Soviet clowns lampoon U.S. foreign policy - HISTORY
Year
1949

Soviet clowns lampoon U.S. foreign policy

At the opening night of the spring edition of the famous Moscow Circus, clowns and magicians fire salvos of jokes aimed at the United States. Although a relatively minor aspect of the total Cold War, the night was evidence that even humor played a role in the battle between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Most of the barbs thrown during the opening night of the circus came from one of the most famous Russian clowns, Konstantin Berman. He began his act by tossing a boomerang, which he likened to the workings of the U.S. Marshall Plan (an economic recovery plan designed to pump billions of dollars into the economies of Western Europe). “American aid to Europe,” Berman announced. “Here is the dollar.” The crowd roared its approval as the boomerang “dollar” returned directly to his hand. He then produced a radio. First, all that could be heard were barking dogs. “That’s the Voice of America.” Berman then made room for a magician. His most popular trick began when workers brought out an iron cage and an individual made up to look like Hitler was placed inside. The magician then pulled a curtain—”not an iron curtain, just a silken one”—over the cage and surrounding area. When the curtain was lifted, Hitler was outside the cage and the workers were trapped within. Two other individuals, one impersonating Churchill and another dressed like a typical American “capitalist,” came out and shook Hitler’s hand. The magician then intoned, “How much longer is this going on? Until the people’s patience bursts, then it will end.” He replaced the curtain, removed it again, and the delighted audience discovered that Hitler, Churchill, and the capitalist had been caged and the workers freed. “That’s how it will be,” the magician announced, “and forever, too.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, American comics and entertainers were just as busily poking fun at the Soviets and communism, indicated that laughter was universally welcomed in a period when the threats of massive new world wars and nuclear holocaust hung heavy in the air.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Central Park jogger attack shocks New York City

On this day in 1989, a 28-year-old female investment banker is severely beaten and sexually assaulted while jogging in New York City’s Central Park. Five teenagers from Harlem were convicted of the crime, which shocked New Yorkers for its randomness and viciousness and became ...read more

First blood in the Civil War

On April 19, 1861, the first blood of the American Civil War is shed when a secessionist mob in Baltimore attacks Massachusetts troops bound for Washington, D.C. Four soldiers and 12 rioters were killed.One week earlier, on April 12, the Civil War began when Confederate shore ...read more

Truck bomb explodes in Oklahoma City

Just after 9 a.m., a massive truck bomb explodes outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The blast collapsed the north face of the nine-story building, instantly killing more than 100 people and trapping dozens more in the rubble. Emergency crews ...read more

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins

In Warsaw, Poland, Nazi forces attempting to clear out the city’s Jewish ghetto are met by gunfire from Jewish resistance fighters, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins.Shortly after the German occupation of Poland began, the Nazis forced the city’s Jewish citizens into a ...read more

Branch Davidian compound burns

At Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launches a tear-gas assault on the Branch Davidian compound, ending a tense 51-day standoff between the federal government and an armed religious cult. By the end of the day, the compound was burned to the ...read more

First Boston Marathon held

On April 19, 1897, John J. McDermott of New York won the firstBoston Marathonwith a time of2:55:10.The Boston Marathon was the brainchild of Boston Athletic Association member and inaugural U.S. Olympic team manager John Graham, who was inspired by the ...read more

Warsaw ghetto uprising put down

On this day in 1943, Waffen SS attacks Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto.Shortly after the German invasion of Poland, in September 1939, nearly 400,000 Polish Jews were confined to a 3.5-square-mile area that normally housed about 250,000. The “ghetto” was sealed off with a ...read more

Air Force pilot cited for bravery

Over North Vietnam, Air Force Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, from the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, and his electronic warfare officer, Capt. Harold E. Johnson, destroy two enemy surface-to-air missile sites, and then shoot down a MiG-17 before escorting search-and-rescue helicopters ...read more

First Boston Marathon run

On April 19, 1897, the first Boston Marathon is run in Boston, Massachusetts. John J. McDermott of New York ran the 24.5-mile course of the all-male event in a winning time of 2:55:10.The first modern marathon was held at the 1896 Olympics in Athens. The 24.8-mile course was ...read more

Jefferson sells servant to Madison

On this day in 1809, former President Thomas Jefferson writes up a contract for the sale of an indentured servant named John Freeman to newly sworn-in President James Madison.Slavery and indentured servitude were major components of the early American economy. Slaves performed ...read more

Wyatt Earp dropped from Wichita police force

A Wichita, Kansas, commission votes not to rehire policeman Wyatt Earp after he beats up a candidate for county sheriff.Born in 1848, Wyatt was one of the five Earp brothers, some of whom became famous for their participation in the shootout at the O.K. Corral in 1881. Before ...read more

Lord Byron dies in Greece

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, dies in what is now Greece, where he had traveled to support the Greek struggle for independence from Turkey. Even today, he is considered a Greek national hero.Byron’s scandalous history, exotic travels, and flamboyant life made such an ...read more

My Big Fat Greek Wedding released

As a struggling actress in Hollywood in the early 1990s, Nia Vardalos had been told to hide the fact that she was of Greek heritage, or to pretend that she was Italian, in order to get film roles. Frustrated, she decided to write her own movie to star in, based on her experiences ...read more

Earthquake rocks Guatemala

The last and most powerful in a series of earthquakes rocks Western Guatemala on this day in 1902. More than 2,000 people were killed and 50,000 left homeless by the destruction. The quakes struck the Quezaltenago area in southwestern Guatemala beginning the previous evening. ...read more