Anikó Imre is Associate Professor and Chair of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Identity Games: Globalization and the Transformation of Media Cultures in the New Europe.
This is the first of two chapters about comedic genres. It first explains that, rather than a government-controlled soapbox that repelled humor, much of socialist TV programming was actually perceived by audiences as comic because socialism itself was absurdly comical. Television was an instrument of absurdity as it constantly foregrounded the distance between the utopian world it depicted and the actual experience of socialist lives. After discussing the specificities of the comic register of socialist television, I step farther back and assess how TV humor concentrated around specific genres. These genres continued prewar European traditions of cabaret and satire while they also incorporated the influence of contemporaneous European TV comedy. Comic genres return socialist television to a shared European tradition embedded in a petit bourgeois value and taste system. This European tradition survived and in some contexts flourished throughout the period and well prepared the transition to the postsocialist explosion of global entertainment.