When you think of Comedy and game shows what comes to mind? Fun competitions that are either silly or gross, maybe a guessing game? Here in America we have seen many game shows come and go, some fun and exciting and some just strange or down-right not good. Here in the US we love game shows and we have had many successful ones like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and The Price is Right. These shows have been on the air for years and each have their own unique qualities. However this phenomenon ins’t just an American thing, its global and the Soviet Union was no different.
Enter KVN, or translated to English: The Club of the Merry and Resourceful. The program was first aired by the First Soviet Channel on November 8, 1961. the show combined odd questions and answers with pre-planed sketches to create a winning mixture in the Soviet Union.
“‘The Club of the Funny and Inventive’ was first broadcast in 1961 and has become a legend of black and white TV. College teams compete by giving funny answers to questions and showing prepared sketches. KVN’s tremendous success among many generations of Soviet people has made it one of the most popular shows of all times.” –Channel One Russia
Until 1973 this show air and it remained extremely popular though its initial 12 year air time. The show basically started popular Soviet game show television. the Show became so popular that the teams that competed on the show gained fans and were even regarded as celebrities. The show practiced what the producers called “intellectual soccer” between two teams representing different colleges and then later cities or groups of workers. Take a look:
This video is from 1965 and depicts the opening round of the show
In the next video from after the Reboot of the popular show we can see one of the most popular games.
“What? Where? When? pitted a team of young ‘whiz kids’ against the ‘team’ of television viewers, who submitted questions about science, history, or literature that were presented in the form of riddles. Teams were given one minute the show s famous ‘minute for reflection’–to come up with an answer. As we can see in this clip, this format made possible lively debates among the team members that were intended to promote team-work and collaboration in Soviet institutions.” -17 Moments
The show would eventual be cancelled for several reasons. The first was the quickly growing number of people who owned TVs. As this media expanded into the countryside and the Providences it was deemed inappropriate or not acceptable for the communal farmers and simple folk. The others were either political or practical, with the craze around this show it was no wonder that corruption found its way in. Teams would be sponsored by businesses or clubs and soon greed found its way into this show which was supposed to promote merry play and teamwork. Also there was quite a controversy around the Jewish players and personalities. They were deemed inappropriate due to the “Odessan Jewish Style” that the show utilized. The show would later come back to the air waves though and in the opening up of the Gorbachev era KVN reappeared in 1986. The show is still on the air today and still remains popular and rather odd to non-Russian viewers.
If you would like to learn more about KVN in the Soviet Era take a look here