“Russia continues to make the same mistakes.”Ukrainian comedian Felix Redoka is joking about a war-torn country

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24-year-old Felix Redka lives with her family in Sumy, Ukraine, near the Russian border. Before Russia invaded Ukraine in earnest, Redka’s job was to arrange a Russian comedian show in Ukraine. He will also play himself. In late March 2022, when Russian troops were still stationed in his town, Redoka and two other comedians arranged a stand-up comedy show at the Sumy Bomb Shelter. Recently, he spends his time traveling all over the country trying to give his compatriots catharsis as Russia continues to bombard Ukrainian cities. Redoka told Meduza what it takes to make a sad country laugh, and what the Ukrainians think of the Russians who did not speak in opposition to the war.

Six months ago, Felix Redka was at a crossroads in his career. His goal was to work as a professional comedian for a long time, but he had more financial success as a Russian comedian manager and show organizer who seemed to have cornered the Ukrainian market. At the age of 25, Redka thought it might be time to leave his comedy dream.

Then Russia began dropping bombs on cities all over Ukraine. Many of Ukraine’s largest pop musicians quickly left the country to hold charity concerts abroad, leaving a blank space for live entertainment. Meanwhile, the disappointed Ukrainian audience lost interest in Russian comedians who used little platform to oppose the war. Meanwhile, the horrified Redoka kept joking.

“After the war started, I noticed something. In the worst case, if my mind is still joking, it must mean I’m a comedian.” He told Meduza.

Of course, the early days of war were defined by shock and fear. Redka, like most other Ukrainians with internet access, spent all his time reading the news and waiting for his necessities.

“You’ll see an empty shelf. When food disappears in front of you, it’s pretty scary — perhaps even more scary than an outside explosion,” he said. “Then, in the evening, it returned to the news.”

But soon he became restless and tired of feeling useless. So he made his plan.

“If I were a mechanic, I would have gone out to repair the car,” he said. “But I’m a cartoon. What do I do? I had to plan a show. First, […] People didn’t have time. They needed to understand how to evacuate their families and where to buy what they needed.Later, when things got into the rhythm, we found the perfect place [for a show]: Bomb shelter. “

Russian comedy state

Redka’s comedy show at the Smee Bomb Shelter, which “contains” 150 people, has become a legend among both Ukrainian and international comedians. At least one Russian artist, Oleg Kvaev, trusted the show by urging him to resume his work after the war stopped him. But Redka told Meduza that it was never his intention to be viral.

“I wanted to entertain myself first and foremost and do something to myself,” he said.

Felix Redoka is currently in the middle of a comedy tour that spans most of Ukraine (except for areas under Russian control). He said he could travel comfortably for two reasons, as the fighting in his hometown of Sumy stopped, his family turned out to be fine, and the whole country was at stake.

“In a war-torn country, danger is the default. We are fully aware that there is no absolutely safe place in Ukraine right now. This is a big part of what we travel. It means you’re not taking any extra risk, “he said.

The appeal of wartime stand-up comedy may not be obvious, but according to Redka, live audiences are more acceptable than ever.

“People react stronger […] I laughed much louder than before the war, “he said. “”[Comedy] Serves as an exit for people. “

Of course, some topics are still delicate. Ukrainian society has experienced unimaginable trauma in recent months. But that doesn’t mean that comedians have to walk on eggshells. In fact, Redka said knowing which joke was right was actually a matter of common sense.

“Roughly speaking, you can make jokes about what you want, but it all depends on whether you can find the right wording, intonation, time, and place for the joke. It’s okay to make jokes about Mariupol’s and those who have died, but to make jokes that don’t offend people, you have a 99% chance to be prepared for the fact that you can’t find the right words, the right intonation. ” He said.

Russia’s 2022 invasion changed the rules of joke feed that could otherwise be tolerated.

“Jokes about dead Russian soldiers are now showing a very positive reaction,” Redka said. “It’s hard to imagine that it would happen before February 24th.”

Russian liberals

After the video of Redka’s bomb shelter comedy show spread by word of mouth, he began receiving interview requests from Russian media and media outlets. He wanted to raise awareness of Ukraine’s suffering, so he decided to make it his personal policy to allow all of them, whether or not the interviewer publicly condemned the war.

Sometimes, however, it was too difficult.When a request from a Russian comedian praising supporters of the war coincided with the first report of atrocities against Russian civilians. BuchaRedka chose not to allow interviews.

“Just then I was supposed to respond [the interviewer], Information about Bucha has begun to flood. By that night, it began to become clear what had happened, and I was full of waves of hatred that I refused. I didn’t want to comment on anyone who didn’t say it clearly. “

And while he made a personal decision not to cut off the Russians altogether, Redka does not blame the Ukrainians for doing the opposite.

“The fact is that even in liberal circles, many [Russian] It turns out that people have a pretty strange line of reasoning [about the war] And some pretty imperialist views. […] Many of us understand that there are many Russian journalists and general Russians who do not support all of this. […] But people don’t even want to put it at risk, as it’s very likely that they won’t recognize the imperialists who feed and pretend to be Russian liberals, “he told Meduza. Told.

Occupation of Bucha in Russia

Two Russians, Redka, are the closest, Dennis Chuzoy Alexandr Dolgopolov is a comedian like him. He said that unlike many Russians whose anti-war advocacy was limited to ambiguous social media posts since February 24, Chuzoi and Dolgopolov clarified their position and gained his full respect. Stated.

“They left the country and signed an open letter to Putin. Can I wipe my ass with a letter? Of course, at least that’s what. They spoke publicly and explicitly. .. […] Currently, they are holding a charity show to raise money to help our refugees. I don’t say bad words about them, “he said.

After all, according to Redka, Ukraine is moving away from Russia as an act of self-preservation. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and has been at war in Donbus ever since. According to him, many Ukrainians have been wondering for eight years that things might not be as simple as they look. “But when they started bombing our city indiscriminately [in February 2022]Everything was revealed, “he said.

In Redka’s view, Russia is stuck in a destructive cycle that began centuries ago, not in 2014.

“How are Ukrainians different? [from Russians]?? We have learned from all misery. […] There was massive repression, the 1937 massacre, and Holodomor. [famine] 1933 — Grandparents talk about a woman who ate her child during Holodomor. We have experienced all these tragedy. We defined them as people for ourselves, explained them, reached conclusions, and decided that we no longer want to board the same ship as you. I feel that the next tragedy will come sooner or later. “

But in Russia, “History seems to continue to give you the opportunity to reassess, tackle your mistakes, and prevent them from happening again, but you continue to make the same mistakes anyway.” He said.

“The weirdest guy I know”

His 46-year-old father is in a trench in Donbas while Redka is traveling to Ukraine for a comedy show.

“I think it’s great news when I get the message that my dad is alive,” he told Meduza. “Every day we receive the news again, which calms us until the next morning.”

At Redka’s Bomb Shelter Comedy Show, he talked about trying to find a silver lining in a terrifying situation. For him, one of the silver linings of the war was to give Ukrainian society a desire for jokes about dead Russian soldiers. This is what his father gave him a lot when he fought in Donbus from 2014 to 2015, but Redoka felt. Until recently it was unsuitable for his stand-up routine.

Life in Donbus

“It’s like Vladivostok Vladivostok Putin gave me permission to use all this material on February 24th,” he said. “Now, when I tell people what my dad told me in 2015, overall, the reaction is very positive, including all the details.”

Redka’s jokes may be a hit, but in his view he’s less interesting than his father.

“Elon Musk has developed some kind of super router that can provide Internet access from anywhere in the world,” he said. “So my dad goes.” They brought Starlink. Now we can access the internet in trenches. I told him I was happy.Then he says, “Internet access is the last fucking thing I need. I’m sitting in a trench being shot. Why do I need to know that? [Ukrainian singers] Did Dantes and Dorofiewa get divorced? “

“How can you come up with such a joke during normal times?” Redka said. “I could not do it.”

Interview by Natalia Gledina

Summary translation by Sam Breeze Ale “Russia continues to make the same mistakes.”Ukrainian comedian Felix Redoka is joking about a war-torn country

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