Comedian, aerial reconnaissance soldier Serhiy Lipko talks humor during and after war
Serhiy Lipko (Photo:Ukrainian Witness)
Who better to talk about humor in war than a stand-up comic who serves in the military? Serhiy Lipko is a stand-up comedian, writer for the Toronto Television project, and after the full-scale invasion, a drone pilot serving in aerial reconnaissance while defending his country in the full-scale Ukraine war. There's nothing he doesn't know about humor.
A video published by the Ukrainian Witness project on Youtube on April 28 features stand-up comedian and screenwriter Lipko, serving with the 241st Territorial Defense Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In his own words, he balances civilian and military life.
"I'd rather be a civilian who had some helluva military adventures than a serviceman who is really a subpar soldier,” he explains.
“I don't want to be a liar and embellish my military exploits and achievements.”
Before he went on a combat mission to Bakhmut (he was there twice), Lipko already had military training – he had studied at the Ivan Bohun Military Lyceum in Kyiv, followed by conscript service. But even though he was never "at ground zero," he repeatedly found himself in dangerous situations.
"As an aerial reconnaissance man, I fly, and the density of fire is such that bullets occasionally reach us.”
As a soldier, Lipko explains why human resources in the Ukrainian army are the most important thing right now.
"Personally, my military background at the frontline is more of a hindrance to me: I seem to be constantly telling myself — duty, duty,” he says.
“But the civilians who join the Armed Forces allow our army to open up. If you try hard enough, you can find a great place in the Armed Forces.”
At the same time, the comedian also willingly comments on jokes about the delivery of draft notices and links this to the motivation of recruits:
"It is commonly believed that a 'call-up' means 'you have to dodge’,” he muses.
“But this narrative is inherent in the Russian information field. Even those who joined the Ukrainian army motivated (at the beginning of the full-scale invasion) are now exhausted. There is no need to talk about those who perceive service as a punishment. They will take up a lot of commanders' energy. It is much easier to work with a motivated person.”
Lipko says that he still often receives messages on Instagram with offers to perform at corporate events — sometimes "for 5,000 hryvnias ($135)." And that's only half the problem. According to the comedian, there are event managers who don't even bother to check his Instagram page and see that he is at war.
“Some do look up my page later, apologize, and tell me to take care of myself,” he reveals.
“But there are also those who believe that people want to laugh in this ‘difficult period’. It's very hard for people, so I will come from Bakhmut and cheer them up.”, military irony.
According to Lipko, only those who have been to war and have the relevant experience can make jokes about it.
“If someone who has nothing to do with the war starts joking about it in the hall during a stand-up, everyone's mood immediately drops.”
Will this war be like, say, the September 11 terrorist attack, which is already being memed?
“Yes, it will,” Lipko acknowledged.
“Over the years, the pain subsides, and for future generations who did not see this war, it may also become a meme. It may take decades for this to happen. But personally, I will never be able to devalue some things, such as the loss of loved ones in this war.”
Another surprisingly relevant topic are jokes about Russians. The comic believes that one should not devalue the achievements of the Armed Forces by joking about how stupid Russians are.
“They (Russians) are also experts in their fields,” he says.
“They are also learning. Imagine making a joke about a burned Russian tank because one of their soldiers had a bad smoke while a massacre is going on outside Kyiv.”
Given that Lipko is balancing civilian and military life, he has to somehow mentally adjust to the fact that sooner or later he will have to return to the front:
"It's like diving into cold water,” he believed.
"You take in air and dive in. At first you are on adrenaline, then it gets colder and colder. And this ‘colder’ is when I return to Kyiv.”
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