Sunday, June 01, 2008

History as Stand-Up

A new history of jokes in the Communist bloc. There are some good ones cited in Ben Lewis's review. Some of the best are jokes about jokes:

Ceausescu is very angry because he is not hearing any jokes about him. So he orders a huge mass meeting, and he announces, ‘From now on you are going to work without pay.’ And nobody says anything. ‘Okay,’ he continues, ‘and from now on you are all going to work for me.’ Nobody says anything. ‘Tomorrow everybody is condemned to death by hanging,’ he adds. Nobody says anything. ‘Hey,’ he says, ‘are you crazy? Don’t you people have anything to say? Aren’t you going to protest?’ There’s one tiny guy who says, ‘Mr President, I have a question: do we bring our own rope or is the trade union going to give it to us?’

A clerk hears laughing behind the door of a courtroom. He opens the door. At the other end of the room the judge is sitting on the podium convulsed in laughter.

“What’s so funny?” asks the clerk.

“I’ve just heard the funniest joke of my life,” says the judge.

“Tell it to me.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I just sentenced someone to five years’ hard labour for doing that.”

On the other hand, this is chilling:
“I would like to express the wish that by the end of the third Five-Year Plan the need for satire will have disappeared in the Soviet Union,” said Romanov, “leaving only a great need for humour, for cheerful laughter.” The Soviet state would inculcate in the “New Man” of communism, a new sense of humour.

“In the land of the Soviets,” continued Romanov, “a new type of comedy is being created – a comedy of positive heroes. A comedy that does not mock its heroes but depicts them so cheerfully, emphasises their positive qualities with such love and sympathy that the laughter of the audience is joyful and the members of the audience want to emulate the heroes of the comedy, to tackle life’s problems with equal ease and optimism...”

Via Ralph Luker at Cliopatria/HNN.

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