take 3 rubles and sign here!"
"Total! Sergeant Total?! Ah well, it's a pity he's not here, he gets more than any of you."
posted by zek at 3:12 PM on July 13, 2006

In the interest of namedropping, I met Ben Lewis at IDFA when he was pitching a documentary film on exactly this topic to a round table of international broadcast commissioning editors. In fact, I think I started his "early footage" tape: I work at IDFA every year as a video operator. It was great to chat with him for a few minutes as I'm a great fan of his "breakthrough work", the weird and wonderful Art Safari series, which you should all check out if you haven't already.

The great thing about working as a vid op at the IDFA pitchfest is that you get to see all these great filmmakers in their most humble moments: basically, just before they find out if people are willing to give them money. This means that while I'm cueing up their tape, I also get to be their mental coach for a few minutes, telling them that yes, we do letterboxing here, yes, NTSC is fine, yes, the sound will come out okay and yes, everything is going to be alright.

Ben was one of the least stressed out pitchers I have ever met in six years of IDFA: just came in, said hi, chatted a bit, trusted me with his precious tape, and went to work. He's also very funny in a very intellectual sort of way, which I like. He seems to really like his Communists, though.

In short: Ben Lewis should join Metafilter, stat. He'd fit right in.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:44 PM on July 13, 2006

Good article, excellent observations.

For the record, *I* think that the jokes are funny.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:23 PM on July 13, 2006

zek, what am I missing?
posted by Firas at 4:29 PM on July 13, 2006

Yeah for the record I think they're funny too; although that could also be due to the fact that I'm Russian and still remember sparsely the experiences of my childhood in the Soviet Union.

"A man was sentenced to fifteen years of imprisonment in a high security prison for calling Brezhnev an idiot.

The man's wife asked the judge, why such a harsh sentence was meted out as by the law the maximum term for a personal insult must not exceed a few months. The judge said, 'He's sentenced not for a personal insult, but for revealing classified information.'"
posted by vodkadin at 5:14 PM on July 13, 2006

Ivanov.......3 rubles
Petrov........3 rubles
Korsakov....3 rubles
Total...........9 rubles
posted by ssmith at 5:24 PM on July 13, 2006

The teacher asked little Ivan, "Who is your true father?"
"Comrade Stalin," the boy replied.
"Who is your true mother?"
"The glorious Soviet Union!"
"And what is your goal in life?"
"To be an orphan!"
posted by rob511 at 11:00 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

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