Comedy shows have a liberal bias


Maria Tagangaeva

is doing his doctorate at the University of St. Gallen and is Managing Editor of the online journal Euxeinos.

Television in Russia offers its viewers a wide range of humor and entertainment programs, which, among other things, contain many jokes about top politicians and political subjects. Three humor and entertainment shows featured in the following post demonstrate how humor, entertainment, and politics work together in contemporary Russia.

Humor - the political dimension

Humor in Russia traditionally also has a political dimension. In the Soviet era, humor served as an outlet through which the unauthorized could be reflected upon without censorship. Anecdotes and jokes from the time vividly reflect the absurdity of Soviet reality and the relationship between Soviet people and it. In the post-Soviet era, political technologists discovered humor as an effective tool for manipulating citizens. Television presented itself as a suitable medium for this purpose. On Russian television, the airtime for humorous entertainment is constantly increasing. The number of shows with humorous content - comedy shows, comedy traps, sitcoms, popular comedian shows - is increasing on all channels. This development in TV entertainment is perceived by many critics of the Putin system as a deliberate attempt by the state media to keep Russian citizens away from political activities. At the same time, apparently incidentally, state positions and notions of order are conveyed through entertainment programs and jokes. This article deals with three humor and entertainment programs on Russian television that have had high ratings in recent years: KWN (Russian Klub Wesjolych i Nachodtschiwych, German: Club of the Funny and Resourceful), ProjektorParisHilton and Comedy Club. These shows demonstrate how humor, entertainment and politics work together in today's Russia. Despite different broadcast formats, one and the same official humorous discourse takes place in the TV jokes, which is characterized by the growing importance of glamor ideology and simulated satire.


Regardless of age, many Russians are very familiar with the combination of the three letters KWN (translated: "Club of the Funny and Resourceful"). The humor program KWN is one of the oldest programs in the history of Russian television and is currently running nationwide on the first Russian program. KWN is originally a Soviet invention that started as a student initiative on an amateur basis in November 1961: several student teams competed against each other on the stage. They had to answer questions in a humorous way and show a lot of improvisation and other amateur musical, dance or theatrical talents. KWN can thus be seen as a product of the thaw that introduced new advanced elements into Soviet television, such as: B. Humor, dialogues with the viewer, interaction and improvisation (albeit to a limited extent). The show was very popular from the start. In the 1970s, KWN was taken out of the program by the station management for ideological reasons: The irony of the student KVN teams about Soviet reality and ideology went too far for the censorship authorities. Only at the beginning of perestroika did the program return to television and immediately triggered a broad wave of KWN in the Soviet Union and then in Russia and the CIS countries. Today KWN competitions are held at universities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Latvia; the best teams then come on television. Everywhere in the world where emigrants from the former USSR live, local KWN teams are now being formed. The KWN game consists of several competitions. But only the "warm-up" requires real, spontaneous improvisation from the participants, as the teams here have to be quick-witted to answer questions from their fellow campaigners, the jury or the audience. Almost all other appearances by the teams are prepared and censored in advance, and controversial situations are cut out of the television broadcasts. Most of the teams represent their city or region, after which they are named: Team Chechnya, Team Kazakhstan, Team of the Krasnodar Region, Team St. Petersburg etc. This can partly be explained by the fact that the participation of the teams in KWN is an expensive one Matter and they are dependent on the financial support of their cities or regions. In return, the teams advertise their city and provide "brand management".