Igor Meerson

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Igor Meerson


The ushanka on my poster – it is pure marketing,” he says of the military-style fur cap in his tour posters. “I’m talking about stereotypes in my show and this image of a tough Russian military guy is typical all over the world. You have so many comedians here, I thought this would catch the attention of the audience. And the thing is that my face isn’t stereotypical Russian – I’m not blond and bearded – because I’m Jewish. So I use this hat to make my Jewish looks more Russian.

Russian people ‘laugh by their hands’”, Meerson continues. “I mean, instead of loud laughter they give you applause. But funny ideas – it works everywhere. I should say that I try to find something interesting in local life, language and traditions – to talk to people about topics which are close to them, but I never change my basic comedy approach according to the audience. I see in Russia a lot at the moment young comedians inspired by western comedians they watch on the internet, that sometimes they just copy someone they like. Because I started to do stand-up 12 years ago, when the internet was so slow in Russia, we had no English speaking comedy on TV – we still don’t, in fact – so I came to stand-up without knowing any comedians at all. I just started to tell my personal thoughts and stories from the stage. I’ve really always been myself.”


It’s solid advice, and something many other comics comedians also extol – don’t try to be something you’re not, because the audience will always sniff you out. But for Meerson it is particularly apt given his background. He is very aware of the occasionally repressive image that Russia conjures in the Western mind, and with the media portrayal of Russia’s authority when it comes to artists such as Pussy Riot, poking fun at certain topics can be a loaded game.


It is a very good question and a very important one for me. I’m not political comic but I don’t stop myself from talking about anything at home,” reflects Meerson. “When I’m abroad, I think of myself as a representative of my country so I try to defend it as much as I can. The interesting thing is that everybody has a stereotype about Russia, that we have censorship or something like that. But lots of jokes I have at home are impossible to say here because of so called political correctness. It is irony – I was waiting for Western freedom of speech but in fact you face so many boundaries here, too.”


Meerson comes across as a funny guy, sure, but he also seems so damned nice. His reception outside Russia has seen him impress the likes of Dylan Moran and GQ, and his stint in Melbourne is likely to be just as celebrated.


I perform everywhere in the world and everywhere comedians are very kind and supportive to me. They know that English isn’t my native language and they are ready to help. I’m lucky, I have to say. Unfortunately, I have to fly back home the day after my last show here, but I really hope to explore Melbourne as much as I can. I hope it’s not my first and last visit here, so I’m sure I will have an opportunity to find my own Australia.”