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The United States of Russia

Filed Under , on January 27th, 2018

Review: The United States of Russia

By The Family Farce

With his third album, The United States of Russia, NYC-based comic Ben Rosenfeld covers new ground–frozen, depressing, vodka-soaked ground, that is. This album debuted on January 19 and quickly claimed the #1 slot on iTunes comedy albums.

The United States of Russia_No 1 Slot on iTunes

For those of you new to this site, we last talked about Ben’s work after the release of his coffee-table book, Russian Optimism (illustrated by Dov Smiley), which we reviewed here back in 2015. In that book, Ben talked about dark Russian nursery rhymes. He did the seemingly impossible and made it funny to see kids, who sang poorly, hung outside of their school’s windows as an example of behave–or else. One wonders if this book could serve as an alternative program to D.A.R.E, but for any and all misbehavior.

Moving from the page to the stage, one might think it would be difficult to bring the dour Russian worldview to the verbal performance medium of the stand-up stage. One might think it’s okay to have a private chuckle when Dad gets his balls bitten off from a rat the kids put in the toilet (Russian Optimism). But to seek laughs of this nature on stage, drawing from a well of comedy that has been soured for generations? Surely this would guarantee dying the slow stage death, melting under the hot lights like a candle left aflame until reduced to a puddle of its former self. One might think schadenfreude belongs to the Germans and lacks a Russian equivalent.

One would be wrong and had better hope the Russians didn’t listen in on his doubts, because Russian wedding photographers can’t be trusted to confine their shooting only to pictures.

Didn’t get that last sentence? Then come along with us as we dive into our favorite parts of Ben’s new album:

1. Ben paces a lot–because, he said, he just bought a Fitbit. That’s all well and great, Ben. But what are you going to do about the varnish you’ve stripped off of my wood floor? Maybe take the crampons off of your jackboots, or just put on some valenki next time.

2. Ben’s dad can get you a great deal on wedding photography. The elder Rosenfeld will shoot your wedding for only $1,000. But beware, it will be $2,000 for him not to shoot your wedding. Maybe keep those nuptials under wraps. Or elope. The Russian Mob has its artistic sensibilities, but it doesn’t discriminate between the equipment used for various kinds of shooting.

3. According to Ben’s mom, Disney princess movies are all tainted–because of Ben’s dad, from whom she is divorced, and who had the audacity to start dating again. Consequently, Ben wasn’t allowed to watch these movies. Regarding Snow White, Ben’s mom said (imagine Natasha’s voice from Rocky and Bullwinkle), “‘Snow White? Nyet. She’s dumb slut, like your dad’s new friend.’” Dating after divorce is off-limits in a Russian household, so if you see Snow White hanging around, tell that bitch to back the fuck off.

4. Ben’s dad delivers a litany of sage advice. When he learned Ben liked some non-hard alcohol, he said (in a voice that sounds like part covert operative, part very tired postal worker), “‘You’re failing beer. Because you like taste of Bud Light. I taught you: the best beer is vodka.’” Gotta say we agree with your dad on that one, Ben.

When he was curious about Ben’s use of the family car, he asked, “‘Did you have sex in my car? (pause) Why not?’” Ben? We’re still waiting for an answer.

When Ben had an open bar at his wedding, this confused his dad. “‘Open bar?’” his father asked. “‘Why would bar close?’” This needs to go on a t-shirt.

5. In a great left turn bit, Ben talks about growing up on the “wrong side of the Whole Foods” in Connecticut. Girls dated him to get back at their fathers, he said. When his father’s business did well, they moved into a condo. Then when things went south, they moved back to crappy apartments, making the entire experience like being on an episode of “VH1′s Behind the Music–the Low Budget Edition.”

Then in his father’s voice, “‘It was crazy. The fast cars, the drugs, the women–I had none of it. (pause) Then things got bad.’” The bit wound a tight spiral of self destruction while offering copious amounts of education on the Russian mindset. We felt this bit was an homage, a smorgasbord offering layer upon layer of darkness cake, sure to make you cry and laugh. Want a slice?

6. “The only thing Russians love more than drinking is insurance fraud,” Ben said. In America, it’s okay to have dreams, but in Russia (beaten down Russian citizen’s voice), “‘If you want your dreams to come true, you must run in front of Mercedes.’”

7. Ben moonlights as a political operative. During mid-set crowd-work, he conversed in Russian–which we won’t even attempt to transcribe–with members of the audience. He then addressed the whole audience with the results of the conversation. “I asked if they spoke Russian. They said of course, and then we started planning the 2020 election.”

8. His wife likes to have sex with the same frequency as football games are played: once per week. She then wants “a long off-season to let her body recover–from the damage!” Watch for this unifying device to appear several times throughout his set. The first two words travel up the pitch scale, then drop suddenly to gravelly bass as he delivers the punchline on “damage!” We couldn’t see it, but during this bit, Ben mentioned air humping the crowd. That could be reason enough to buy tickets to see him in New York City.

9. Fact: not a lot of terrorists are married. This makes sense, “because once you get married, you don’t want to kill lots of random people–just one very specific person.” Pause while that sinks in. It’s a little disturbing, but he’s not wrong. Yikes. Therein lies the secret to ending terrorism: Match.com.

The United States of Russia_Unmarried Terrorists

10. People in third-world countries are happier, “because they expect less,” he said. For instance, in America, people complain about lack of cooperation from zoo animals, “‘so I couldn’t get a selfie with Simba. My life is over.’” Ben said, channeling his Valley Girl voice. But in third-world countries the citizens say, “‘I wasn’t eaten by a tiger today. It’s a good day.’”

Family, sex, culture, sports, politics–Ben rides the vodka-lubricated flume to oppressive, low-tone, monotone success in multiple topics. Is it offensive? Nah–funny as hell. Only lip-pursing if you take it seriously. This is comedy, people. As we assume New Yorkers would say, Yous needs to lighten da fuck up!

Closing thought: if you’re trying to get pregnant, be sure you don’t allow women to guide the sperm before they get to the egg. Otherwise you’ll get complaints on your navigation, Ben said. “‘We’re going the wrong way,’” the women will say. “‘We shouldn’t be at the throat.’” Sometimes, the throat is exactly where you want to be. First time we’ve ever heard a “scientific blow job joke,” as Ben put it. Well done, Sir.

Recommendation: buy The United States of Russia and let your kids listen. Maybe not your kids. Maybe just yourself, on the side of the road, while you work up the courage to achieve your dreams and “‘run in front of Mercedes.’”

Who: Ben Rosenfeld
Website: bigbencomedy.com
Occupation: Comic
Location: New York City, NY
Album: The United States of Russia
Market: iTunes
Price: $9.99

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The Family Farce

About: The Family Farce
The mission of The Family Farce is to entertain through the production and distribution of snarky, irreverent, dark family-themed humor content. We produce and distribute said content from writers, stand-up comics, visual artists, and musicians in the following areas: Words–essays, interviews, fiction, columns; Music–parodies and original parental-advisory-esque works; Video–shorts, interviews, original stand-up; Art–comic strips, info graphics, photos, illustrations.

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