russia invasion

Watch a Ukrainian Comedian Perform Inside a Bomb Shelter

Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, comedians across the country have been performing as a way to process their grief and lighten audiences’ spirits. Since then, shows in unorthodox settings such as bomb shelters have become common enough that Ukrainian comics have started writing jokes extolling the unique advantages they offer as comedy venues. One of those comics, Anton Tymoshenko, recently uploaded his April 17 stand-up set to YouTube for the rest of the world to watch. “This is my first stand-up in English, sorry for mistakes,” the video’s description reads. “I wrote it in a week, so sorry if it’s not funny. I was in a hurry to avoid death.”

Tymoshenko’s set, recorded in front of a small, packed crowd in what he says is a bomb shelter in Kyiv to raise money for Ukrainian relief efforts, is packed with pitch-black jokes where the resulting laughs more closely resemble yelps than guffaws. “This is our Comedy Cellar,” he says near the beginning of the set, referencing the famous New York comedy venue. “It’s really easy to find an audience for stand-up. You just come and people are here. And they can’t go out because of air sirens.”

After a few awkward references to Western pop culture like Jimmy Fallon and the Chris Rock–Will Smith Oscars slap to pull in international audiences, Tymoshenko stops pulling punches and begins lambasting the weak geopolitical response to Russia’s actions. “I don’t understand why they don’t use every sanction right now,” he says. “Why do we always need to ask the West and the West answers us like it’s an internet provider? Like, ‘Yes Ukraine, if you want to get a new package of sanctions, please upload more photos of dead people from Bucha.’”

In the set’s best-written joke, Tymoshenko discusses many Western governments’ choice to keep purchasing Russian oil. “Even if we forget about the war for a second, all people understand that we need to reduce the use of oil and gas to save our planet. But we continue to buy the stuff even when thousands of people are dying. Do you really think we will save the environment someday?” he says. “I’m sure when people start dying of global warming, the world will be like, ‘Okay, we are imposing sanctions against the sun. Now the sun can’t buy iPhones.’”

To wrap up his set, Tymoshenko dispenses with the jokes and offers an honest plea: “I know what you think while watching this video: The war is really far from me. I can always run away to Australia … It’s false because our planet is an ellipsoid. It’s a circle. So if you start to run from one point, someday you will get back to the place you start.”

Watch a Ukrainian Comedian Perform Inside a Bomb Shelter