ACF Middlebrow #12: Comedy & Communism


The new Middlebrow podcast deals with comedy and communism, spurred by the recent movie The Death of Stalin, which Flagg Taylor (@FlaggTaylor) and I both wanted to succeed. Unfortunately, it is a failure. More on this on the podcast, as well as some talk about Milan Kundera, Ilf and Petrov, Solzhenitsyn and Leo Strauss, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Benda, an English-translation book of whose essays Flagg has just edited, The Long Night of The Watchman. Flagg is also the co-editor, with our friend Carl Scott, of Totalitarianism on Screen, about the great movie The Lives of Others (won the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture in 2006), which dealt with the secret police in Communist East Germany, and which we discussed on the podcast last year. So now we match our conversation on tragedy and communism with one on comedy. Listen, share, and give us a rating/review!

Here we are on iTunes, also on Stitcher, and PocketCasts.

Here’s Flagg talking about his book on Vaclav Benda, Charter 77, and the fight against Communism in Czechoslovakia on the Federalist Radio Hour with Ben Domenech!

Flagg, who teaches political science, has recently taught a course on totalitarianism in literature (using five novelists: Lewis, Orwell, Koestler, Huxley, and Ishiguro), and so we also talked about totalitarianism of the fictional variety in our Middlebrow podcast on Never Let Me Go, a movie adapted from the novel by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro.

If you’re interested in literature on totalitarianism, Flagg has a very good essay on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at noon, the least-discussed of the famous novels about Communism.

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  1. Hang On Member
    Hang On

    Do you know an older series “der gleiche Himmel”? It’s about Operation Romeo with a 25-year-old Stasi agent coming to West Berlin to seduce a late 40’s British security service agent. Am only on the 3rd episode, but it is good.  Thomas Schilling is the Stasi agent. Sofia Helin is the British agent. There is more to the story than that because it also is giving a glimpse into the world of DDR sports which I find more interesting than the spy line. There is also a group of tunnelers who are operating at a bakery adjacent to the wall. 

    • #1
  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    dunno the series. Where did you find it?


    • #2
  3. Hang On Member
    Hang On

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    dunno the series. Where did you find it?



    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher

    I liked your story about the guy in Romania having problems with his ID, Titus. This was one of your best podcasts yet.

    I haven’t seen the movie. I overheard two friends wondering about the flower scene, so I explained to them what “flowers from Beria” meant.

    I look forward to your podcast on humor as a means of dealing with Communism.

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  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    So the next thing Flagg & I are doing is a series of podcasts in honor of the 50th an. of the Prague Spring.

    We’re talking about Katyn, Burning Bush, & The unbearable lightness of being.

    • #5
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