Mikhail Zhvanetsky

The patriarch of the Odessa humour

Michal Mikhalych (Manevich) Zhvanetskiy is our everything.

The Odessan number One in the literature of the modern era, a humorist and satirist, though there is always a touch of a serious playwright and tragic, read between his lines. A person whose efforts strengthen the vivid myth of Odessa, Odessa brand, and the glory of the capital of humour. Combining the carnival plots and richness of language of Babel, with irony and accuracy of the details of Ilf and Petrov, Zhvanetskiy is considered to be the patriarch of the Odessa humour and never tires of surprising us by depth of his talent. The talent, which he is generously endowed by the Odessa native land.

"There is something in this soil. There is something in these straight streets, running to the sea, in this blue sky, in the greenery of the acacias and platans, in these warm evenings ... There is something about these people who are so bright in their talk, borrowing the most important from various languages."

Zhvanetskiy was born on March 6, 1934, in Odessa (the famous Moldavanka neighbourhood), in the family of physicians, Emanuel Moiseyevich and Raisa Yakovlevna. He graduated from the Odessa Institute of Marine Engineers with a degree of "Mechanical Engineer of handling equipment of ports" in 1956 and worked in the commercial port of Odessa as a shift mechanic. At the port, while communicating and working with different people, he noticed situations, peculiarities of speech, intonations, which then will be heard in his popular miniatures. And especially a lot of stuff from life was in Odessa, at the yard in Staroportofrankovskaya street (Komsomol'skaya), near Privoz, where Zhvanetskiy lived with his mother Raisa Yakovlevna:

"To an outside ear - in Odessa they constantly crack jokes, but it's not humor, it is a condition caused by the heat and loudness. There are lots of writers in Odessa, because one does not need to write up anything. To write a story, you should just open your window and start putting down.

- Syoma, go home, go home, go home!
- He married Rose with a veranda and hot water ...
- Why do you sell seeds for twenty kopecks and everyone around for ten?
- Because the gain is more.
- How do you iron delicate lingeie? (play on words: "iron"and "caress" in Russian is one word - translator's remark)
- And how do you iron delicate lingeie?
- With my hand.

They do not realize that they are cracking jokes, and it's great, otherwise, they would start earning by it."


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Panorama: the source of Odessa humour

typical neighbourhood near Privoz market


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Panorama: Zhvanetsky boulevard

such a lovely view

In his spare time he was involved in an amateur theater, a variety show "Parnas-2", where he met with Roman Kartsev and Viktor Ilchenko, who soon became well-known performers of Zhvanetskiy numbers.

An idol of young actors and writers of Odessa was Arkady Isaakovich Raikin. While being in Odessa with tours, Raikin noticed talented guys from the Youth Theatre, and soon Kartsev with Ilchenko received an invitation to work with the famous artist. In 1964, Zhvanetskiy also goes to Leningrad to Raikin, leaving his hometown and work. He became head of the literary section of the theater of miniatures - though before that he had first to persuade maestro, and Zhvanetskiy did made efforts. Arkady Raikin recalled:

"Zhvanetskiy, displaying an enviable persistence, traveled after us from town to town, of course, at his expense. Sometimes, you say goodbye to him, for example, in Kishinev but he's already waiting for us in Donetsk with his new compositions. Once, not finding him in some of the points of our tour route, I found myself thinking that I miss him. But most importantly, he wrote better and better.."

Since the beginning of their cooperation there came out popular sketches and monologues, such as "Avas", "In the Greek Hall," "Okay, Gregory? Great, Konstantin!" which quickly became a part of urban folklore. Later Zhvanetskiy creates for Raikin a whole variety program "Traffic Light", which became one of the best performances of his theater.

The two geniuses soon began to feel tight in one theater, the gaining popularity author parted with Raikin in 1969, but they had kept good relations. Zhvanetskiy devoted to the estrade maestro a lyrical monologue that begins with the words: "Raikin - is my first love ..."

He continued to cooperate with the duet of Kartsev-Ilchenko, had written for them altogether about 300 monologues and scenes.

At this time, Zhvanetskiy begins his solo career on the stage. The audience quickly fell in love with the author's style of humor: Michal Mikhalych always came out with the same shabby briefcase (a relic inherited from his father) - took out a pack of sheets and began to read, expertly wielding intonations and pauses, looking up with a sly squint, establishing a special contact with the audience. Zhvanetskiy's works in the reading of the author received a special power, soul-searching of an intellectual, a sparkling irony in each phrase, sharp and clear mind of the narrator made one to catch every his word with admiration.

Monologues were dismantled to quotes: "MORE careful, guys", "Head of Transport Department", "Alcohol in small doses is harmless in any quantity," "One awkward movement - and you are a father". The satirist got still more popularity, having begun appearing on television, for example, in the Soviet satirical program "Around the laughter".

The honorary citizen of Odessa

Zhvanetskiy is a longtime resident in Moscow ("The best city is St. Petersburg, the favourite city is Odessa. I live in Moscow.") However, he does not forget his native Odessa - he's coming to town regularly to literary festivals and other cultural events, in the summer he rests at his old cottage in Arcadia. In 1990 there was founded the World Club of Odessans, whose president was elected, of course, Zhvanetskiy. The club helps young fellow-townsmen talents to be published - poets, writers, historians; it holds exhibitions of artists and photographers, keeps the memory of great Odessans of the past. One of the initiatives was collection of funds for a monument to Isaac Babel, which was opened on September 4, 2011.

Today Mikhail Mikhalych is the honorary citizen of Odessa, People's Artist of Ukraine, Honored Artist of Russia, winner of numerous prizes and winner of numerous awards and orders. But most importantly - Zhvanetskiy, with all the regalia, is still the same open, the master of caustic and subtle words, with humor of the true value, which cannot be even compared to the vulgar onetime jokes with offscreen laugh, filling the current TV.

To the 75th anniversary of the famous fellow countryman, Odessa City Council decided to rename the boulevard of the Arts into the boulevard of Zhvanetskiy. And a contest, after the writer's name, for the best satirical work, was founded.

"Zhvanetskiy is the theater to himself. When he comes onto the stage with his old briefcase, chock-full of texts, he does not need anybody, except listeners, and no audience would frighten him .. " (A. Raikin, "Memories")

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