“A patriotic state official only takes bribes in the local currency,” deadpans Nurlan Anarbayev, one of three presenters on a new Kyrgyz television satire news show. With its motto “more than the truth, a little less than a lie,” the show, Studio 7, filters politics through the prism of comedy, employing a format similar to American primetime hit, The Daily Show.
“Our society is very politicized. We thought the time was right for this kind of show,” says 32-year-old Anarbayev.
Although Anarbayev finds inspiration in Daily Show host Jon Stewart, his training came as a performer in the university comedy league KVN, a grassroots institution that goes back to the Soviet era, and which remains a fixture in many of its successor states. Recently, several of Anarbayev’s cohorts from that era formed Asia Mix, the first comedy troupe from Bishkek to perform in the televised KVN Supreme League in Moscow, wowing the Russian glitterati with sharp routines about labor migration and the lives of millions of Central Asian workers in Russia.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist. Saltanat Ibraeva contributed reporting for this story.