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Canberra Today 4°/8° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Comrade, Russians are always good for a laugh

A 1979 photo of US President Jimmy Carter, left, and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev… Carter asks Brezhnev whether he collects jokes against himself. “I certainly do,” says Brezhnev. Photo: US State Department

To quote an anonymous Russian: “What’s the difference between Capitalism and Communism? Under Capitalism man exploits man; under Communism, it’s the other way round.” CLIVE WILLIAMS takes a serious look at Russian humour.  

Most Australians probably don’t think of Russians and humour going together but it’s why presidents Reagan and Gorbachev got along so well; they both enjoyed humorous anecdotes.

Clive Williams.

Russian humour is often characterised by its dark, satirical and sometimes absurd nature, reflecting the country’s tumultuous history and stoic outlook on life. 

It frequently delves into political satire, poking fun at authority figures and societal norms with a blend of wit and cynicism.

Russian jokes often serve as a coping mechanism for the challenges of everyday life, offering a release valve for frustrations and tensions. Russian humour can be sharp, clever and insightful, revealing the resilience and creativity of its people.

Here are some examples:

  • An American and a Russian are talking about freedom of speech. The American boasts: “I can stand outside the White House and say, ‘Down with Biden. without being arrested.” So what, says the Russian: “I can stand outside the Kremlin and I too can say ‘Down with Biden’ without being arrested.”
  • During a break in their summit at Helsinki, President Carter asks President Brezhnev whether he collects jokes against himself. “I certainly do,” says Brezhnev. “Are there many?” Carter asks. “Two gulags full” says Brezhnev.
  • A party official is extolling the plenty of the Soviet Union and asks for questions at the end of his lecture. Rabinovich puts up his hand and asks: “If there’s so much plenty, where has all the meat gone?” The next day the lecture resumes. At the end, the party official asks for questions again. This time Abramovich puts up his hand and asks: “Where has Rabinovich gone?”
  • A Russian and a Jewish prisoner have been sentenced to death in a Siberian gulag. The prison governor says he will grant their last wishes. The Russian asks to speak to a priest – and his request is granted. The Jewish prisoner says: “My last wish is to have strawberries and cream.” The prison governor looks perturbed and says: “Where will I find strawberries and cream here in the middle of winter?”
  • A middle-aged Moscow diner tells his female dinner companion he’s worried about grey hairs. “Don’t be,” says his companion reassuringly, “they look distinguished on someone your age. Where are they?” “In my soup,” he replies.
  • Aeroflot introduces a new state-of-the-art aircraft. After the first passengers have boarded, an onboard announcement says: “This wonderful new Russian aircraft is entirely electronic and flown by computer with no comrade pilot on board. There is nothing to worry about… worry about… worry about…”
  • An Englishman, Frenchman and Russian are speculating on the nationality of Adam and Eve. The Englishman says: “They must have been English. No one else would be as polite as Adam, to share his only apple with Eve.” “Nonsense” says the Frenchman, “they must have been French for Adam to have seduced Eve.” The Russian observed: “You are both wrong. Adam and Eve were obviously Russian. Who else could be stark naked, have only one apple between them, and think they’re in Paradise?”
  • A Soviet architect is visiting America, and his host proudly shows him around his house with its home theatre, family room, triple garage, etcetera. “Do you have houses like this in the Soviet Union?” he asks. “Yes” replies the Russian “but without the partitions.”
  • A Russian soldier sees his friend with burnt ears and asks him what happened? “Well, I was ironing my uniform when the phone rang and, not thinking, I put the iron to my right ear.” “I can understand that,” said his friend, “but how did you burn the other one?” “Well,” he replied, “I immediately called a doctor for advice.”
  • An FSB spy is to be parachuted into enemy territory. He’s told: “The aircraft will take you to eastern Ukraine and you will jump out with a parachute. When you get to the ground a car will be waiting with further instructions.” He does as instructed but when he jumps from the plane the parachute doesn’t open. “Typical of Russian espionage planning” he says to himself “I bet the car won’t be there either.”
  • A Moscow retirement home advertises it has everything one could wish for, including a 25-metre swimming pool. “That’s wonderful” says the retiree “I like to dive every day.” “Well,” he’s told “you’re welcome to do that, but the pool won’t have water in it until the next five-year plan.”
  • In Soviet Russia, a man goes to buy a car. The salesman says: “You have to pay in advance, but the car will be delivered on August 5 in three years’ time.” The customer asks: “Morning or afternoon?” Confused, the salesman asks: “What difference will it make?” “Well,” says the customer, “I’m told the plumber is coming in the morning.”

Clive Williams is a Canberra columnist

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Clive Williams

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One Response to Comrade, Russians are always good for a laugh

David Maywald says: 3 April 2024 at 12:07 pm

Thanks Clive, there can never be too much laughter in the world. It’s great to dissolving differences/boundaries, and building relationships.


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