The Weird Al of Russia May to Go to Jail Over a Comedic Army Song
Many people are surprised to hear that there are comedians in Russia, according to Soviet stand-up and Branson mainstay Yakov Smirnoff. “They are dead, but they are there.”
We hope that won’t be the case for Semyon Slepakov, the popular Russian comic who’s making headlines for his foray into Weird Al territory. His song, “Lullaby,” isn’t a pop parody of the Shawn Mullins banger, however. Slapakov’s version tells the tale of a mother (standing in for Mother Russia) telling her sons it’s their duty to sacrifice themselves on the battlefields of Ukraine. Sounds pretty patriotic, unless you read the song as secretly sarcastic. If that’s the case, Slepakov may be in trouble.
A group of Russian patriots who call themselves the Foundation for the Protection of National Historical Heritage (good thing we could never have a group like that here) reported the song to the authorities for possibly talking smack about the Russian army, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.
If you take Slepakov’s song at face value, the mother in the song seems to be praising soldiers. In this set of lyrics, she criticizes a middle brother who’s working IT in Europe, lauding her oldest son who went to war:
And your older brother went to war on a contract.
He didn't sell out his motherland for lattes and cheesecake.
He stood up for his friends and for the truth.
And what they say about him is fake.
The problem for Slepakov? Like Weird Al, the guy is famous for musical satire, so it’s no surprise that many Russians are reading the song as such. (Most news sources agree that the song’s intent is “darkly ironic.”) Slepakov fled to Israel last year after calling for peace in Ukraine, prompting conservative TV talk show hosts to call on authorities to take action. Again, good thing we don’t have those kinds of media personalities here.
If things really get rough, Semyon, you could join us over in America. We’re far from perfect, but we do have blue jeans, unopened mail, and Lite beer from Miller. What a country.