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February 3rd, 2010

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03:12 pm - from a great documentary on cold war communist humor (yes, it existed)
Today it was announced that East Germany, Britain and the US will form a joint consortium to raise the fabled ship Titanic. British engineers are looking forward to studying the ship's hull, American bankers are hoping to find and claim the treasures lost in the wreck, while the East German politicans are most interested in learning how the band managed to play on while the ship sank.
East German joke circa 1989

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:February 3rd, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)
What documentary is this?
[User Picture]
Date:February 3rd, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
A documentary called "Hammer & Tickle". It covers communist humor from 1917 all the way up through the Velvet Revolutions, and there's even a segment devoted to Vaclav Havel and the way his group's absurdist protests helped change Czechoslovakian policy (announcing they would give away toilet paper at a demonstration, forcing the police to announce arrests of on anyone in the area of the demonstration in possession of toilet paper...)

The film is punctuated by cartoon renditions of various jokes. These cartoons range from funny to kinda unnecessary, but hey.

It was made by Ben Lewis, adapting it from his own book on the subject. He also wrote an essay on the entire thing which is not only good supplemental reading, but great if you can't find a copy of the film. I can't quite recommend the source from which I got the film, but I can recommend the readings.

The best joke of the entire thing quite neatly encapsulated the Soviet leadership and their attitudes: Stalin, Kruschev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev are travelling on a train when it breaks down.

"The train has stopped!" Stalin cries. "Somebody shoot the driver!"

"No, no," Kruschev says. "Rehabilitate the driver!"

"That is not necessary!" says Brezhnev. "We can just draw the curtains in the compartment and pretend we're moving!"

Gorbachev just shook his head. "Comrades, comrades. Get out and help me push."
[User Picture]
Date:February 3rd, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
If you have this DVD in your possession, can I borrow it?
[User Picture]
Date:February 4th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
I have the book. I didn't realise it was made into a documentary (or vice versa) as well.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:February 3rd, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:February 3rd, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
They featured a joke from Hungary where a man in a bread line turns to the person behind him and says "That's it! I'm sick and tired of waiting in lines! You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go to the Central Committee and shoot Secretary General Rakosi!" And off he goes.

A few hours later he returns to the bread line.

"What happened?" his neighbor asks. "Did you kill Rakosi?"

"No," sighs the man. "The line was much longer there."

Later in the film they show a 1996 clip of Mikhail Gorbachev appearing on the BBC program All Talk, where he tells the exact same joke... only the fellow in question is in Moscow, and he vows to kill Gorbachev.

It was brilliant to see just how the jokes could easily spread and adapt (and how far they did!) but also amazing to see just how much Gorbachev believed in glastnost.

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