Sidelined on TV, a Russian Satirist Lets Loose on Radio and the Web
Viktor Shenderovich, 48, was once Russia's leading political satirist. His scathing TV show "Kukly," or "Puppets," which first aired in 1994, ran afoul of the authorities after President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000. Putin was depicted as an ugly rubber dwarf, and the Kremlin warned the show's network, NTV, to remove the character. In 2001, NTV was taken over by a state-controlled company, and Shenderovich left the show. In 2003, a defanged "Kukly" was dropped altogether. Since then, Shenderovich has in effect been banned from national television, but he continues to be heard on the radio station Echo Moskvy. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat in parliament in 2005 and later wrote a comic account of his campaign. Last month, he launched a satirical show on RTVI, a satellite channel for Russians abroad. Episodes can also be seen on his Web site,http:/
Q Tell us about the new show.
A The program is called "Modern Times," because that's a reference or link to Chaplin. And Chaplin is one of the heroes of the show, maybe the main character. All images are connected with Chaplin. Everything we want to comment on, even metaphors, we do through Chaplin's movies.
Can you give an example?
For example, the conflict between Russia and Georgia. If we are looking at the difference in weight and size, it's all based on scenes from "The Gold Rush," the struggle of a huge guy and a little one. Chaplin's pieces . . . work as metaphors or detonators because he's so expressive you don't need him a lot, just an image.
Will Russians see this program?
Only on the Internet. And by those who buy a satellite dish. Unfortunately, there are no other possibilities in modern Russia.
Not a single TV channel dares to offer me a job. And that has been the case for several years. Since 2003, I haven't been their favorite, and I can't get on television.
Is it frustrating that so few Russians inside the country will see the show?
Of course. A radio version of the same program, "Soft Cheese," is on Echo Moskvy. Unfortunately, there can't be any Chaplin metaphors. But it's still better than nothing. Internet use is significant, especially in big cities. Of course, if you compare this with 80 million people who used to watch our programs on NTV, it's nothing.
As you look at the media landscape, do you see any political satire?