The language issue is a touchy one in Kazakhstan, as an ethnic Kazakh comic in Russia has learned to his cost.
It all began with a brief promo spot for a comedy show that aired in June on private Russian station TNT. In the advertisement, one comic, Nurlan Saburov, asks his colleague Azamat Musagaliyev how he is doing, in Kazakh.
In response, Musagaliyev chuckles and replies with a meaningless babble — “Kurly murly, kurly murly” — intended to crudely mimic the sounds of Kazakh.
“And what does that mean?” asks Saburov, affecting a nonplussed air.
“What do you mean? Did what you said mean something? I thought we were just messing around,” says Musagaliyev.
Musagaliyev, 33, although an ethnic Kazakh, is from Russia’s Astrakhan region, which lies just northwest of Kazakhstan. He came to prominence through KVN, a venerable Soviet-devised comedy cabaret show that pits teams from various cities and countries against one another.
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