In Soviet Russia, Meme Makes You! – Top 5 Russian Memes

Troll Family

Self-Portrait of Author and Family

Disclaimer: This is a somewhat picture intensive post written with my horrible excuse for humor. Also some memes are explicit. Deal with it.

Okay, so you’re asking yourself – what is a meme? How do you even say that word? To be honest I mispronounce “saLmon” so I am probably not going to be the best person to tell you. Thank God for the interwebz though as Dictionary.com says this:

Meme: a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

Analogous to the biological transmission of genes indeed, Sir!

The web is a scary place that wears a nice clean UPS uniform so soccer moms can get their “50 Shades of Gray” from Amazon without ever having to face the dark netizens lurking just below the surface. Peel back a layer and it’s Alice in Wonderland all over again.

Memes are the spawn of the internet subculture that is increasingly becoming a force to be reckoned with. The use of memes is even seen during this year’s elections.  NPR wrote an article showcasing the emergence of what some call an internet subculture in political campaigns.

NPR: Political Memes: Fast, Cheap, And Out Of Control?

and Politico.com has a gallery featuring some of the funniest memes from this election

BUT I am soooo tired of all the politics lately, as I am sure you are too my dear reader – cause your here – on this site, so grab your binders full of women or if you prefer, women full of binders and lets explore something that you might have to explain to your kids someday. Like why I put a trollface over my daughter. And why it’s hilarious. Despite what my wife says.

I love memes. I really do. And you should too. If you haven’t already swallowed both pills and dove headfirst down the rabbit hole into the wonderful world of memes, lolcats and ragefaces like I have then come, friend – I have some things to show you. (Stifles sinister giggle)

 

Rage Face Indeed

mmhm, yes.

Here’s a quick backstory to what the hell all of this is. Just blame 4Chan. It’s the proverbial evil red-headed step-child that grew up when you were out with your “real family” – and he just stole your truck. Well, you had that one coming – but really 4chan and places like it are the beloved dingy attics and basements of the internet where netizens hang out, post pictures, news, humor, anything goes really – and the result is memes.

They are ideas that are warped and shaped by society. They change depending on whoever is making them and for me that’s the best part. You can see evolution in progress as an idea or image is shaped by each person interested in adding their own touch. So, “transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes” is actually a fairly accurate description of how memes are created: interwebz sex. Just kidding. They are a conglomerate of whoever made them, where they came from, and now they’re in politics.

Meanwhile in Russia

Putin: FFFFFFUUUUUUU!

Okay, okay – I promised to stop with the politics. But clearly Putin is a force of nature, and has spawned countless memes. So I think it’s fair to include him on this list. Oh yeah – the list. Well, the whole purpose of this post was to introduce you to Russian memes and here I am spouting off about the history, culture, blah blah boring. So! Without – much particular order other than my own personal preference and further – further ado…

5) In Soviet Russia…

Known as the Russian reversal – no that’s not something you can try in the bedroom – it was created by this guy:

Yakov Smirnoff

Welcome to the interwebz friend, I will be your guide.

Yakov Smirnoff is a Ukrainian born American comedian who came up with the classic Russian reversal back in the 80’s. The jokes goes something like this:

In America, you put ‘In God We Trust’ on your money.
In Russia, we have no money! 

It’s funny cause it’s true. (Right?) I actually have no clue, but you get the idea. The Russian reversal is now a staple of internet memeology (I totally made that word up.) The Russian reversal has taken on new forms since being brought back from 80’s and variations on this theme are a popular way to satirize what is happening in Russia.

It’s sister meme, if there is such a thing, would be the “Meanwhile in Russia” theme that has those words usually captioning some ridiculous thing that happens only in Russia. Like you know, Bear Cavalry.  Knowyourmeme.com is a great resource to find the backstory on any meme which means that’s pretty much where I “got” my expansive knowledge on this subject. But here’s the source.

An example of a modern take on this meme:

in Soviet Russia, Waldo Finds You

Waldo – Much bigger when you meet him up close.

4) Preved Medved!

Prived Medved, - Russian Bear Surprises Campers

Pictured: Preved Medved, distant relative to Pedo-bear

A painting by John Lurie was adopted and evolved into a Russian meme that’s been popping up all over the Federation (A much cooler name than just Russia), faster than a case of Yakov Smirnoff. Hitting it’s peak sometime in June of 2007 it’s still a great example of good ol’ Russian shenanigans.

Twitter screen grab of Preved Medved

Hint: It’s all about Preved Medved

A query on the Russian search site Yandex.ru (slightly explicit) brings up good examples of the evolution of this particular bear.

It’s even alive on the glorified facebook status site Twatter. I refuse to bring myself to take that site seriously and there’s nothing you can do to change that. (Clasps ears, lalalalalalala)

If any of you know Russian, welcome my fellow spies, you will notice that Preved is a wrong spelling of Privet (Hello). It’s on purpose. I am not quite sure I understand the reasons but apparently it’s a play on words. I guess you just have to be Russian. I am only a half-ling.

Combination Pedo-bear and Killroy was here with a healthy dose of political satire, Preved Medveds entire premise for a joke is just his presence.

Cracked does a great article on two of the memes I am mentioning. Also this.

3) Putin – Brosef Ballen’?

Putin in a Bear Coat

I can certainly see where he gets his charm.

 

Not much has to be said to know where this is going. I am fascinated by this man. He really is a force of nature. The man brought Russia back from the brink of economic ruin but at the cost of judo-chopping freedom in the neck.

This is where Prived Medved gets his political kick from. Medved is a play on Medvedev – the now former Russian President, who was largely seen as a lackey to the man George Bush once referred to as “Cold Blooded”.

If any of you haven’t been keeping up with the news from the Motherland; Medvedev served his term and Putin was re-elected – for his third term in office – because you know, why not? Oh and possible election fraud. But hey, what’s a good election without some scandals, or choice?

The man himself literally is a walking meme-generator. He took controls of a plane that was putting out wildfires since he was a trained pilot (not) and proceeded to show the pilots how putting out fires is all about. Prezident style.

When he’s not busy kicking fires in the teeth, he hunts tigers – with tranquilizer darts so it’s humane, judo chops his way into possibly competing in the Russian Olympic team, drives formula 1 race-cars like it’s no biggie, and generally likes to show everyone just how much bigger and badder his Machismo is by literally doing anything that looks cool.

Oh and let’s not forget he is a former KGB spy.

He’s got an incredible PR campaign that follows him around and records him doing stuff like this:

Putin hunting shirtless

Can we make our President’s do this?

 

You can see that this guy is a gold-mine. He’s got  pop songs written about him. Girls are sending him calenders full of “Tasteful” pictures for his birthday. Bensozia does a quick blurb on him and and to get you started on your journey to Putin picture land, here’s a magazine with some of his best bits.

Essentially Putin wants to be seen as this guy that can do anything. Wildfires? No problem. Terrorists – Bury them. Domestic resentment? Putin smash! And the image is working for him. This guy knows what he’s doing and he’s got a long term plan. I just hope I am on his good side.

Putin Flying on a Crane

Delivering babies to all Russian mothers himself.

2) PhotoExtreme

This is kind of like planking. Someone lies facedown across or on top of unique places and someone else takes a picture. This joke is someone planking. Russian’s probably didn’t get it as ending up lying face down on benches is a pretty common sight over there, or so I’ve heard. In PhotoExtreme the goal is to come up with a scenario and act it out with your friends then take a picture and post. Fun right? Well, as usual bonus points are awarded for “creativity” or as Russians like to call it, danger.

 

Russian Photoextreme meme

Apparently – this happens often

Passerby’s were treated to similar scenes all over Russia as netizens had some fun with their cameras. The goal is to depict some kind of scene. The weirder the better. This meme has elements of the flashmob as people in character chase zombies with chainsaws, hang out of windows, or take bath’s in the street all in broad daylight. It’s no wonder Russian’s never smile in public, they’ve probably seen some things man. It’s the wild west out there as far as the limits go. Cracked breaks it down even further.

1) Russian Youtube Videos

Russia itself has become a meme. It has become a symbol of extreme behavior. Youtube is filled with examples of students chugging vodka before class. Dashcam’s capture crazy driving on a seemingly daily basis and gangs of teenagers roam the city using the buildings as their own playground/gym. You gotta love it. Simply type Russia in Youtube and the world shows you how busy this country is.

From drunkards fighting in the streets to people throwing themselves in front of cars for insurance scams; this place has become the standard for extreme behavior.It’s really the level against which

Because anyone willing enough to do this has a lot more pirozhki’s than I do:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORA9CGTAR8w

Russian Homemade Bungee Jump

Did you watch that? Cause you should – it’s a homemade bungee jump. Let me re-emphasis the “homemade” in that sentence. In no way is this safe. Yet it’s the kind of behavior that’s prevalent amongst our Russian comrades on the side of the world – at least the virtual world.

Well what about other extreme sports? Parkour for example? Parkour? No problem. Here’s Russia’s answer to Parkour:

Russian At It Once Again

Yep – whatever it is, Russia probably has a more extreme version of it somewhere. I bet if they got a hold of that flying suit, they’d probably see how drunk they can get while they jump.

 

Manliness Level Russian meme

Why? Because Russia – That’s why

Lolwut?

So that’s it in a nutshell. Welcome to the wonderful world of memes. If this is your first time joining us it won’t be the last time seeing us. This is internet pop-culture and it’s going to be heard. The beauty of memes is that they’re made by the people. Anybody with a computer can create one about anything in the world. And it can go viral. That brings with it a certain weight that shouldn’t be disregarded.

I really think they should be given a lot more attention as an important part of public voice.  The ability to shoot your message all over the internet and have it be seen by millions of people. Then watch as it evolves, changes and ultimately becomes part of the internet culture can be extremely rewarding. So try making your own, it’s really not hard:

http://memegenerator.net/ – basic meme builder

 http://ragegenerator.com/ – rage comic builder

 

– Dima

In all seriousness: German humor…or the lack thereof

In researching political cartoons, Germany, and the Eurocrisis over the past couple of months, there has been no shortage in finding humor. Many of the cartoons I have come across have provided a chuckle or two. Of course – as my last blog post suggests – humor is relative: what is funny to me doesn’t necessarily make it funny for you. When it comes to Germany and the Germans in general, it seems the rest of the world has the notion of the Germans being very serious, humorless people. Expressionless faces, neither emotions, nor smiles, and a rigid, hard-sounding language that sounds more like a constant threat than a peaceful sound wave.

Global Cowboy ‏@weirdomobile
I end up mixing German into English whenever a situation beckons seriousness. What type of weird subliminal slip is that? #multilingual

I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if the Germans would be laughing at the cartoons I’ve found over the past couple of months?” There is no straightforward answer to this thought; so I’ve decided to take a look at the Germans and their ‘humorless’ stereotype and ask myself whether the Germans are indeed the world’s least funny people as South Park suggests.

South Park Germans least funny people in the world

It is quite possible that you have already seen the popular youtube video of the German kid screaming and pounding his fists against his father’s keyboard in anger because Unreal Tournament isn’t loading fast enough. Despite its disturbing qualities, what makes the video funny for most of us is its absurd and over-the-top behavior – how could someone act like that? As unfair as it may be, the most common answer I tend to gravitate toward is ‘typisch Deutsch.’

The kid’s behavior and South Park’s assertion of Germany being too serious and the least funny may not be too far off. According to a Telegraph article from 07 June 2011, an international poll found that “Germany [is] officially the world’s least funny country.” Many of the pollsters saw the Germans “as being more focused on rationality and efficiency rather than humour.”

To me, the previous statement makes a lot of sense. The Germans are very punctual people, don’t complain, exhibit a good work ethic, and are – for the most part – rational thinkers. Could herein lie the reasons for the stereotype?

When I was living in Magdeburg, Germany, a good friend and I used to play a little game and it went something like this: walk around and say ‘guten Tag!’, ‘einen schönen Tag, oder?’, or simply ‘wie geht’s Ihnen?’ I always thought such expressions were harmless and rather friendly gestures – in America, and other countries of course, this is generally the case. To many Magdeburgers, I guess not. We would receive a variety of responses: cold shoulders, looks of confusion, or, the best yet, ‘Was willst du von mir?’, ‘Was?!’, or something like ‘Ich kenne Sie nicht! Warum reden Sie mir an?!’ Of course these responses were mixed in with more positive ones; nonetheless, I don’t believe I have ever experienced a ‘What do you want from me?’ after saying ‘Hello!’ to someone on the street in Columbia. Despite this personal experience coupled with the awareness of your typical, serious-face German stereotype, is it still fair for me to call the Germans a ‘humorless nation?’

I’m going to postulate that Germans do indeed have a sense of humor; it is just different. Many suggest it is a language issue – translating a German joke into English just doesn’t cut it as part of the understanding of the joke gets lost in translation. Let’s look at an example printed in The Bild in March 2011: two mates are sitting at a table in the pub. One says to the other: “Tell me, do you sometimes get smog in your bedroom?”

“How come?”

“A bad atmosphere and no traffic…”

Good joke, huh! Wait…what? If you didn’t understand the joke, you’re not alone. To understand it, one would have to know that the German word for traffic (verkehr) also means sexual intercourse. Haha, right? (I thought the joke was funnier before I knew the meaning of the word – the humor rested in its almost nonsensical stupidity!)

Germans have a sense of humor South Park

As the Guardian explains to us, “Some people have suggested that the rigid structure of the German language makes joke-telling difficult. For example, important verbs are withheld until the very end of a long sentence as soon as you insert a conjunction such as “because” or “if”. Actually, though, this can help a comedian because it builds suspense. A good comic can lead an audience down one track, only to surprise them with an unexpected verb as the punchline. “
As this explanation seems fairly logical and quite possibly true, one would have to admit that the Germans would probably rather drink some beer or schnapps than tickle each other’s fancies with jokes. Germans do, however, laugh (which is another stereotype all on its own) which, to me, shows the lighter – and less often seen – side of the Germans:

So, back to the last question. Is it fair to call Germany a ‘humorless nation?’ As much as I want to say ‘no’ just to be fair to the Germans, I am going to go out on a limb and say ‘Yes!’ It is fair! They do indeed show glimpses of possessing a sense of humor. Some laugh and some smile (just like Americans!); nonetheless, as an American I am ok with the Germans being more serious. I have grown to like their seriousness, and, to be honest, I have had quite a few laughs because of it. How can you not find humor in the kid freaking out because Unreal Tournament isn’t loading? Is he being real?! Doesn’t the idea of him being German make it that funnier?

To be more fair (if it’s possible at this point), it isn’t necessarily the behaviors of the Germans that is always funny – reactions toward the Germans and their seriousness is quite amusing, too. People get serious in talking about the Germans being too serious. Seriously? As the authors of the blog ‘What we’re sinking about’ write to their German friends:

“Dearest German friends and colleagues, stop being so damn serious. Like really, quit. Lighten up. Laugh. Spin around in your office chair a couple of times, throw a smiley face in at the end of your email, anything.”

I get a kick out of the Germans being serious and humorless but I also respect their serious attitude toward life. Even if it is a stereotype! It is refreshing to know that they are out there in the world being serious – and being serious on our behalf! It makes me smile when I think of it, actually. At the very least, we can laugh at their seriousness and humorless attitudes. Is that not humor in itself?

Although the video below has nothing to do with the stereotype, we have at least another reason to be thankful to the Germans..

British game show host laughs at German name

Angela Merkel as Adolf Hitler. Really?

England’s Guardian newspaper cartoonist Kipper Williams must be having the time of his life during the current European economic crisis. One of my favorite cartoons from Williams is the prickly bearded Greek footballer wearing a German jersey during the Euro 2012 quarter final match between Germany and Greece.

We’re Greece – [Germany] is just our sponsors.

Referencing German control of their economy, the Greek football team, with ‘Germany’ smeared across the front of their blue jerseys, has fell victim in having to be sponsored by Germany. Even the confused expression on the refs face provokes a smile. He is dumbfounded as the Footballer, holding almost an indifferent expression on his face, explains the situation. Aiming to add a little ‘funny’ spice to the otherwise dismal situation, Kipper Williams stays within the rules of what is ethical and is able to depict the crisis in a soft, humorous, yet provocative way.

During the Euro 2012 Football tournament, cartoons like the aforementioned were making their way quite easily around social media outlets. It was a common discussion amongst my friends: “Hey, did you see that football cartoon? It was a riot! What did you think?” Whether the cartoon was directed toward Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, or even the Germans, it really didn’t matter as everyone was trying to better an otherwise unhappy situation. And while Germany was putting a whooping on Greece, it wasn’t just caricatures being drawn but also jokes being cracked.

@bill_easterly: ‘Greece at halftime of Euro match asks Germany for emergency loan of 4 players.’

To make jokes and sketch caricatures about the other less fortunate crisis-stricken countries is to be expected and as long as markets continue to fall worldwide, artists and jokers will continue to produce what they do best at the expense of others. As fellow writer David J Olsen observed back in June, “…joke-tellers across the globe continue[d] to savor the ever-increasing mountain of comedic material generated by the various races and ethnicities involved in the deepening crisis.”

I don’t see any harm in it as long as the humor (or idea) being presented doesn’t provoke violence, racism, or other similar evils; however, this is not always the case. While funny and humorous Euro crisis material was being spread throughout Europe before, during, and after the Euro 2012, so too was less humoristic, more offensive material.

Depicted in Europe’s media as an unappetizing short, extremely plump centerfold pinup or as a naked, ugly barbarian in hell, German chancellor Angela Merkel and her hard line stance on the Euro zone crisis has become perhaps the most popular popinjay. Many of the depictions are harmless; however, some artists are pushing the limits and meanwhile crossing moral and ethical lines. The most savage and unflattering images are of her as a Nazi.

In February 2012, the Greek newspaper Democratie published an image of Merkel wearing a Nazi colored uniform and carrying the famous Nazi armband on her left arm.

Chancellor Angela Merkel depicted as a Nazi

To reference the Nazis in Greece draws on a long history of national suffering during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Greece. The image led to a number debates in Europe: whether or not it is appropriate – at the very least fair to make such depictions. Nazi imagery is nothing new to the political world. Hitler and the Nazis are common references amongst people who feel subjugated and subordinate – here in America Obama has also been compared with and depicted as Hitler.

President Barack Obama as Adolf Hitler

Although her insistence on austerity rather than aid has been a sore spot amongst Europeans, her actions are a far cry from being anything related to the Nazi era. Comparing her to a past world leader that intentionally murdered six million + innocent people seems quite absurd.

Not everyone, however, feels the same as columnist Jakob Augstein states: “Her abrasive pro-austerity policies threaten everything that previous German governments had accomplished since World War II. …[Merkel] is a radical politician, not a conservative one.”

Although this observation does look to the past to find comparisons, I don’t believe Augstein is insinuating that Merkel is some sort of Hitler-type leader. She has simply failed to observe her predecessors’ achievements (post-Hitler) and has taken a course of her own. A course that Augstein apparently disagrees with.

In response to the images, chief whip of Merkel’s conservatives Michael Grosse-Broemer says “I am not worried (about Merkel’s image abroad) because the characterizations of the chancellor can be explained by her support for something other than simple, popular demands.” He goes on to say, “I think some emotionally-driven judgments about this great chancellor are off the mark.”

I am in agreement with Grosse-Broemer and would further state that the comparison is old, unintelligent, unfair, and disgusting. Many people do find Angela Merkel threatening, such as Mendi Hasan who says “Merkel is the most dangerous German leader since Hitler.” Such a statement, however, is over-the-top and, at the very least, very forgetful of what Hitler did while in power.

It is not the same as criticizing Merkel and saying she has veered away from her predecessors’ politics as Augstein suggests. Instead, Hasan’s remark deliberately inserts the Hitler comparison. To present Merkel as a barbarian or even the ever-so-frightening Terminator can indeed be on topic (as well as humorous) despite its absurdities, but to reference Adolf Hitler and his Nazi counterparts is uneducated, and, at the very least, over the line.

Angela Merkel as the Terminator

For too long Germans have had to deal with their bothersome shadows of the past. It is just fine to disagree, poke fun, and create humorous images of public figures. Whatever other European countries are going though, I can’t imagine it being worse than what people had to endure from 1933 until 1945.

Dresden, Germany after the allied bombings.

The comparison, in my mind, doesn’t even work. It is time to divorce these present day Germans (and their leaders) from their long removed Nazi past.

A protest and march in Athens, Greece.

Quick source reference:
http://www.newsfromtheend.com/2012/06/euro-zone-crisis-opens-floodgates-for.html (David J Olson)

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2012/06/angela-merkels-mania-austerity-destroying-europe (Mendi Hasan)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/28/us-eurozone-germany-merkel-idUSBRE85R0BM20120628 (Michael Grosse-Broehmer)

Assi TV – Germany’s Jersey Shore

Bad Girls Club?  No way.  It's "Böse Mädchen" for Germany.Rethink your classy connotations of society, its time to bring on EuroTrash. Welcome to RTL, Germany’s quasi-copy-cat-less-relevant version of VH1 minus all the “Behind the Music” substance.  We’re looking at straight daytime television here, folks and all predictions point to trash.

RTL is infamous throughout Germany, France, Luxembourg, England and most Western European countries for it’ mixture of talkshows, reality TV, but most importantly, what the Germans fondly term, “Assi Fernsehen.”  Don’t know what Assi means?  Let’s get you the basics.

Assi is a combination of what Germans coined “Asozial,” directly translating to Anti-Social.  However, Germans (notorious for their love of word play and dubious double meanings) play up the spelling of this abbreviation, toying with the word “ass.”  Which literally translates… to ass.  And the vulgarity only goes deeper.

So, let me spell this one out for you just one more time to be certain you get it.

Get it?  Good.

Okay?  Okay.  Moving forward…

Now, there are many subcategories of Assi TV.  Just like on that American boob tube, you’ll find your overly dramatic, life changing talk-show,  your typical video-cameras-in-the-faces-of-dysfunctional-families-who-need-counseling documentaries, and the famous German-termed “Doku-Soap” (the bottom of the abyss where documentation and soap operas swirl ominously).

So,  Let’s discuss.

Overly Dramatic, Life Changing Talkshow

In this category, any daytime television watching German will immediately tell you, you need to watch BrittBritt is a talkshow so kindly self-termed a “comedy show” by its makers at SAT.1.  However, after watching a few episodes, your average American viewer will start to notice some running similarities that sets a little bell ringing in the back of your head.  That bell… is called the Jerry Springer bell.  With show titles spanning the range from “Du Bitch” to “DNA Test- Passen wir wirklich zusammen?” Britt is very Springer, indeed.  More of a Maury fan in the first place? No problem.  See for yourself.

Video-Cameras-in-the-Faces-of-Dysfunctional-Families-who-Need-Counseling Documentaries

This is a category also hideously well-known to the average American television connoisseur.  We’re running much more along the lines of Jersey Shore here.  The top Assi show in Germany that falls under this sub-category is without a doubt Familien im BrennpunktFamilien im Brennpunkt shows every day during the week at 4PM in Germany on RTL (Germany’s pseudo-VH1) and supposedly  “begleitet im Stil einer Doku Konflikte unter deutschen Daechern, die Anwaelte und Gerichte beschaeftigen: Scheidungsdramen, Sorgerechtsstreitigkeiten,Probleme rund um die Anerkennung der Vaterschaft oder Probleme mit Aemtern und Behoerden.”  Whew.  Let’s break it down now y’all.  Basically, what RTL is trying to say, is this show covers (with STYLE!) complaints that generally require lawyers and pertain to common law.  You know.  Things like mega-divorce, Fist fights, Problems with and questions about paternity,  general wanting to stick it to the man, 13 year olds with babies and children who won’t poop on the toilet.  Each show revolves around a different set of dysfunctional people doing hideously dysfunctional things. Typical Trash TV gold.

Doku-Soap

Finally, the best for last–The “Doku-Soap.”  Be it following people with a “love” (ahem) for animals or a 50 year old woman with an Ultra-Crush on the boyband, Tokio Hotel, the DokuSoap Mitten im Leben has it all.  Mitten im Leben has been termed the purest of the pure when it comes to Assi Television in Germany.   Each episode is an hour of premium filth, the clearest of embarassment to humanity.  Descriptions do not do it justice.

Albeit the extreme lack of English language throughout the clips provided, it remains extraordinarily evident, trash TV is a banal human desire.  We need it.  Its global, universal and in a way connects us all.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Komödie vs. Comedy – Understanding German Humor

© Cinetext

Germany is experiencing the end of an era with the recent August 22nd death of Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow, pseudonym “Loriot.”  For decades, Loriot has characterized and personified German humor, as well as confused and confounded American and British comedians.

It would be a decently safe assumption to say that Loriot lead and directed German humor.  His influence is massive and lives on even after his death.  Dieter Wedel, one of Germany’s most famous television directors (known for shows like Tatort and Schwarz Rot Gold) once said, “The Germans don’t have any sense of humor — the Germans have Loriot!” However, such a broad, sweeping statement also asks the question, what is German humor and why is it so widely misunderstood?

Loriot is known for his live action sketches, but even more so, for his cartoons.  His work reflects the mindset and pervasive “German” perspective on life and human interactions.  Most of his humor stems from problems with communication between individuals during every day life, the comedy therein coming from the staunchly formal nature of the German language.  Loriot was, as per usual with all typically German writers, a stickler for grammar.  In this sense, Americans attempting to understand German humor often deal with the problem of the fundamental humor being, so to say, “lost in translation.”

Many German jokes are based on double meanings, coming from German’s favoritism towards taking many words, ideas and concepts and crashing them into one (sometimes absurdly) long compound word.  The German language has very strict grammatical structure and often relies more on humorous ideas opposed to English’s reliance on wordplay.  Loriot brought a sort of inanity to his work with the juxtaposition of his character’s dignified behavior against the exaggeration of their features.  This is typified in his short sketch Herren im Bad.

For the original version (auf Deutsch) click below

Herren im Bad (Men in the Bathtub)

Seriousness combined a focus on banal flaws is a stereotypical theme in German humor.  This is also seen in the way that Germans observe and perceive the world and people around them.  I mean, there is no serious data to prove this and I’m being entirely subjective, but in my experience, Germans do not focus on personality flaws as something you can easily change, but instead as something that is a basic part of a person’s being.  You aren’t dumb because you don’t study, you’re just dumb because you are.  They’re not going to shun you for being a bit socially inept, they’re just going to accept that you’re kinda weird and run with it.  Needless to say, Americans generally DO NOT get this.

The problem with German humor, is that you need to understand German to get it.  You can’t explain or clarify the nuances of German diction or the play of grammar in English.  Comedy doesn’t translate.  Loriot’s genius comes from the fact that he was exactly as meticulous with his words as he was with his physical comedy.  He made fun of the narrow-mindedness of and excessive formality of German while maintaining respect for the language’s tone and essence.

In response to Loriot’s death, Germany’s president of parliament, Norbert Lammert, captured von Bülow’s lasting effect on German humor and culture stating, “Vicco von Bülow put his stamp on cultural life in Germany for decades and, as Loriot, helped Germans to gain a more relaxed view of their mentality and habits.”

Stefan Kuzmany, a correspondant from Der Spiegel(Germany’s top newsmagazine) summed it up nicely: “Abschließend bleibt zu sagen, dass Loriots Tod absolut nicht nötig gewesen wäre. Unsterblich war er längst. Er wird es bleiben.”  (“Loriot’s death was absolutely unnecessary.  He had long since become immortal. And will remain it.”)

Liquid Foreplay…?

You’re probably wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into by clicking on this post.  “Liquid Foreplay you may say?”  “I’m still working on regular foreplay!”  What am I talking about?  Coffee, of course!

Coffee, the wonderfully caffeinated beverage used around the world to stimulate both the minds and bodies of those who drink it.

Coffee has been used as the all-natural human battery charger since the 15th century, though some legends suggest that coffee was enjoyed as early as the 4th century.  Upon realizing the potential of coffee, nations and traders transported it across land and sea, and in the process, coffee underwent changes in both style and preparation.

Still wondering what coffee has to do with foreplay?  And more so, what does liquid??  I’ll leave the latte (ha!) for another day, but I can tell you all about the former.  While researching the coffee drinking habits of Europeans, I discovered that Italians apparently make the best espresso, and that 1 in 3 Romanians never leave home without a satchel carrying soluble coffee.  The commercial below is for Nescafé, the largest retailer of soluble coffee in Europe.  The language is Romanian.

Interesting enough, right?  Sure, but then I came across something that no barista could be prepared to serve to guests, something representing unbroken grounds (ha?) for the coffee market.  The sanctity of coffee has finally been fused with sex.  Introducing… Magic Power Coffee.

Next time you're in a coffeehouse, ask your barista for a shot of this in your coffee! Copyright: AskWanda.info

Magic Power Coffee is a home-based business venture created on a multi-level network-business model.  You may need another shot of espresso to unpack all of that, but essentially it means that any average cup-of-Joe can order Magic Power Coffee and become rich by selling it to his sexually frustrated friends and family.  And if you haven’t figured it out by now, Magic Power Coffee will have you and your significant other French pressing all night, if you know what I mean.  If the fusing of coffee with sex hasn’t sold you, Magic Power Coffee also claims that it works on both men and women.

In March 2010, Magic Power Coffee opened its doors for the German and the Spanish market, even creating language specific websites.  So, no matter what language you speak, you’ll now be able to understand the meaning of scam.  (Note: The German website has apparently been shut-down and is awaiting review, i.e. the Germans figured it out.)  The Magic Power Coffee business really took off in North America, and now has its eyes on the European and South American markets.  The theory, at least what I take it to be, is that (a) many people worldwide are looking for a way to correct the (insert sexual issue here) they have, (b) Europeans already drink a great deal of coffee, and, (c) since soluble hand-held coffee packets are already very popular in Europe, particularly with Germans, Turks, and Romanians, it won’t be a great leap to introduce another packet sized product onto the market.

I haven’t tried Magic Power Coffee, but maybe I should before I start judging it?  Oh wait, this is one of those get-rich-quick schemes.  Yeah, the ones that were either a lie all along or that cause some kind of bodily harm or are a serious health risk.

Feeling unsatisfied?  Read up on coffee trivia here.

P.S.  Does anyone know where I can find information about a group called the Kaffee Schnufflers?  They are claimed to have been an organized outfit created by King Frederick in Germany to snuff out illegal coffee roasters and smugglers, but I couldn’t find any reliable information that wasn’t in trivia form.  -Eine Bekannte von mir hat diese Seite über eine Kaffeerösterei in Hamburg gefunden. (to translate, copy and paste here)

DJ’s Mortal Remains in Vinyl

RIV - need copyrightRob Perkins, a disc jockey from Munich, Germany since 1991, is best known for his performances in radio and television. While most of his work as a DJ is in Germany, he also works at private parties worldwide. This German DJ has a funky idea of the perfect resting place after death.

The online British company andvinyly.com makes it possible for anyone to RIV (rest in vinyl.) This literally means you can have your cremated remains pressed into a vinyl record. These Vinyl records can be further customized by adding artwork and recorded music or a personal recorded message from the deceased.  The price for this service ranges from  $4600 – $7700 dollars.

The final resting place of the deceased varies depending on the culture. To the British culture, which is known for an ironic and dark sense of humour, the RIV solution may be completely appropriate, if not humorous. But the Germans are stereotypically thought to lack a sense of humor, especially from the viewpoint of the British. Additionally in Germany, the post-death tradition is: get rid of it as cheaply as possible.  So it’s no wonder if you are surprised that a German has decided to RIV.

Would you want to be remembered this way? How does RIV spin in your culture?

Jackass à la française?

Ever since Johnny Knoxville created MTV’s Jackass, a television show featuring a group of guys trying to pull off a bunch of dangerous stunts and ridiculous pranks, Americans throughout the nation became obsessed with this popular culture phenomenon.

Little do Americans know, pulling outlandish stunts and making embarrassing video footage is also a sensation in France. Thirty-five year old Rémi Gaillard of Montpelier has been circulating his less dangerous but equally entertaining videos via the internet.

This Frenchman, often referred to as the “French Johnny Knoxville,” claims that, “C’est en faisant n’importe quoi qu’on devient n’importe qui” – It’s by doing whatever, that you become whoever. But this “whoever” has quickly become one of the best-known pranksters online.

After launching N’importe qui in 2001, a website documenting a series of pranks, jokes, and soccer tricks, Rémi continues to show the influence of the Internet on popular culture – and how it is possible for any ordinary schmuck to become a celebrity.

According to L’Édition Spéciale (Canal Plus), it is Gaillard’s goal to “declare war on television.” He wants to show that popular culture is no longer predominately determined by the television business and the celebrities within. Instead, the internet has given a stronger voice to the majority – the public.

One of the hilarious acts that launched Gaillard into celebrity stardom was when he snuck into the victory celebrations of the Lorient soccer team after winning the Coupe de France tournament in 2002:

Nearly eight years later, Rémi’s website, nimportequi.com is thriving off of millions of views – as are his Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, and Dailymotion accounts.

This year roughly marks the 10th anniversary of the N’importe qui website. Be sure to check out his most popular videos, highlighted at the bottom of the homepage.

The Fourth Reich?

gnome

They’re small, organized, but are they out for world domination? I am talking of course, about a new art display in Southern Germany depicting garden gnomes saluting the way Nazi officers used to do during the WWII era.

In an article I found in the Local, an English website about German news and pop-culture, 1,250 fascist garden gnomes found their way to the Bavarian town of Straubing. They were put there by artist, Ottmar Hörl, who put the 15 inch figurines there to

“deal with a serious topic in a not so serious fashion and without accusation.”

There was also a few blogs about Hörl’s exhibit. I found a group blog that surfs the web looking for funny or outrageous stories, pictures and videos.

The saluting gnomes received some negative attention after prosecutors in Nuremberg launched an investigation to determine whether or not the gnomes were breaking the law. At the end of WWII Nazi symbols and salutes were made illegal in Germany. In response to this Hörl was quoted as saying:

“It is a work that is meant to get people to think, to react,” he said. “I want to show that we all have far-right thoughts in our heads.

The choice of garden gnomes as a personification of political protest may seem a strange one for those in the United States, but the gnome is a prominent figure in European folklore and is said to have originated in Thuringia, Germany in the mid-1800’s. There are an estimated 25 million gnomes in Germany, and Der Spiegel reports that Hörl’s characters are part of a larger trend towards more obscene gnomes including suicidal and sexually-explicit sculptures that have required courts to intervene for their removal.

Eventually, prosecutors accepted Hörl’s argument that the figurines were ridiculing the Nazis, and not promoting them. Hörl, who has designed other, less controversial, public art exhibitions and permanent installations, explained he hoped to draw attention to the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe.

The Mayor of Straubing,Hans Lohmeier, said he will have a protective around-the-clock watch on the public exhibit after threats were made on the work. The art work is publicly displayed in the city’s town square

Many people did not like the art and thought it was harmful. Others enjoyed it and understood what Hörl was trying to get at.

Did Hörl go too far with his art? Or is he right on track and allowing Germany to critically reflect on its past?

gn3g4