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
Above the hat of the toy gibbon, artist Mark Roscoe included a ‘ghost of a bird’ and a hidden message
art
Arts and Entertainment
Alien: Resurrection, Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder
film
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
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.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable