From Russia with laughs: A comic invasion of Britain

The country’s stand-up comedians are about to take over the Royal Albert Hall. But how well will their humour travel?

Just don’t mention the (Crimean) war...

Russia is planning a comic invasion of Britain this summer, with three of its most popular stand-ups booked to perform over three nights at the Royal Albert Hall.

The run of shows, billed as “a must-see for any Russian comedy lover”, will be the first time that Russian stand-ups have performed in Britain in their native language. They will entertain what organisers hope will be a sell-out crowd of wealthy Russian-speaking Londoners, many of whom live in Kensington and Chelsea, within walking distance of the venue.

The headline act is Alexandr Pushnoy, a family-friendly musical comedian described by one of his peers as the “Russian Bill Bailey”. At home he is known as the host of the popular comedy television shows Good Jokes and Galileo.

Support will be provided by the anecdotal comic Igor Meerson, the only Russian representative at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year (where he will speak in English), and Anton Borisov, whose material is the most political of the three’s.

Meerson, 30, who is based in St Petersburg, said the idea of stand-up comedy was “quite new” in Russia, where audiences have traditionally been more comfortable with comedy troupes featuring between five and 10 performers.

“We are the first wave of Russian stand-up comedy,” he said. “Soviet culture and post-Soviet culture was not very individualistic – more collective … Stand-up, when one man is on stage and is telling his own ideas, is very Western. But now, modern Russia has changed, so these new styles of performing are becoming more and more popular.”

The shows have been organised by the comedy promoter Mick Perrin Worldwide, which has helped English-speaking comedians including Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran tour overseas.

Moran is believed to be the first English-speaking comedian to perform in Russia, putting on two gigs in St Petersburg in 2012 which were live-translated to the audience. Izzard, who has performed shows in German, French, Spanish and Arabic, followed suit a year later.

Meerson, who performed a short run for the first time at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, said he had initially simply translated his Russian set into English – but immediately ran into problems.

“When I tried it with Dylan [Moran] I found that Russian jokes aren’t funny when they are translated,” he said. “So I decided to write something new and write jokes in English due to the different structure of the language.”

More than 300,000 Russians are estimated to live in London, but Meerson said he hoped that other Russian-speaking expats from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Baltic states would also attend.

“If we have our audience in London, why shouldn’t we come?” he said, adding that there would be nothing in his British set that he wouldn’t also say in Russia.

Igor Meerson: Lost in translation?

From Igor Meerson’s English show:  

“The English language is too polite! And that is your problem. You say: “Can I have a spoon?”… You see? There is a chance you won’t get the spoon. In Russia we say: “Give me a spoon!”, or even just “Spoon!!!”. Even polite people in Russia go: “Give me a spoon! Now!”. Saying when you demand it is exactly the same as being polite isn’t it?”

From his Russian show: 

“I hate extreme sports. For example – bungee jumping. What’s that? It’s like a suicide tester. Like a bullet in a chamber. For those who want to shoot themselves in the evening – but the next morning have an important meeting.”

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there