KVN (Russian: КВН, an abbreviation of Клуб Весёлых и Находчивых, Klub Vesyólykh i Nakhódchivykh or Ka-Ve-En, "Club of the Funny and Inventive") is a Russian humour TV show and competition where teams (usually college students) compete by giving funny answers to questions and showing prepared sketches. The programme was first aired by the First Soviet Channel on November 8, 1961. Eleven years later, in 1972, when few programmes were being broadcast live, Soviet censors found the students' impromptu jokes offensive and anti-Soviet and banned KVN. The show was revived fourteen years later during the Perestroika era in 1986, with Alexander Maslyakov as its host. It is one of the longest-running TV programmes on Russian Television. It also has its own holiday on November 8, the birthday of the game, which KVN players celebrate every year since it was announced and widely celebrated for the first time in 2001.
KVN as a competition
Groups of KVN teams are organized into several Leagues, where they compete annually for the League Champion title. KVN is so popular that there are literally hundreds of leagues around the globe. To organize the movement, the KVN Union created a (Russian)structure of regional and multi-regional arrangements of Leagues. Games of two leagues are regularly broadcast on Russian Channel One: the Major League and the Premier-League, other Leagues are broadcast on local channels. The winner of the Major League (Vysshaya Liga Russian: Высшая Лига) is declared the Champion of the Club. There are other KVN competitions outside the Leagues: the KVN Festival (KiViN) is held in Sochi every January and attracts hundreds of teams from around the world, this is where teams are arranged into Leagues for the Season, the Musical Festival which is called "Singing KiViN" (Golosyaschiy KiViN, Russian: Голосящий КиВиН) is held every July in Jūrmala, Latvia where teams are competing to win KiViNs, which are also very prestigious prizes, the Summer Cup or Supercup is played usually in August every year in a different place, usually in Sochi, and only Major League Champions are allowed to compete (with some exceptions, when in 2003 a unique team of famous KVN players competed (and also won) and 2007, 2008 and 2010 when Finalists were invited), another game is held every year in November to celebrate KVN's birthday and is called the Specproject (pronounced "Spetsproyekt"). Many places in the CIS have Leagues independent from KVN Union and conduct their own competitions, the same is said about KVN outside the CIS which has no connection to KVN Union.
KVN as a game
KVN is a task-based team competition in front of a live audience and judged by a panel of judges. Typically, each team is asked to complete in 4-5 thematically connected assignments, such as:
- Greeting (Privetstviye, Russian: Приветствие): witty introduction of the team, humorous greeting to the jury and spectators.
- Warm-up (Razminka, Russian: Разминка) (usually the second contest): rapid exchange of funny questions and improvised answers, sometimes played against the audience, jury and/or the host.
- Musical Competition (Muzykalnyy Konkurs, Russian: Музыкальный конкурс): a competition in which the competing teams show musical sketches and numbers involving singing, playing musical instruments and dancing. Sometimes an alternate shorter version called One Song-Contest (Konkurs Odnoy Pesni, Russian: Конкурс одной песни) is played. In this competition the players must use only one melody throughout the competition.
- STEM ("students' variety miniature") (Russian: СТЭМ): a contest in which only three performers from a team are allowed to be on stage simultaneously (the rule didn't apply at the 2008-2009 seasons).
- Captains' contest (Kapitanka, Russian: Капитанка): individual competition between the team captains.
- Homework (Domashneye Zadaniye, Russian: Домашнее задание): comedy theatre sketches on a given topic, sometimes a Musical Homework is played when there is no Musical Competition.
- BRIZ (Bureau of Rationalization and Invention) (Russian: БРИЗ): In this contest the teams need to present something such as an invention, a brief historical survey, movies, photo-albums or any type of new idea. It is also called a literature contest because it mainly consists of textual jokes.
- News Contest (Konkurs Novostey, Russian: Конкурс новостей): similar to the BRIZ, but focuses on strange and funny "news".
- Biathlon (Russian: Биатлон): a contest in which a representative of each team "shoots" one joke or more at the audience. The jury decides who leaves the "shooting range" until only two contestants remain and the jury picks one winner who gets 1 point. In case of a draw the finalists receive 0.9 points each.
- Freestyle (Russian: Фристайл): a more modern and free version of the Greeting in which the teams have no restrictions of genre.
- Cinema Contest (Kinokonkurs, Russian: Киноконкурс): a contest which involves making a movie, making a clip to a song, making a clip consisting of different video and audio pieces or dubbing a well-known movie.
Rarely, other activities are assigned.
A panel of judges, usually well-known celebrities, actors, and writers, evaluates performances on wit, humour, production values and spectators reaction and declares a winner by awarding points to the teams. In the Premier-League the jury consists usually of famous KVN players.
KVN's reach is impressive. According to the official site of KVN Union:
- over 5 million live spectators annually watch now
- more than 40,000 participants organized into
- more than 3,000 regularly competing teams from
- more than 100 cities play game of KVN.
For more than 20 years TV broadcasts of KVN games receive the highest ratings in Russia. The popularity of the game is so high that even politicians use it as an opportunity to gain extra points, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev attended games played before the elections. The game of KVN helps in interstate relationships. The CIS–Israel game broadcast on September 19, 1992 helped in warming up relationships between the two countries (mostly on Russia's side). KVN became part of the culture, illustrated by the fact that it became a game of choice in Russian-speaking communities around the globe.
Also, the president of the club, Alexander Maslyakov, received one of the highest (if not the highest) award from Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, for hosting the game for so many decades. This happened at the end of the game dedicated to KVN's 45th anniversary in November 2006. It was a surprise to Maslyakov as he didn't know he would be receiving an award before the game.
KVN around the world
Since Perestroika opened former-Soviet borders for emigrants, KVN has reached Israel, Germany, Australia, Portugal, The United Kingdom and the United States. Many countries created their own teams, leagues and competitions. In 1992 the Israel team tested the waters playing against the CIS team. The game was an unquestionable success and more international games on a highest level followed: the CIS team visited Israel, Germany and USA. The culmination was in 1994 with the First KVN World Festival in Israel with 4 teams (USA, Israel, CIS and Germany). This event attracted a new generation of players to KVN. Currently, the American League includes more than 30 teams from different universities, including such prominent ones as Harvard, Berkeley and New York University (NYU) (the very first League Champion). KVN Israel comprises two Leagues with about 30 teams from different towns.The U.K. also has a prominent KVN community, with teams from King's College London, City University London, and current Champions, Impact from Imperial College London.