Russians are drawing on their taste for black humour to help raise morale during the coronavirus crisis.
Though case numbers are falling, Russia has the world’s third highest tally, and grumbling over what some see as over-strict lockdown rules and insufficient government support for businesses has bubbled up.
In one sketch, TV comedian Maxim Galkin parodies a chat between President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s mayor about a fictional government order outlining a “timetable to breathe” as the lockdown is eased.
“That sounds undemocratic – as if we want to control who can breathe, and when, and who can’t,” a stern-looking Putin says in the sketch.
Musing on crackdowns on his political opponents, Putin goes on: “It’s true we sometimes cut off oxygen to some people, but not to the masses – for the time being at least. So let’s just add one word (and call it) the timetable to breathe freely.”
Another, an expletive-laden ballad by comedian Semyon Slepakov, looks forward to the lockdown ending so that people can get back to their old lives, dismal though they may be.
“Let’s get back to it being bloody awful in the country,” he intones while strumming the guitar to choral backing.
“They can crap on our rights, ship our timber to China and raise the pension age to 72,” he sings with heavy sarcasm.
Several jokes poke fun at the authorities for having required entrepreneurs to pay staff in full throughout the shutdown despite many of them complaining of too little government help.
“Putin walks into a bar and orders everyone a beer – and then says ‘it’s on the house’,” runs one popular joke.
Riffing off reports of a global resurgence in wildlife thanks to lockdowns on economic activity, one gag says the only new form of life in Russia’s deeply traditional rural areas are returning workers who have lost their jobs in cities.
“The environment has become so much cleaner because of the quarantine that Russian villages are seeing a return of baristas, marketing professionals and personal growth trainers.”