Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=58206733
When I spoke to Jon Waterlow he reminded me that George Orwell once said that every joke is a tiny revolution. Well, it turns out jokes can be even more than that. In his fantastic new book, It’s Only a Joke Comrade: Humour, Trust and Everyday Life Under Stalin, Waterlow explores the fascinating world of jokes in the Soviet Union during the 1930’s. This week Jon joins me to discuss Stalin jokes, how we perceive reality, and the power and limits of political humour. Tune in and find out how Reagan’s sense of humour, pencil techniques, and mind viruses all play a roll in the story.
This was more an episode about the process of writing the book than about primary history. That said, it was still interesting on some points, including:
- How Jon Waterlow got inspired by China Mieville’s The City and The City, of all things
- In general, the parallel between the plot of The City and the City and making disgruntled jokes is not something I would have thought of. I don’t know if that’s because I’m uneducated, or because Waterlow is really stretching things. So it goes.
- But the insight that jokes create a space where you both live through the unpleasant reality because dissenting or resisting is too hard; but don’t buy into the reality at all, is quite a good one. It’s something that you vaguely understand, but having it put into clear words is fantastic.
Listen Date: 2018-11-15