Russia's king of late-night TV has made a pro-Kremlin pundit very very angry
If you’ve ever watched late-night television in Russia, you’ll know that a 39-year-old entertainer named Ivan Urgant has tickled funny bones for the past five and a half years on Pervyi Kanal, performing a brand of humor that’s similar to the stylings of Jimmy Fallon in the United States.
On a recent episode of Urgant’s show, he welcomed a guest who shared some new cosmetics, which he gladly smeared all over his face. In the sketch, Urgant compliments the cream’s scent and asks what it’s made of, before learning that it’s literally birdshit: nightingale dung. Frozen in surprise, Urgant looks at the camera and the audience laughs. It was a good bit, but it wasn’t over.
Urgant then held up an index finger and noted, “This would be a good name for a certain show on Rossiya 1.” Now the audience was really in stitches and Urgant’s seated guest started kicking her legs. It was a laugh riot.
So what the hell happened?
The first thing to bear in mind is that Pervyi Kanal (Urgant’s station) is rivals with Rossiya 1, though both are state-controlled media outlets. In 2016, for the first time ever, Rossiya 1 edged out Pervyi Kanal in Russia’s TV ratings, capturing 13.6 percent of all adult viewers.
And what did Urgant’s joke mean? When he mentioned “a certain show on Rossiya 1,” Urgant was referring to the work of pro-Kremlin pundit Vladimir Solovyov, who actually hosts two shows on the network. Specifically, Urgant was toying with Solovyov’s surname, the root of which — solovei — means “nightingale.” In other words, Urgant said Solovyov’s shows should be called “Solovyov’s Dung.”
Notoriously thin-skinned, Vladimir Solovyov took a moment during his talk show on September 11 to respond to Urgant, claiming that his potty humor was actually an attempt to appease the Ukrainians behind the website Mirotvorets (Peacemaker), which publicizes the personal information of people considered to be “enemies of Ukraine.” In July 2017, Mirotvorets blacklisted Urgant’s father, who also works in Russia’s entertainment industry.
“Next thing you know, you’re being quoted by people hiding in Prague from pedophilia allegations, and they’re shouting, ‘Nice job, ripping into Solovyov!’ And all the Ukrainian websites will happily report: ‘Nice job, Vanya!,’” Solovyov said, referring to Rustem Adagamov, a Russian blogger who fled the country in 2013, following controversial allegations that he raped his 12-year-old step daughter. On September 8, Adagamov shared a video clip of Urgant’s wisecrack that was retweeted more than 1,000 times.
This wasn’t the end of the Twitter drama, either. On September 12, “Grishka Urgant” — Ivan Urgant’s musician alter ego — revealed that Solovyov had blocked him on Twitter. “Friends, woe is me,” Urgant tweeted, attaching a screenshot of Solovyov’s blocked account and a series of “face with tears of joy” emojis.