Ben Lewis’ new film of that name is showing at the Trebica Film Festival in New York at the end of April. (Photo: see comment below)
Lewis writes a good (long) essay about the movie in this month’s UK Prospect magazine. He looks at what function jokes played under communist regimes. It’s not just about resistance, apparently.
Jokes, in deepest commie days, were seen as dangerous by paranoids like Joe Stalin.
‘Historian Roy Medvedev looked through the files of Stalin's political prisoners and concluded that 200,000 people were imprisoned for telling jokes, such as this: Three prisoners in the gulag get to talking about why they are there. "I am here because I always got to work five minutes late, and they charged me with sabotage," says the first. "I am here because I kept getting to work five minutes early, and they charged me with spying," says the second. "I am here because I got to work on time every day," says the third, "and they charged me with owning a western watch." ’
Which reminds me of a joke Poles used to tell about the militia (government sponsored thugs) in the late 1970’s.
Man comes up to very stupid looking young guy from the militia. “Excuse me Sir, but have you got the time?”
Militia thug peers at his brand new digital watch. He goes on staring at the watch for about half a minute, his forehead creased in concentration, his lips moving silently all the while.
Finally the man gets fed up waiting. “Is there something wrong with your watch?” he asks.
“No, no,” says the militia, “I‘m just having a bit of trouble dividing 7:24.”
That’s the thing about communist jokes – they just ain’t that funny. Which is surprising when you think how utterly ridiculous, sidesplittingly hilarious the communist authorities’ economic ‘policies’ were.
Maybe that’s it: the jokes were the serious antidote to the very funny horror of reality.