The Origins of Comedic Species: Armenian Traces

Statue of Yengibaryan in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia

Statue of Yengibaryan in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia

by Sergey Sargsyan

There is theory that the nations that have gone through relatively harder times like genocide and exile have shaped a deeper sense of humor in response to their tragedy.  This is often applied to Jews and Armenians as the two nations with a history of much pain.

I think that this theory is kind-of true.  After all, it is supported by the evidence of Jewish and Armenian names in the comedy business in the United States and in Russia.  In fact, in Russia, it is even often joked that Armenians have hijacked and monopolized comedy (especially stand-up comedy) with the famous “Comedy Club” and its numerous spin-offs.

It may seem new but it is worth looking up the roots of this – Leonid Yengibaryan. A legendary Soviet Armenian clown (whose birthday was just on Saturday, March 15, by the way) is a useful figure and a great reference point for Armenian comedy in modern times.  Yengibaryan (or Yengibarov as he was known in the USSR) was significant for bringing an intellectual approach to comedy and changing the expectation from a clown.  His success and innovation was so great that he was allowed to travel around not only the Soviet Union but the whole Eastern bloc to perform.

It is really a shame that he died so young (1935-1971), yet his legacy seems to have been appreciated and carried on to date.

Happy birthday Leonid jan and thank you for the inspiration and for pushing comedy forward!

Below is a sampling of some of the work of this Armenian comedy varpet! Enjoy!:

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