I was lucky enough to get invited to this cultural event by my Russian friend, Lena, who had acquired some tickets through work. Like most Americans, I assume, I had never heard of КВН and all I knew about it was that it was some sort of comedy show. I went in thinking that I probably wasn’t going to understand many of the jokes, but decided to give it a try since my friend was giving me a free chance for a cultural event.
КВН stands for Клуб Весёлых и Находчивых, or The Club of the Fun and Inventive, and is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year. There are many different levels of competition ranging from televised leagues, regional and inter-regional leagues, and student leagues. I attended the final of the Primorsky КВН League at Fesco Hall in Vladivostok. Five teams had made the finals after advancing through many rounds of competition over a few months. Three of the teams were local Vladivostok teams from the Far Eastern Federal University and Vladivostok State University of Economics, and the other two were from the cities of Artyom and Nakhodka. The competition was judged by celebrities including a Moscow “КВНщик” (the name for the competitors) from the federally televised national competition.
The competition took place over 5 rounds: the “greeting”, a round of rapid-fire improvised responses to funny questions, the biathlon (a sort of joke shoot-out round), a video clip round, and the final “musical assignment” round. From the get-go, the team from Nakhodka set themselves up as the crowd favorite. Unlike the other teams, that team developed ridiculous roles and characters for their team members, which they stayed in during the whole competition. The final, “music assignment” round was by the far the highlight of the competition. The teams came up with original skits that included a musical number. The best sketch of the night came during this round, when one of the members of the VGUES team, “United Brisket,” did a very realistic impression of President Dmitry Medvedev. He had the 50-year-old man sitting next to me in tears with his perfect timing and expression (he more than slightly resembled the President). In the end, the team from Nakhodka ended up the winner, though United Brisket came in a close second.
If you’ve never had the chance to watch КВН, whether a live show of one of the minor leagues or the premier league on TV, I highly recommend you check it out online. In fact, here’s a link to the video of the entire final that I attended. КВН is known to all Russians and thus has a huge cultural influence. It’s a way for people to joke about politics, current events, and Russia’s quirks. At this final, the majority of the jokes were directed at the Duma elections and the recent fire on Vladivostok’s yet-to-be finished bridge. All in all, this was a cultural event that stood apart from the typical museum or local sight visits. If you’re anywhere in Russia for an extended period of time, check out the local КВН league wherever you are!