Contrary to what many might think, Russians are quite cheerful people. Although our sense of humour at times can be quite strange. Perhaps it lacks the flirty finesse of English humour or funky directness of American one, but it’s humour nonetheless. At times it can even be funny.
Most of the jokes these days can be found on the Internet. They exist in the form of memes and usually involve photos of certain individuals who were once unfortunate enough (or fortunate, depends how you look at it) to put themselves on YouTube. Yeah, Russians love laughing at others. That’s probably the cornerstone of our humour. You’ll rarely find a Russian who likes to laugh at himself/herself, but when it comes to others…oh, that’s another story.
It’s quite interesting that Russians of previous generations like to claim that young people are spoilt and have a stupid sense of humour. I tried many times showing my mum things I found on YouTube that I thought were downright hilarious. However, the only reaction I would get was a confused look on her face. Then she would ask when exactly she was supposed to laugh.
True, humour changes from generation to generation. What our grandparents found funny usually makes us shrug and elicits at best a wry smile. But some things never change. One of them, as surprising as it may seem, is so-called black humour. Maybe this is so, because life for an average Russian is not always sweet and light. So, in order to survive, you’ve got to learn to laugh in the face of hardships that life throws at you.
Actually, Russian humour can be put into 3 major categories: Soviet humour, post-Soviet humour and modern humour. Let me briefly introduce you to these categories:
- The Soviet era is the one that gets romanticised the most. And for a good reason, too. It was at that time we got our share of cinematic geniuses. A lot of great comedies with little to no profanity. If you’re into something like that, check out the comedies directed by Leonid Gaiday, namely Бриллиантовая рука/the Diamond hand, Иван Васильевич меняет профессию/Ivan Vasilyevich changes professions (my personal favourite) and Кавказская пленница/The Caucasian prisoner.
All three are still watched in many Russian homes on a regular basis.
- The situation changed dramatically with the collapse of the Soviet Union. People literally went crazy, which took its toll on all forms of contemporary art. Humour became less sophisticated and you would often watch comedies touching the previously taboo subjects, such as sex and politics. One of the perfect examples of such movies is Ширли-Мырли/Shirli-Mirli by Vladimir Menshov, which shamelessly mocks the reality of Russian life (unfortunately, no English subtitles for this one).
- The term modern Russian comedies can be used to describe all the comedies that came out after the year 2000. Since it’s nearly been two decades, this is quite a broad topic to discuss. In brief, modern comedies have their ups and downs, and one can find his share of good and bad comedies. However, let’s be honest, good Russian comedies are hard to come by these days. Usually they are filmed by independent studios and aren’t always shown at cinemas. I would recommend you something, but I don’t want to be responsible for spoiling your mood. So, I’ll leave it up to you.
What is the situation with comedies in your native country? Feel free to share your thoughts below.