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Irish humor

A new project brings comics across borders.

Published: April 18, 2012 (Issue # 1704)



  • Irish comic Dylan Moran.
    Photo: IGOR MEERSON AND ANTON BORISOV

Dylan Moran, best known for his role as the Irish alcoholic Bernard Black in the U.K. series Black Books, became the first native English-speaking comedian to perform stand-up in Russia last week.

The 1980s and 90s saw the birth of the rocker in Russia and a subsequent frenzy for foreign music: Now, in 2012, the way is being paved for the same flurry of excitement this time for international stand-up comedy.

Morans performances on Thursday and Saturday evenings at Chaplin Hall were part of a joint experiment organized by Igor Meerson and Anton Borisov of the hit Russian TV show Comedy Club together with Mick Perrins U.K. agency Just for Laughs Live.

The general format of stand-up comedy in Russia is a 10-minute stint, with little or no prior experience, learning on the spot and frantically responding to the audiences jeering or applause. Stand-up has existed amongst the student community for a while now and is present at Open Mic nights held at Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art, but the program is still in its experimental phase. Accordingly, the organizers of Dylan Morans shows felt that there was much to be gained from a dialogue between Russian comics and their Western counterparts.

Its not just the Russians who benefit. The opportunity to perform in another country is also a cultivating experience for Western comedians, according to Nick Handford, a representative from Just for Laughs Live.

Russian stand-up is such a learning experience that it is immediately interesting for anybody coming here, and not only that: Hopefully this will open the door to bringing Russian comedians over to the U.K., to broaden our horizons even further, said Handford.

On the challenges of performing a routine that would be entertaining to a Russian audience, Moran said before his show Saturday: I may have built up in my head the differences between East and West and thought, I must find out what works here just because I dont know it; I dont know what people talk about and how they conduct themselves I didnt want to go on and be talking to myself; I wanted to be talking to people about the reality of their lives.

Everything was covered in Thursdays show, from the citys controversial new law banning homosexual propaganda to imprisoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Despite the rapturous applause that Moran received throughout the show, and even with the translation being delivered through earphones to the non-English-speaking portion of the audience, at times, the language barrier proved insurmountable. Having got tied up in explaining a hat box as a box of hats, he exclaimed, exasperated, I dont know why Im repeating myself thinking it will be any clearer!

Linguistic difficulties are one thing, and only to be expected, but cultural differences are not as easily reconciled. Moran commented during his show that it was especially difficult to know when the audience found something funny because unlike in the West where people generally just laugh out loud, people in Russia tend to clap as a sign of approval. Russian people obviously laugh through their hands. I wonder, do you also cry through your knees? he joked.

In the end, the cultural differences proved too much for the courageous comedian and he ended, visibly disappointed, telling his audience that they seemed to have become disconnected.

For all of us, [the project] is a big thing because apparently nobodys done it before, Moran said later. So, you know, we just wanted to see whether it would work. You cant have everything you want and it might not be the best gig, but thats not the point. The point is just: Can we make this work somehow? Were at that stage, you know, very early days in the lab.

The lab work is continuing, with more Western comedians soon to be confirmed as coming to grace the stages of St. Petersburg. It looks like international stand-up comedy is well and truly on its way to Russia.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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