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Weapons of mass derision: Is Russian comedy the Kremlin’s secret weapon?

by Alexey Timofeychev, from Russia Beyond the Headlines

NATO analysts studied Russian comedy TV programs over the past nine years and concluded that they serve the Kremlin’s political objectives and are directed against the West.

TV hosts Alexander Tsekalo, Sergei Svetlakov, Ivan Urgant and Garik Martirosyan, from left, during the filming of Prozhektorparishilton program for Channel One. Source: Maxim Li/RIA Novosti

NATO’s Strategic Communications Center (StratCom) is sounding the alarm about the threat of Russian humor. On March 17 in Riga, Latvian specialists presented the report, “StratCom laughs: in search of an analytical network,” that was the result of nine years of research.

The authors conducted a content analysis of four popular comedy programs on Russia’s Channel One TV since 2008. Special focus was given to the Club of the Merry and Witty, also known by it’s Russian initials, KVN, which is one of the oldest comedy shows on Russian television.

Discrediting Western leaders

StratCom specialists are especially concerned by the way evening comedy shows – Projector Paris Hilton, Evening Urgant, Yesterday Live, and Maxim Maxim – depict Western leaders. NATO analysts concluded that Russian TV comedians depict Western leaders in a negative light in order to discredit them. Russian TV devotes the most amount of time to American politicians.

“George Walker Bush has been portrayed in the most negative light – both personally and professionally, as a person of extremely low intelligence, hated by people all around the world,” said the report. Among the Bush jokes is one where President Obama, when playing with White House employees’ children, says that the first to urinate on the rug was George Walker Bush.

Speaking about French presidents, the analysts concluded that they were never portrayed as the leader of an influential western European state. “We see two rather simple men (Nicolas Sarkozy and Francoise Hollande) who struggle to overcome the challenges of their everyday lives like any average person.” The authors of the report were also displeased with the way German Chancellor Angela Merkel is presented. “Her role as one of the leading politicians of the European Union is almost completely ignored.”

Gibberish

The report gave much attention to KVN, which has been on Russian TV for many years. A performance by Parapaparam, a team from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was taken as a case study. Analyzing the team’s jokes, NATO concluded that the Kremlin uses KVN as “an instrument of strategic communications,” by which the “regime” gains access to “strategically important” youngsters.

RBTH asked Ivan Abramov, captain of Parapaparam, to comment on these conclusions, and he called the analysts’ evaluations “gibberish,” disagreeing with their belief that KVN thrives thanks to “special relations with the Kremlin.” Abramov linked KVN’s success to an excellent sense of humor and its director, Alexander Maslyakov.

NATO’s report will probably only generate more interest in the program. “After all this controversy people will start watching us with greater interest, and I fear to even think how many jokes will be created and performed by KVN members all over Russia,” said Maslyakov.

Diabolical Russians?

A Channel One representative told RIA Novosti:

We read it and laughed.”

KVN jury member and former player Yuly Gusman said, “brilliant people invented the program 56 years ago. It was supposed to be a weapon against NATO, and for all this time they’ve been honing it and now, thank God, it’s perfect.”

Another jury member, Valdis Pelsh, said he’s happy about the Russian comedy TV program’s popularity, and recommends NATO employees to “watch it with the whole family.

A member of KVN’s Ural Pelmeni team, Andrei Rozhkov, said the report “looks like a fake; this is too much. I understand when there was the Komsomol, which prepared personnel for the Communist Party, but it’s complete nonsense to say today that KVN is an ideological instrument.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry also took note of the report. Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said, “humor has become a new challenge to peace. It’s the new secret weapon in the arsenal of those insidious and diabolical Russians.”


18 Comments

  1. Clive Ray says

    Does anyone remember 3 Cheers for January (or whatever the month) from the BBC World Service? It ran until at least the end of the 80s and was a satitical roundup of the month’s news. It was wicked. It was very much a many-a-true-word-said-in-jest kind of propaganda. Of course, most everyone from the anglosphere assumed that those words said in jest were actually true. The complaints from the targeted countries and political figures seemed to make it all the more funny and true. Only now can I see it for the propaganda that it was. But nowadays the Russians are so spoilt for choice when it comes to material to make mirth with that they hardly need to stoop to propaganda.

    Like

  2. McIrish says

    Magnitsky’s lawyer badly injured the day before he was meant to give evidence against state corruption, yet again another ‘accident’ befalls someone who dare stand up to Putin. Open your eyes people, Putin is a dirty killer and a dictator, no different to Erdogan. Lets hope the next accident befalls Putin himself.

    Like

    • Daniel Rich says

      @ McIrish,

      Send both Sultan Errdogance and H.E> Mr. Putin to the Syrian SAA and watch what happens.

      On top of that, a real villain finishes off his job, but according to you, Magnitsky’s lawyer is still alive, to testify another day..

      Like

    • Jim Scott says

      Putin may be a dirty killer but he is not in the same league as Obama and his friends in NATO who have slaughtered millions and made tens of millions homeless throughout the Middle East and North Africa. That is no joke but the lunatics in NATO have no sense of humanity let alone humour. As for the new US President the guy is a laughing a minute clown with his both his little hands on the N button..

      Liked by 1 person

    • Seraskier says

      How many black people have been murdered by policemen in your shabby excuse for a country?? Found those WMD yet, have you?

      You’re just a laughable blob of obesity.

      Like

  3. summitflyer says

    This article is a hoot .LOL . Leave it to the Russians to come up with this kind of humor. If only the warmongers of NATO especially , could take a joke once in a while.

    Like

    • Seraskier says

      Have you ever had the misfortune to listen to Curtis Crapalotti? Just imagine a conversation between him and Norwegian Neanderthal Jens Stoltenberg? Two more humorless sacks of manure would be difficult to imagine. Or they could remake The Muppet Show with Martin Caveman Dempsey and Phillip Breedhate as Waldorf and Stadler.

      EVen so, Crapalotti said last week he believed Russia is funding the Taliban – so he clearly has a career in standup ahead of him.

      Like

  4. Kaiama says

    I thought Allo Allo and Fawlty Towers were “just” comedy programmes but now I see that we were waging a devious war against Paris and Barcelona.

    Like

  5. rtj1211 says

    OF course, the dastardly British never portrayed the Russian KGB as anything other than evil monsters overcome by a womanising hero called James Bond, did they? Perish the thought that MI6 ever ballsed it up enough for Russian spies to prevail once in a while…so nothing unique about what Russia is doing.

    For the sake of balance, ‘Yes Prime Minister’ did suggest that the Kremlin knew NATO plans and UK Foreign policy long before our Prime Minister had been informed, but then all UK Cabinet Ministers were portrayed as bumbling buffoons by the Civil Service Mandarins (who were portrayed as self serving, hypocritical elitist charlatans of the worst order).

    So I guess we in Britain have at least been even-handed and have no need to ask Russian comedians to ridicule our senior political leaders as we get the job done so well without them….

    As for ridiculing American leaders, go back to the 1980s to see Ronnie Reagan making Star Wars policy whilst playing Space Invaders. And as for Dubya….

    But that is different as we and America have been in an open marriage for decades…(the Americans screw anyone they feel like and the British are their dutiful wife at home).

    Perhaps we Brits could learn something from Mrs Putin and Mrs Abramovitch Mk II??!!

    Like

    • Jim Scott says

      Next thing the Russian comedy writers will be suggesting British MPs are sticking their penises in pigs mouths and trying to screw Europe.

      Like

  6. Martin stanley says

    Sorry, yo no comprendo … how the hell could it be possible to not depict western leaders in a negative light, when a glimpse of truth regarding their intent be revealed from
    behind ze media 24/7 ‘smoke and mirrors show’?

    Unfortunately inflicted tragedy (rather than simply comedy) is on the rise due to the increasing volume of sick lying compassionless wisdom-less jokers chasing ‘leadership’ (ha ha) …

    And ‘getting it’. Thanks to the distracted and made-fearful-misinformed herded masses. Unfortunately critical thought, truth-seeking, and ‘learning from history’ (since the close of WW2) are apparently not in vogue with the majority of voters. “Euk, damn inty’leck-tuals”

    i fear that the final greatest ‘joke’ of all will be …

    No. I must remain optimistic … cling to hope … even though increasing led to suspect; deep inside, that clutching to the leaking hope life raft is but … another act of denial. Oh woe is me.
    Us.
    Our biped race.

    Sometimes a good laugh is the only medicine easily available , but anal inbred NATO cannot be expected to appreciate such subtle things as self-reflection or irony; no, not while fully engaged in heroically defending our wonderful freedom and democrasy from the devil incarnate, that endlessly evil Poo’tin, singly responsible for all our woes.

    Buddha bless his statesmanship and change the channel.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hardly a secret to anyone who has watched RT for a while. Not to criticise RT though, since all media outlets have their own preferred form of propaganda.
    If it’s seems to good to be true, it probably is. So, given almost unlimited reach and the power to shape people’s perceptions, are we so naive to expect any media to be truthful?

    Liked by 1 person

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