1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

Russians are the most humorous people in the world February 7, 2010

Sounds unbelievable, right 🙂 Typically, in the Western imagination, Russians are sombre people, who live in cold places, dress in grey or brown, drink vodka in shots and rarely smile, much less laugh. I’ve found that much of this image is easy to dispel as an outdated Cold War stereotype. The image problem is exacerbated by the Russian habit of maintaining a poker face in public and a tendency towards, let’s say, a brusque manner. The irony is that Russians actually have a great sense of humour.

Whether you believe it or not, I am going to prove that it is so sharing my own experiences and observations.

HUMOUR AS NEWS

Being myself Russian, I start my day with pretty unusual portion of news. This is  anekdot.ru – a brilliant site where Russian speaking people post their newly invented jokes and real-life funny stories. The charm of it is that reading these jokes, freshly created on the same day or the next day when something happened (in Russia or around  the world) one can get the best update on the situation in a witty perspective. I wonder if there is such a site anywhere in the world? And if it is being used as a kind of a news portal?

FREQUENCY

An average Russians tells from 1 to 5 (some to 10) jokes A DAY! In my whole 12 years of living in Austria I have heard may be 1 or 2 jokes from people here (1 or 2 in 12 years!). I thinks, it’s pretty much same in many places. But Russia is different 🙂

WHY?

There is a supposition that humor is being used as an “antidepressant” because, as commonly believed, “Russian life is hard.” Indeed, Russian humour is, most often, a self-deprecating and effective weapon against iniquity, injustice and pain, of which Russians have had extra helpings – especially in the last century or so. 

A man is walking down the street with a spear through his chest. His friend runs up and says, “Wow! Does it hurt?”

“Only when I laugh,” comes the reply.

WHAT IS A RUSSIAN JOKE?

The most popular form of Russian humour consists of jokes (анекдоты — anekdoty), which are short stories with a punch line. Typical of Russian joke culture is a series of categories with fixed and highly familiar settings and characters. Surprising effects are achieved by an endless variety of plots and plays on words.

There are many jokes about the deep Russian soul, alcoholism and laziness, but all of these are for the most part kind and very funny.

Sometimes the jokes are not specifically Russian jokes per se but Western jokes that use reversal of phrase to pun soviet phenomena, e.g., “In America, you can always find a party; in soviet Russia, the party can always find you.” The word “party” has a double meaning, when used in conjunction with America it refers to a social gathering, when used in conjunction with soviet Russia it refers to Russia’s communist party.

Interestingly, with the end of authoritarian regimes in Russia in the 1990s, the decline of political humour has been lamented as being a symptom of Westernisation. New features of post-communist Russian society, such as semi-criminal businessmen, instead led to the emergence of other stereotypes for satirical jokes.

INTELLIGENT HUMOUR

although a huge number of jokes related to drinking or sex, in generall Russian humour seem to be far more “intelligent” that Western (no idea about Eastern though!). Russians were always taking pride in the profound and daring social content of their humour. In order to understand Russian jokes, one has to be generally well educated because the jokes often relate to a vide range of knowledge on politics, sociology, science, history, etc. A notable feature of Russian humor is the virtual lack of jokes about religion. This is not because Russians are particularly pious; religion simply had little relevance to the everyday life under Soviet rule.

One of the most polular jokes charachter:

 Standartenführer Stirlitz, alias Colonel Isayev is a character from the Soviet TV series “Seventeen Moments of Spring” (“Семнадцать мгновений весны”) about a fictional Soviet intelligence officer who infiltrates Nazi Germany. Stirlitz interacts with Nazi officials and other characters in the series. Usually two-liners spoofing the solemn style of the original voice-overs, the plot is resolved in grotesque plays on words or in dumb parodies of overly-smart narrow escapes and superlogical trains of thought of the “original” Stirlitz.

Now you can ask me why noone in the rest of the world is aware about that awesome “humoroousness” of Russians? Well obviously there are some cultural and historical reasons as those:

1.Russia is a very “closed” country and the humor is a “insider” humour, mostly will be not understandable to any outsider.

For instance, one of the most popular joke figures are… British. These are characters from the famous novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about the private detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Doctor Watson. The jokes appeared and became popular soon after the screen versions of several of those stories came out on Soviet TV in late 1970s – mid-1980s. The attraction of these figures is in the exceptional analytical abilities of Sherlok Holmes, which obviously fascinate Russians. Example: “Holmes and Watson went camping. After they went to bed, in the middle of the night Holmes wakes his friend up and asks: “Tell me, Watson, what does this starry sky tell you?” — “It tells me that the weather is going to be nice in the morning” — “And to me it tells that someone has stolen our bloody tent!”.

2. The very use of obscene Russian vocabulary, called mat, can enhance the humorous effect of a joke by its emotional impact. Due to the somewhat different cultural attitude to obscene slang, such an effect is difficult to render in English. The taboo status often makes mat itself the subject of a joke. I personaly hate these expressions and avoid not only using but also listetning to then, even in jokes. But infortunately their role in Russian language and humour is really big.

All in all, Russia is a pretty funny place and the people here have a good sense of humor. And the main thing is that Russians are really open while expressing themselves. Russian humor is quite good, open and intelligent and most importantly, Russians are ready to laugh at themselves.

 

15 Responses to “Russians are the most humorous people in the world”

  1. Alima Says:

    Without humor is really hard to survive here!:)))

  2. Dima Says:

    And once again thank you Axinia for your urge towards breaking our stereotypeis. I really appriciate that, because most people percept life through massmedia ready-made stereotupies… and most of the world knows nothing about our countries.
    Do you about ukrainian politics and today’s presedent elections, that is the funniest thing…

  3. swaps Says:

    AND, a Russian joke fits India just as well 🙂

    For example, this could be on a Russian or an Indian nouveau riche :

    An NR comes into a car dealership and asks for a silver Mercedes 600SEL. The employee shows him the car, receives the payment and asks with much curiosity:
    – Excuse me, sir, but didn`t you buy exactly same car three days ago?
    – I sure did, – retorts the NR, – But its ashtray has filled up already!!!

  4. swaps Says:

    I found another:

    Two NRs meet, and one asks:
    – Hey, Vasya, where did you get your nice tie?
    – At the Valentino store. Cost me $2000.
    – Phew, – the other one says with contempt, – I know a place where you can get exactly the same tie for $5000!

  5. axinia Says:

    swaps, i see what you mean, but these examples can be typical for many nations.
    It’s a pity that the real Russian jokes, cool ones are JUST IMPOSSIBLE to translate…that is why you will never find them in English translations, and the examples that are given in Internet, they are not even really funny…

  6. Bernard Says:

    Very nice to hear, but I have heared the Sherlock Holmes joke before. Are you sure it originated in Russia? The British also use bad language to emphasize their humour and the comedians compete with each other to be as gross as possible, which is a real shame as they are funnier when they are clean. We need SY comics.

    • axinia Says:

      Bernard, thanks 🙂 I do hope there have been Sherlok Holes jokes even before the Russian film – after all, he is such a special sohpisticated character!
      However the Russian jokes on Holmes seem to be still typical Russian, not of British style 😉 At least the ones I have heard…

  7. ruchir Says:

    I think you forgot indians.Indians make fun of each other and also make fun of themselves.They just love to laugh.Most of them dont know when to laugh and when not to and so land in trouble as they come of as rude.Espeacialy the children here(even the street chilren) are the happiest species on earth.
    I see even the children begging for alms at traffic signals playing hide and seek behind the cars waiting at the signal and they seem more happy than the average north american in those stupid hollywood movies.

  8. radha Says:

    healthy humor is so so so important in our lives, it realy makes a huge different to our personalities and inner developments. i was very lucky to have grown with close people who have a good dosage of daily humour, and sometimes i just call them up for sharing jokes!! on another side chinese humour is nice, i am getting the delicate fresh side of it without caring too much for the rest. couples need daily humor too,it s a real NEED which deserve great attention from both sides. i enjoy a VERY sweet humor with hubby so all in all i really enjoy a good life with good laughs ~ It s becoz i put my attention on it, its something i could not live without ~

  9. axinia Says:

    hi ruchir,
    I agree with you that probalby Indians are the happeist people in teh world (or at least one of the happiest), however speaking about HUMOROUS side, it is not the same as happy. Happy people do alugh a lot, or may be not.

    But humor as it is a bit different quality, it has to rather with intellect than with the heart. Adn Russian humor mostly is not innocent, unfortuantely. These are things we can’t compare, I think.

  10. I really enjoyed this post, Axinia, thank you! 🙂

    A man is walking down the street with a spear through his chest. His friend runs up and says, “Wow! Does it hurt?”

    “Only when I laugh,” comes the reply.

    😯

    In America, you can always find a party; in soviet Russia, the party can always find you.

    😆

    I agree that some forms of humour can be understood only if one understands the cultural context and often, the language, in which they were originally used. It sometimes makes humour one of those things that can become meaningless to cultural outsiders, and even translations would often fail to convey the humour contained in the originals.

    The attraction of these figures is in the exceptional analytical abilities of Sherlok Holmes, which obviously fascinate Russians.

    Holmes is one character that can fascinate any person on Earth. I was crazy about Holmes when I was in school. Sadly, there are only a finite number of Holmes’ stories. I’m going to watch the Holmes movie as I haven’t watched it yet. But I bet it wouldn’t come anywhere near the sheer thrill of reading Doyle’s stories on Holmes and his unbelievable intelligence and out-of-the-world observational powers.

    • axinia Says:

      thanks, Raj 🙂

      I was too a great fan of Holmes at school!
      I don’t think the new film will fascinate me though, I am too much impressed by the “Russian” Holmes. 🙂

      • I am too much influenced by the “Russian” Holmes

        😯

        The Brits would be utterly horrified 😯 to hear that! 😉 For Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson were as British as afternoon tea in London.

        🙂

  11. Dmitry Says:

    thank you so much, you pin-point it perfectly when it comes to soviet humour. The comment with ashtray is spot-on when it comes to modern (i.e. 90’s) Russian anedcotes

  12. гоша Says:

    Партнерства и не будет, цель заявлена – увеличение мощи США, а это в любом случае против интересов РФ. Как Дональд Трамп победил на выборах luvers1.livejournal.com/


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