Different approaches to satire do not translate well across national borders, nor often does the subject matter. But if ever there were a case to be made for the universality of satire itself, allow this compilation of satirical magazines to lay a humble foundation. Discover we’re not so different after all! You know, aside from linguistically, historically, culturally, economically, etc.
Whatever your intentions, please enjoy perusing these humor periodicals from around the world.
11. Random Magazine, India
Supposedly India’s sole humor magazine, Random Magazine started in 2008 and has since expanded into a full-fledged media venture. In addition to humorous features, the magazine runs series such as Random Classifieds, Badly Drawn Comics and self-designated dictator Colonel Chikara’s Believe It or Else.
The team behind Random has created television shows like “Love Net” and “Dare to Date.” But perhaps the most fun offshoot of the humor magazine is the Golden Kela Awards, the Indian equivalent to the Razzies. The award ceremony, in partnership with the Sundaas Film Institute, honors the worst of the worst in Bollywood — or as they call it “The Best of the Worst.” Awards handed out over the past three ceremonies include Worst Film, the When Did This Come Out Award, the Most Irritating Song Award and the Dara Singh Award for Worst Accent.
While Random Magazine does not appear to have a web presence, you can read truncated digital versions of the magazine here, or purchase a hard copy. Which may be worthwhile, since the magazine appears to be available in English.
10. Bayan Yani, Turkey
Not only might this Turkish humor magazine be the youngest of the bunch, it’s also the only female-oriented one. Bayan Yani means “the seat next to the woman,” and is a joke on the oppression Turkish women still face in society. Tired of the male-dominated culture of the comic/humor community, a group of female Turkish cartoonists and writers joined forces to “prove their jokes can be just as funny — and biting — as men’s.”
Launched in March of 2011, the publication and its authors hope to reach a wider audience despite its decidedly female point of view. With a budget of $30,000 a month and a circulation of 50,000 copies, it seems inevitable a male may pick it up, although he will probably still read it privately. One columnist for the paper claimed men have asked her to change the name so it won’t be so embarrassing to read in public. Hmm. No one ever said progress happened overnight.
9. Krokodil, Russia
Nowadays when you Google “Krokodil,” you will get a bounty of search results pointing to a new homemade version of heroin sweeping Russia’s massive land. But back in the Cold War Days if Google had existed (or the Internet or Free Speech), searching Krokodil would turn you onto the satirical magazine started in Russia in 1922 that ran all the way up until the end of the USSR.
While the rest of the country was controlled with an iron fist, Krokodil was granted a great deal of artistic license when it came to lampooning and satirizing politics of the day. It probably helped that the primary targets for the publication were “Western imperialists, bourgeois ideologies and anti-Soviet elements.” Satire comes in all shapes and sizes, boys and girls.
The publication was re-launched in 2005 and in homage to its roots, it is printed on Soviet-quality paper. In lieu of an official website, I found something even better: a PhD student’s comprehensive blog detailing his research on Krokodil 1922 – 1991. Enjoy the fruits of his labor, comrades.
8. Titanic, Germany
The scope of German satirical magazine Titanic is, well, for lack of a better word: titanic. In fact, the publication probably merits its own dedicated Comedy Tourism post, but since it fits the current bill let’s take a look shall we? Since its beginnings in 1979 in Frankfurt, the magazine and its writers have forged skewer-first into scandals and controversy. Most notably and recently in 2000, Titanic’s former editor-in-chief famously punked FIFA into awarding Germany the 2006 World Cup. Remember how the World Cup was in South Africa last year? Well it was actually supposed to be there 4 years earlier in 2006 until Titanic decided to play the ultimate prank. Essentially, they faxed various officials of FIFA potential bribes in exchange for selecting Germany to host the World Cup. When it was exposed that Titanic sent these false letters to officials, a lot of angry people left angry voicemails for Titanic. So what did the magazine do? Why, they compiled the funniest messages and released them on CD. More on that story here, if you’re interested.
Titanic has an active and hilarious site ready for your perusal — and with a quick click of Google Translate, you won’t even need to speak German to understand it!
7. Dou, China
Released by Volumes Publishing back in 2008, Dou — which means funny or tease in Chinese, and an unintelligible curse in Homer Simpson speak — was a humor magazine put together by famous Chinese humorists like Sun Rui and Lin Changzhi. According to Danwei, the magazine contained “genre pastiches, wuxia parodies, schoolyard antics, and a serialized screenplay version of Sun Rui’s hit novel Waiting in the Rye.”
Also included is the series “Hapless Cat” — in the example of this below it should be noted that the phrase “Hide and Seek” also means “Hide the Cat.” I can’t explain the linguistic rules of Chinese, but they have four tones and read characters; I think we can all cut them some slack.
6. El Koshary Today, Egypt
Luckily for our purposes today, Egypt’s “Most Reliable News Source” is available online in English. While it’s not technically a real news website, El Koshary Today became Egypt’s first satirical website in 2009. Here’s their philosophy, as stated on the site:
In case you haven’t noticed, El Koshary Today in not a “real” news site. Our philosophy here is to use sarcasm and imagination to raise awareness of some of the serious (and not so serious) issues plaguing our nation. It is not intended to relay any factual information or credible circumstances, though where possible readers will find news links to the actual issues being satirized herein.To elaborate, El Koshary Today offers satirical commentaries that exaggerate the evident problems in our society in a way that, hopefully, makes us laugh, but also impels us to start doing something about it.In other words, like the meal it’s named after, El Koshary Today is about a random mix of uniquely Egyptian “infogredients” that can nourish your sense of humour, but more importantly implore you to demand more from the remarkable (and indeed, at times bizarre) society that invented that very meal.
You could call it Egypt’s answer to The Onion, but America’s most reliable “news source” never breaks character to discuss its real intentions though they may be implicit in the material. And there are some pretty hefty issues on El Koshary’s plate: sexism, tyranny, pollution, fundamentalism. But it seems that for the most part, their main purpose is poking fun at the troubles of their nation. Consider the current headlines on their front page:
“Cairo speed bumps on trail for impeding traffic.”
“Yoda recruited by Supreme Military Council.”
“Egypt’s Natural Security Agency helps former torturers find inner-child.”
5. HUMO, Belgium
Though a staple in Belgian media for over half a century, HUMO gained recent notoriety with some highly offensive print ads featuring such imagery as two pilots reading a copy of HUMO with a direct view of the WTC towers in their window or Saddam Hussein perusing HUMO in a bunker. Personally, I like the more “subtle” ads like the one featured here about cultures mixing.
It’s a magazine and a website and you can find it all here. You don’t even need Google Translate to understand the tag line — it’s in English. It’s called “The Wild Site,” and judging by the content that’s pretty on the nose.
4. Grönköpings Veckoblad, Sweden
A monthly humor magazine founded at the turn of the 20th century, Grönköpings Veckoblad may sound like a piece of IKEA furniture you threw away after seven failed attempts at putting it together, but for the Swedish it is a litmus for quality satire. Initially it was the paper for a made-up town called Grönköping and the name basically means the Grönköping Weekly.
The paper uses its old-fashioned look and language to do an out-of-date take on current events. Check it out here — and make sure to Google Translate it up if you’re using Chrome.
3. De Speld, Netherlands
Translating roughly in English as “The Pin,” De Speld was started by a Dutch actor who, after studying in America, noted the dearth of sharp, satirical content in the Netherlands. In 2007, he realized he and his friends could make anything better than what the current media was printing and De Speld was born. Though initially text only, the site now produces video and radio content as well. Here’s a video of founder Jochem van den Berg talking about the site.
And speaking of the site, if you have mastered the art of Google Translate (note: there’s no art involved, really, just clicking), then you can get a feel for the satirical humor yourselves by going here. Though much of the humor is specific to the Netherlands, you don’t have to be a Dutch-master to understand the joke in such popular articles as the one titled “Government wants to privatize public holidays.”
2. El Jueves, Spain
Spanish for “The Thursday,” El Jueves comes out weekly. According to the Wikipedia page, deemed credible by this writer, the full title of the paper is El Jueves, la revista que sale los Miércoles which means “The Thursday, the paper that comes out on Wednesdays.” And just by that title alone, you should know The Thursday has a veritable jokes factory in store.
While the site is still active and you should go visit it after reading my article the requisite three times, it should be noted that much like many of its brethren listed here, El Jueves is not immune to trouble. As recently as 2007, the magazine was not only censored but also legally prosecuted for comments it made about Spanish royalty. According to the Reporters without Borders 2008 annual report, El Jueves ran a cover in July 2007 of “Crown Prince Felipe and his wife having sex, as a way of ridiculing the government’s family planning policy of giving new parents 2500 Euros per child.” The prince, in flagrante, exclaims “You realise that if you get pregnant, this is the nearest I’ll ever come to knowing what it feels like to work.” ZINGAAAAAA.
Naturally, Spain was none too pleased with this racy humor and ordered all copies bearing this cover be seized immediately. Some journalists were thrown in jail and freedom of speech lost a few points that day. But the Spanish goverment lost more, so who’s winning? The answer: you are, because you still get to read El Jueves.
1. El Chamuco, Mexico
It’s quite possible I subconsciously chose Mexico’s popular satire magazine because the title of the magazine is my favorite. Translating roughly as “The Devil,” El Chamuco isn’t trying to be cute or coy with its intentions. Which is great for comedy, but sometimes bad for business. For a period of time in the early aughts, the publication was pretty much shut down. Then in 2007 with the election of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa as President, the presses were suddenly unstopped. A very cartoon-heavy publication, the editors and writers oh-so-sweetly refer to their satirical targets as “clients.”
You can access the Devil in Spanish here — and by the by, have I recommended Google Translate enough? Because I’m going to do it again. They should be paying ME, amiright? (Why don’t you return my calls, Google Translate?)
I wouldn’t dare call this list “comprehensive,” because truthfully there are so many more satirical magazines from non-English-speaking cultures out there. In fact, Russia’s Krokodile spawned almost 20 related magazines in USSR countries. With censorship still a fact of life for many countries in the world, some might argue ours is included in that group, I’m pleased as punch to find satire is still alive and well.
There may always be oppression somewhere in the world, but there will always be someone there to laugh at it. We should all take comfort in that.
Laura Turner Garrison sometimes writes commercials, she sometimes writes comedy, but she always rights wrongs.