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Louis CK's 'Poor Russia' Routine Isn't Funny

Russians have been the butt of American jokes for decades, and guess what? It's actually not funny.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

In 1994, American comedian Louis CK went to Russia to "find out how bad life gets". 

I don't know about you, but I can think of a few places I might go first if my intention was to see how bad life can get. But Louis CK went to Moscow.

<figcaption>Also, his most recent comedy special sucked. </figcaption>
Also, his most recent comedy special sucked.

Anyway, it was the year the Soviet Union collapsed -- or so he thinks, because you know, who cares about dates?
It was a decision made on a bit of a whim, he explains:

Someone told me that the wall had just come down in the Soviet Union, that Russia was a really crazy place at the time.

Now, I hate to be the Debbie Downer, and I really hate banging on about things that are supposed to just be light-hearted and funny, but sometimes, lines are crossed. 
This guy just delivered a ten-minute long skit about how stupid, poor and miserable Russians are. And he makes sure to mention that even though his trip was in 1994, it's probably just as shitty in Russia today:

One thing about Russia, still today I think, is that no one has any money, so when you see a guy playing the violin in the subway, he’s like the first-chair violin for like the Russian symphony orchestra, 'cause that doesn’t pay shit. And at least he gets a few kopecks in the subway.

And you know, in defense of this skit, someone will say, oh Russians make fun of Americans all the time, there's so much anti-Western propaganda on TV, as they did when I wrote about SNL's Russophobic Olya Povlatsky skits, but you know what? That's really not the point. 

It's not the point because Russians have been the butt of American jokes for decades and guess what? It's actually not funny.

It's this pervasive notion that Russians are all wandering aimlessly around with begging tins and no shoes, while the luckiest among them get paid a few rubles a month to work in propaganda sweatshops filling CNN's comment sections with Putin's propaganda.

Washington Post blogger Dominic Basulto wrote a piece for Medium explaining exactly why it's no laughing matter.

In it, he writes:

"Now, take a deep breath and ask yourself the following question: If a Russian comedian were to deliver this same kind of comic routine about America, wouldn’t it immediately be hailed as an example of the hate-filled propaganda speech filling Russian TV airwaves these days?"

The answer is yes, yes it would.

Basulto continues:

Louis CK "suggests that the past 25 years in Russia have essentially been one, unbroken chain of misery". 

But..."a lot has changed since the old days of the Cold War, something the West seems to have forgotten. At the end of the day, the reason why the West may lose the 'information war' (and some would say, the 'disinformation war') with Russia is because it’s still stuck in the 1980s Cold War era mindset."

Anyway, don't take my word for it. Watch the skit yourself. It's basically ten minutes of stories about murderous street urchin kids, black market coca-cola and terrifying subway stations where everyone sits on the floor crying.


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