Monday, February 23, 2015

Stirlitz Jokes: The Spy that Couldn't

Here is another Hungarian genre that is extremely hard to explain, but not less entertaining than the Aggressive Piglet or Little Rabbit jokes. It takes us back to the glorious days of Soviet-era film making, and the daring adventures of Russian spies.

The whole thing started with a Soviet TV series called Seventeen Moments of Summer, released in 1973. It is... well, it is an interesting cinematic experience. All you really need to know that the hero of the series is a Russian spy who, under the codename Max Otto von Stierlitz, infiltrates Nazi Germany. The point of most jokes about him all ride on the same theme: Everyone knows Stirlitz is a spy. He is not very good at it.

Most Stirlitz jokes are really making fun of Soviet era efficiency and institutions (as well as poking fun at Nazi intelligence), and the incompetency of spy operations. Some of them also make a joke out of the slow-and-pensive style of many scenes in the show. Some are harder to explain than others, but for us, coming from a former Soviet satellite state, they are all extremely hilarious. I have no idea how well the humor translates, but I'll try anyway.

1.
Stirlitz receives a coded message from home: "Your son was born today." His eyes fill up with tears and he feels all warm and fuzzy inside, thinking of his dear wife he has not seen for almost five years.

2.
February 23rd, the Day of the Red Army: Stirlitz walks up and down the street, singing Soviet war songs. Little does he know how close he is in those moments to being outed as a spy.

3.
Hitler is having a meeting with his officers at his secret headquarters. Suddenly the door opens, Stirlitz walks in with an orange on a platter. He puts the platter down, walks to the cabinet, picks the lock, takes photos of secret documents, then leaves.
Hitler: "Who the hell was that?"
Officer: "Oh, that's a Soviet spy."
Hitler: "And why has he not been apprehended and executed yet?!"
Officer: "We tried, mein Führer, but somehow he always talks himself out of it..."

4.
April, 1945. Hitler wanders around in his headquarters, but no one cares about him anymore. They are losing the war. Frustrated, he finally opens a door and steps into Stirlitz's office. Stirlitz bolts up and salutes him: "Heil Hitler!"
Hitler, exhausted: "Come on, Maksimits, at least you don't screw with me today."

5.
Stirlitz has a private word with a German officer: "Herr Müller, would you like to work for the Soviet intelligence? We pay well."
Müller: "What are you talking about?! Of course not!"
Stirlitz: "Oh, in that case, do you happen to have something against a headache?"
Stirlitz was smart enough to know that people tend to only remember the last sentence of a conversation.

6.
Stirlitz walks alone at night, and suddenly sees a pair of lights in the distance.
"A truck" he deducts smartly.
"Truck my ass" the owl thinks.

7.
Stirlitz walks alone on the street and sees two prostitutes.
"Hookers." thinks Stirlitz.
"Stirlitz." think the hookers.

8.
Stirlitz walks around on the streets of Berlin, and notices that people look at him suspiciously.
"They spotted me. I wonder why. It could be my masculine Russian features... or could it be this parachute on my back?"

9.
Stirlitz and Müller go to a sauna. As they undress, Müller notices the large red star on Stirlitz's underwear.
"Stirlitz, where did you get that?!"
"In Moscow." Stirlitz answered, then thought to himself: "I hope I didn't say too much."

10.
Stirlitz stepped out of the Gestapo headquarters. "Dasvidaniya!" he greeted the guards, then wondered if he had maybe made a mistake.

11.
Martin Bormann is roused in the early hours of the morning by someone banging on his door. When he opens, he sees a man wearing skis and a parachute. The man says, with a strong Russian accent:
"THE ELEPHANTS ARE GOING NORTH!"
"The elephants can go f*ck themselves" Bormann sighs "Stirlitz lives one floor up."

12.
Stirlitz entered Müller's office, and found him dead on the floor.
"Must have poisoned himself" he thought as the pensively touched the ax in Müller's back.

13.
Five black cars pulled up to Stirlitz's home. Gestapo officers got out and knocked.
"Who are you looking for?" asked a voice on the other side.
"Stirlitz!"
"I'm not home!"
The officers swore. It had been two weeks now that Stirlitz had been on the run like that.

5 comments:

  1. I think every culture has a "Stirlitz"; there's even one that served as a Lieutenant in the American Army until he was finally deep-sixed by the Bureaucrats who issued him a death certificate or something, during the Korean Police Action. I also know of the famous "Lt. Kije" that Prokofiev writes about, who did the same kind of nonsense during Imperial Russia, although I cannot remember what happened to him, although I've played the Suite. Without these kinds of laff-riots during times of stress and war, people would surely have had a much harder time of it; as it is, these guys only enrich the confusion and add to already-storied histories! More "Stirlitz" I say! Thanks!

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  2. These are great! Wish there were translated episodes online. Although maybe Google/YouTube's auto translate would make them even better!

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    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIzOma9Pyv8&list=PLA6274B0CEF58CEB0

      Have fun.

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  3. Stirlitz, with the Gestapo posse behind him, found a temporary refuge in a movie theatre. But the Gestapo saw that and they sealed off all exits from the building.
    But Stirlitz outsmarted the Gestapo. He escaped through the entrance.

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