Posts filled under #jokes

An extract on #jokes

Russian joke culture includes a series of categories with fixed and highly familiar settings and characters. Surprising effects are achieved by an endless variety of plot twists. Russian jokes treat topics found everywhere in the world, including sex, politics, spousal relations, or mothers-in-law. This article discusses Russian joke subjects that are particular to Russian or Soviet culture. A major subcategory is Russian political jokes, which are discussed in a separate article. Every category has numerous untranslatable jokes that rely on linguistic puns, wordplay, and the Russian language vocabulary of foul language. Below, (L) marks jokes whose humor value critically depends on intrinsic features of the Russian language.

Stierlitz is a fictional Soviet intelligence officer, portrayed by Vyacheslav Tikhonov in the popular Soviet TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring. In the jokes, Stierlitz interacts with various characters, most prominently his nemesis Mller. Usually two-liners spoofing the solemn style of the original TV voice-overs, the plot is resolved in grotesque plays on words or in parodies of the trains of thought and narrow escapes of the "original" Stierlitz. Mller was walking through the forest when he saw two eyes staring at him in the darkness: "Must be an owl," Mller thought. / "Who's an owl? You're an owl yourself!" Stierlitz thought. Stierlitz opens a door, and the lights go on. Stierlitz closes the door, and the lights go out. Stierlitz opens the door again; the light goes back on. Stierlitz closes the door; the light goes out again. Stierlitz deduces, "It's a refrigerator". Stierlitz approaches Berlin, which is veiled in smoke from widespread fires: "Must have forgotten to turn off my iron", Stierlitz thought with slight irritation. Stierlitz wakes up in a prison cell. "Which identity should I use?" he wonders. "Let's see. If a person in black uniform walks in, I must be in Germany so I'll say I'm Standartenfhrer Stierlitz. If they wear green uniform, I'm in USSR so I'll admit I'm Colonel Isayev". The door opens and a person in a grey uniform comes in saying, "You really should ease up on vodka, Comrade Tikhonov!"

Poruchik (First Lieutenant) Dmitry Rzhevsky is a cavalry (Hussar) officer, a straightforward, unsophisticated, and immensely rude military type whose rank and standing nevertheless gain him entrance into high society. In the aristocratic setting of high-society formal balls, and 19th-century social sophistication with widespread use of the French language, Rzhevsky, famous for brisk but usually unintelligent remarks, keeps puncturing the decorum with his vulgarities. In the jokes, he is often seen interacting with characters from the novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The name is borrowed from a character from a popular 1960s comedy, Hussar Ballad (Russian: ), bearing little in common with the folklore hero. The 1967 film rendering of War and Peace contributed to the proliferation of the Rzhevsky jokes. Some researchers point out that many jokes of this kind are versions of 19th-century Russian army jokes, retold as a new series of jokes about Rzhevsky. Rzhevsky (and supposedly all Hussars) has a casual, nonchalant attitude to love and sex: Poruchik Rzhevsky is putting his riding boots on and is about to take leave of a charming demoiselle he had met the previous evening: "Mon cher Poruchik", she intones teasingly, "aren't you forgetting about the money?" Rzhevsky turns to her and says proudly: "Hussars never take money!" (The latter expression Gusary deneg ne berut! has become a Russian catchphrase.) He also gives his best advice to other Russian gentlemen on love matters. The Poruchik believes that the most straightforward approach is the most effective one: Kniaz Andrei Bolkonski asks Poruchik Rzhevsky: "Tell me, Poruchik, how did you come to be so good with the ladies? What is your secret?" / "It's quite simplement, mon Prince, quite simplement. I just come over and say: 'Madame, would you like to fuck?'" / "But Poruchik, you'll get slapped in the face for that!" / "Oui, in most cases, they slap, but occasionally, some of them fuck." A series of jokes in which Rzhevsky wants to impress a high society gathering with a witticism, but messes up: Poruchik Rzhevsky asks his batman: "Stepan, there is a grand ball tonight. Got any new puns for me to tell there?" / "Sure, sir, how about this rhyme: 'Adam had Eve... right on the eve... of their very last day in Eden...'" / "That's a good one!" / Later, at the ball: "Monsieurs, monsieurs! My Stepan taught me a funny chanson ridicule: 'Adam boinked Eve at dawn...' Pardon, not like that... 'Adam and Eve fuck through the night ...' Er... Hell, basically they fuck, but it was absolutement splendid in verse!" A series of jokes is based on a paradox of vulgarity within a high society setting: Natasha Rostova attends her first formal ball and dances with Pierre Bezukhov: "Pierre, isn't that grease on your collar?" / "Oh my, how could I miss such a terrible flaw in my costume, I'm totally destroyed!" [he retreats in shame] / Then, she dances with Kniaz Bolkonsky: "Andrew, isn't there a spot of sauce on your tunic?" [he faints] / Finally, she's dancing with Rzhevsky: "Poruchik, your boots are all covered in mud!" / "It's not mud, it's shit. Don't worry, mademoiselle, it'll fall off once it dries up." While successful narration of quite a few Russian jokes heavily depends on using sexual vulgarities ("Russian mat"), Rzhevsky, with all his vulgarity, does not use heavy mat in traditional versions of his tales. One of his favorite words is "arse" (which is considered rather mild among Russian vulgarities), and there is a series of jokes where Rzhevsky answers "arse" to some innocent question (it is typical of Rzhevsky to blurt unromantic comments in the most romantic situations): Poruchik Rzhevsky and Natasha Rostova are riding horses together on the countryside. "Poruchik, what a beautiful meadow! Guess what I see there?" / "Arse, mademoiselle?" / "Ouch, Poruchik! I see chamomiles!" (Chamomiles are Russian clich folk flowers) / "How romantic, mademoiselle! An arse amid chamomiles!..." The essence of Rzhevsky's peculiarity is captured in the following meta-joke: Rzhevsky narrates his latest adventure to his Hussar comrades. "...So I am riding through this dark wood and suddenly see a wide, white..." / Hussars, all together: "...arse!" / "Of course not! A glade full of chamomiles! And right in the middle there is a beautiful white..." / Hussars, encore: "...arse!" / "How vulgar of you! A mansion! So I open the door and guess what I see?" / Hussars, encore: "An arse!" / Poruchik, genuinely surprised: "How did you guess? Did I tell this story before?" This theme culminates in the following joke, sometimes called "the ultimate Hussar joke": Countess Maria Bolkonskaya celebrates her 50th anniversary, the whole local Hussar regiment is invited, and the Countess boasts about the gifts she has received: "Cornet Obolensky presented me a lovely set of 50 Chinese fragrant candles. I loved them so much that I immediately stuck them into the seven 7-branch candlesticks you see on the table. Such auspicious numbers! Unfortunately there is a single candle left, and I don't know where to stick it..." / The whole Hussar regiment takes a deep breath... but the Hussar colonel barks out: "Hussars!!! Silence!!!"

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