“I was supposed to have entrance music.” Milo Edwards starts his stand-up with some good-natured jibes directed at the theatre’s organisation, pointing out that he was ‘famous in Russia’. Note: ‘in Russia’ is the focus of this sentence. As he says, fifteen minutes of fame in Russia is more like five minutes – partly due to the reduced life expectancy.
Edwards is an ex-Cambridge Classics student and Footlight, who embarked on three years doing stand-up in Russia after finishing his degree. He introduces us to Russian culture through linguistics. In his view, a word which reveals a lot about the Russians is ‘Pizdetz’, a swear word, meaning either really, really bad or so bad it’s good. In other words, a very Russian contradiction.
Edwards’ best anecdotes were along a similar theme: that is, how completely unbelievable life in Russia can be. This is a world where you can either be forging signatures for policemen or be terrified that they will kill you for being a comedian – that is, after taking a selfie with you. It is a world where the staircase alcoholic is a staple part of accommodation, and stray dogs are thrown into space until space itself cannot kill them.
He describes Russians and their thought processes with a hilarious fake Russian accent, but veers away at the last second from making it into a stereotype – or rather, if Russians are a stereotype, then so are the English. While it is at heart a stand-up about Russia, he discusses class, English swearwords, and how little the British Foreign Office understands the risks of living in Russia, where falling icicles are just as menacing as political persecution.
Edwards keeps the show tailored to the audience, even criticising us at times for our reaction (“why are you ‘ooh’ing a Hitler death joke?”) or embarrassing an audience member if they laugh at the wrong time. He inserts just enough self-deprecation into his piece without making it all about him, for example, when he describes his stupidity getting arrested in Russia by speaking back to a policeman “like a middle-class white kid who’s never been arrested”.
Edwards likens his experience in Russia with the dogs in space, thrown into this strange world where the normal rules of life don’t make sense, and where, as a Russian cosmonaut once said, ‘there is no God’. However, unlike poor Laika the dog, he lives to tell the tale, and in this stand-up, he shares his experience of space travel. Or, at least, his hilarity and confusion while bouncing around in zero-gravity.