Picks and Pans Review: Soviet Humor

UPDATED 09/11/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/11/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

by the editors of KROKODIL

Take our Politburo. Please.

The cartoons in this collection from the Soviet humor magazine Krokodilmay not quite reach that level of familiarity to Western audiences, but they are remarkably accessible and often quite funny. They represent a serious sort of wit, the kind of thing that would appear here as editorial cartoons, or maybe in The New Yorker rather than in Mad or National Lampoon. The editors of the magazine—which is published every 10 days and has a circulation of 5 million—seem to have considerable latitude to criticize, as long as they direct their satire at bureaucracy in general, not individual politicians.

The less-political cartoons seem familiar too, touching on such subjects as computer dating, aerobics, boom-box radios, alcoholism and the short-lived nature of romance.

A few of the drawings are on the unfathomable side, such as one that shows a sailor sitting looking out a window while he is chained to an anchor that rests in a fishbowl. But generally the book has entertainment as well as curiosity value. Part of a humor exchange project that involved such Americans as Art Buchwald and Jim Berry, Soviet Humor includes an introduction by Aleksey Pyanov, Krokodil's editor-in-chief, who exhorts, "So, what do you say! Let's laugh together!" So, all right, Comrade Dude. This is an interesting book. It shows some wit. And it's not unpleasant, either, to think of Stalin, McCarthy and all those other old cold warriors spinning in their graves. (Andrews and McMeel, paper, $12.95)

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