Sunday, May 13, 2012

Samizdat Humor

Obama humor

For the past three years, as America has become increasingly Sovietized, Dymphna and I have been predicting the emergence of Soviet-style underground humor among the common people of our country. Now it has finally happened — today we heard our first identifiably samizdat joke.

I’ll get to the joke in a minute. First, however, a detour into Russian humor is in order, given that the jokes of the Soviet era are now largely consigned to the history books. When I was young, a “Russian joke” was usually the funniest thing I had heard in a long time. As the regime that inspired them faded into the past, they lost their punch, and now only seem funny to those who remember their original context.

Normal political opposition was impossible in the USSR. Dissent tended to emerge in samizdat — contraband political writings lovingly copied and passed from hand to hand — or through privately told jokes. Russians are an intelligent and witty people, so the jokes of the Soviet period were darkly funny indeed.

The most famous Soviet joke was probably this one-liner:

We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.

The Soviet economy in a nutshell!

A longer example, and one of the best jokes I’ve ever heard:

It seems that Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev were riding on a train. Suddenly, out in the middle of nowhere, the train inexplicably stopped.

After a few minutes of fidgeting, Stalin stood up and left the compartment. He returned after a while and said, “Problem is solved. Engineer has been shot.”

Still the train did not move. After a few more minutes, Khrushchev stood up and left the compartment. When he returned, he said, “Problem is solved. Engineer has been posthumously rehabilitated.”

And still the train did not move. Finally Brezhnev stood up, pulled down the window shade, and said, “Problem is solved. Train is moving.”

Come to think of it, that joke could be recycled here in the People’s Republic of America. Just replace the troika with Bernanke, Geithner, and Obama… Yep, the train is moving!

But now for the first real American samizdat joke I’ve heard since the dawn of the Forward! era:
A black guy,
An illegal alien,
A Muslim,
And a Communist
Walk into a bar.

The bartender asks,

“What can I get you, Mr. President?”

There you go — all the things you can’t say about our president without risking your livelihood or your bodily integrity, condensed into a single pithy moment of hilarity. The dissidents of Leningrad would be proud of us!

Strictly speaking, though, our system isn’t really Soviet-style, not yet. The power of the federal government isn’t generally brought to bear against ordinary citizens who dare to criticize the regime.

However, outspoken critics do get beaten up by union thugs from time to time. And a politically incorrect opinion uttered carelessly in the workplace may cost an employee her job, especially if she works for federal, state, or local government. Or for a private corporation that contributes generously to the DNC.

The repression is informal and still mostly unofficial, but it is very real.

Just think about how you’ll retell this joke to your friends. You’ll pick your audience carefully, making sure that it includes no Obamatrons. If you repeat it at work or in public, you’ll look over both shoulders beforehand, ensuring that only the intended listener can hear what you’re about to say.

And remember: the microphone is usually in the flower arrangement or the light fixture.

One more Soviet joke. I can’t help myself — I have dozens of them:

A flock of ducks is trying desperately to get across the border into Finland, but the Finnish border guards won’t let them through.

“Please let us in!” cries the head duck. “The KGB are rounding up all the sheep!”

“Don’t be daft,” says the guard captain. “You’re ducks, not sheep!”

“Hah!” says the duck. “You try telling that to the KGB!”


Vortac said...

My type of humour! Have some Yugoslavian jokes about our communist ex-leaders:

Yugoslavian President Tito comes to visit one factory and asks local worker how many steel bolts are manufactured per day.
- "Five, comrade Tito" replies the worker
- "Only five?! I would make at least 30!" says Tito.
- "Yes, comrade Tito, but you are a locksmith and I am Master of Economics"

(this one is perhaps hard to understand but Tito was really a locksmith by profession and, on the other hand, communist countries were well known for issuing massive amounts of useless college degrees, since it was considered politically desireable that everyone is "highly-educated").

Here's another one:

A team of American psychiatrists went to visit a Yugoslavian insane asylum. As soon as they entered into the wards, all patients started shouting "Long live comrade Tito". Only one remained silent.
"Why are you not shouting?" asked the psychiatrists.
"I am not crazy, I am a medic".

Anonymous said...

More good Soviet jokes please!

babs said...

Very funny/sad Vortac.

Dymphna said...

The Lurker sent this one along, from the old days.

Actually, The lurker has some cool jokes, but many aren't fit for a blog like ours. This one passed the smell test, though.


Stories leaked out of the Soviet Union that they were developing a
nuclear weapon that could fit into a suitcase. So the US sent a spy into Russia to find out if this was true.

Years went by. No word.

Then out of nowhere, the spy emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. He told his bosses that yes, the soviet union had indeed developed a nuclear weapon & it would fit into a suitcase...

...and as soon as the USSR developed a suitcase, the weapon would be deployed.


Anonymous said...

"issuing massive amounts of useless college degrees, since it was considered politically desireable that everyone is "highly-educated""

Ha, I see that happening in western countries right now!

Henrik R Clausen said...

communist countries were well known for issuing massive amounts of useless college degrees, since it was considered politically desireable that everyone is "highly-educated"

The difference between then and our current societies being..?

Anonymous said...

Noteworthy here may also be Bertolt Brechts comment on the communist governments reaction to the workers uprising in East Berlin in 1953:

"Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?"

sounds familiar doesn't it?

Vortac said...

Ivan Novak decided to join the Yugoslavian Communist Party. Party committee is interviewing him before his admission is approved:

- Comrade Novak, do you smoke?
- Well, sometimes...
- And if comrade Tito stopped smoking, would you stop too?
- Well, yes, I would
- Comrade Novak, do you drink?
- Well, on few occasions...
- Do you know that comrade Tito does not approve of drinking in the Party?
- Well, then I won't drink anymore
- What about women, comrade Novak?
- Well, I like to...
- Do you know comrade Tito is against immorality in the Party?
- Well, if Tito says so, then I won't dally with females anymore
- One last question comrade Novak: would you give your life for the Party?
- Of course. Who wants such a life anyway...

D Corrigan said...

IN response to Vortac. That must be the same reason there are so many muslim suicide bombers