Russian reversal

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A Russian reversal is a type of joke, usually starting with the words "In Soviet Russia", in which the subject and objects of a statement are reversed, commonly as a snowclone pattern: "In America you <do something> to/with X, in Soviet Russia X <does something> to/with you." Sometimes the first part is omitted.[1]

Although the exact origin of the joke form is uncertain, an early example is from the 1938 Cole Porter musical Leave It to Me! ("In Soviet Russia, messenger tips you.")[2] Bob Hope used the form at the 1958 Academy Awards.[2] In the 1968–1973 television show Laugh-In, a recurring character, "Piotr Rosmenko the Eastern European Man" (played by Arte Johnson), delivered short jokes such as "Here in America, is very good, everyone watch television. In old country, television watch you!". This joke alludes to "telescreens" from George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which both reproduce images and monitor the citizenry.[3]

The joke form is often credited to Ukrainian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff, although he only rarely used Russian reversals;[citation needed] an example is a Miller Lite commercial in which he appeared in 1985, wherein he stated: "In America, there's plenty of light beer and you can always find a party. In Russia, Party always finds you".[1][4]

The jokes are often told without articles or verb conjugation, in the way that a native Russian speaker might be thought to speak, which makes such reversals easier and/or more humorous. A Russian reversal is an example of both an antimetabole and a transpositional pun.


An image macro with a joke of this type
  • "Every country has its own mafia;"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b In Soviet Russia, snowclones overuse you Language Log - by Mark Liberman
  2. ^ a b Rothman, Lily (2015-02-22). "In Soviet Russia, the Oscars Host You". Time. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
  3. ^ Rowan & Martin's Laugh In. Unforgettable Cast Members, Guests and some of their Running Jokes
  4. ^ "Yakov Smirnoff Miller Lite Commercial (1985)". YouTube. 11 November 2007.
  5. ^ Garry Kasparov (Garry Kasparov: I told you Putin would attack U.S. election — and he will again)