Dummies for Russian Reversal!
"In America, you can always find a party.
"In Russia, the Party always finds YOU!!"
The Russian Reversal, more technically called the transpositional pun, is a type of joke popularized by Ukrainian comedian Yakov Smirnoff. It is based on taking a statement about capitalist United States and inverting it to describe the then-communist Russia as an Orwellian
hellhole. Smirnoff later added the prefix "Soviet" to indicate the jokes were meant to target the past regime, as opposed to The New Russia
. For instance:
At its most basic, the Russian Reversal takes a situation where a noun normally does something to another noun, and flips it in dialogue to where the second noun acts on the first. For instance, a murder mystery that had a butler as the Body of the Week
could be described in a Quip to Black
as "It Did the Butler" or the equivalent instead of "The Butler Did It
Can cause an Inverted Trope
rather easily, if the trope can be described as "X does Y." If in this instance "Y does X," it is both this trope and an inversion of the other trope. It's also the source of many trope names, including Ass Kicks You
, Dog Walks You
, Bullet Dodges You
, The Door Slams You
, The Can Kicked Him
, and The Game Plays You
See also Glorious Mother Russia
for the Hollywood Atlas
version of Soviet Russia that inspired the jokes.
open/close all folders
- A while back there was an anti-smoking ad campaign proclaiming "Tobacco smokes you!"
Anime & Manga
- The Trope Namer is Yakov Smirnoff, who made jokes about how the U.S.S.R. had a Big Brother Is Watching regime. It's also a case of Beam Me Up, Scotty!; his most famous line was simply "In Russia...", not "In Soviet Russia..."note He shifted his comedy after starting his theater in Branson back in 1992 (where he is still playing), which means he quit using this joke long before it became an internet meme.
- In Soviet Russia, the war begins you!
- In Port Coquitlam, pork eats you!
- Subverted by writer Emil Vrabie: "Don't you know the difference between the two economic systems? Under capitalism man exploits man. But, under communism, it's just the other way around."
- During his stand-up comedy days, Woody Allen used to tell a joke about his carrying a bullet in his breast pocket; once someone threw a Bible at him and the bullet saved his life.
- In a federal society, it's your vote that counts. In a feudal society, it's your Count that votes.
Film — Live-Action
- One of the first examples, and a contemporary with Yakov Smirnoff's standup comedy, comes from the movie Spaceballs, when the henchman of galactic gangster "Pizza the Hut" warns Lone Starr about what will happen if he and Barf don't pay a million spacebucks:
"...or else Pizza is gonna send out for you!"
- Heist has this particular gem:
Jimmy: So, is he going to be cool?
Pinky: My motherfucker is so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him.
- In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jay imagines a Planet of the Apes-style dystopian world where "we will not spank the monkey; the monkey will spank us!"
- In Van Helsing, Igor says this, when the the hot female ally and the Q of the hero try to force Igor into giving them the Werewolf antidote:
"You try to get Igor. Igor get you!"
- The Big Lebowski: "Sometimes you eat the b'ar and sometimes the b'ar, well, he eats you."
- The 4th theme of the Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol soundtrack is named "In Russia, phone dials you".
- In Tropic Thunder:
Kirk Lazarus : I don't read the script. The script reads me.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park gives us this gem:
Hammond's cheque cleared or I wouldn't be going on this wild goose chase. Ian:
Ah, where you're going is the only place in the world where the geese chase you!
- From Malcolm X:
Malcolm:: We didn't land on Plymouth Rock! Plymouth Rock landed on us!'''
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has the following exchange after Quatermain and Sawyer capture Mr. Hyde:
Hullo, Dorian. The great white hunter
's bagged his prize.
(One of Captain Nemo's redshirts goes flying across the corridor in front of them.)
Dorian: Or the prize bagged him.
- Played with in the The Crow
Cop: (pointing gun at title character) You move and you're dead!
Crow: I am dead, and yet I move!
- This Bond One-Liner from Franz Sanchez in Licence to Kill (borrowed from the novel Live and Let Die), after feeding Felix Leiter to a shark:
"He disagreed with something that ate him."
- Arc Words from V for Vendetta: "People shouldn't be afraid of their government, governments should be afraid of their people."
- Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy: "You want him, you have to go through us! Or more accurately, we go through you!"
- Machete: "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!"
- Friedrich Nietzsche: "If you gaze for long enough into the abyss, the abyss gazes back [into you]."
- From Ye Gods! by Tom Holt:
When Jason opened his eyes, all he could see was a perfectly ordinary Underground carriage, and Virgil sitting on one of the seats, meditatively stirring a large pile of ash and charred bones. Jason winced.
"Let me guess," he said, "this is a No Smoking carriage."
"On the contrary," Virgil replied. "Only here, the train smokes the people."
- MAD in an 1962 issue: "Russian politics can best be understood by comparing them with American politics. For instance, in America, politicians have to kiss babies, and if they don't, the mothers can take their offices away from them. In Russia, the system is somewhat different. To get food, mothers have to kiss politicians and if they don't, the politicians can take their babies away from them."
- Subverted in the philosophy book Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar, when describing the difference between capitalism and communism.
Under capitalism, man exploits his fellow man. Under communism, the opposite is true.
- This is a pretty common joke in the old Eastern Bloc. It's also been used as an East German "Fritzchen" joke, although it's been told as a Russian/Soviet "Vovochka" joke, as well.
- Mike Myers parodies this on a behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD for The Cat In The Hat, combining it with a running joke. "Under capitalism, man exploits his fellow man. Under communism, it's the complete opposite. *pause* Because of the sand which is there."
- City of Thieves mentions this:
"We couldn't feed our pets, so our pets fed us."
- In Mid-Flinx, Teal warns Aimee about the flower in her hair: "You do not wear the cristif, the cristif wears you." Unfortunately for Aimee, Teal's not making a Yakov Smirnoff reference: The "flower" is an invasive parasite, which sends its tendrils fatally bursting from Aimee's flesh seconds later.
- In nonfiction text The Steampunk Bible, a troper is quoted about whether the Steampunk movement has jumped the shark:
: In alternate timeline Czarist Russia, clockwork shark jumps you.
- In Mark Coggins' novel Candy from Strangers, Private Detective August Riordan is talking to a disdainful police detective.
Det. Calhoun: Do you have a problem with authority, Mr. Riordan?
August: Not really. It may be that authority occasionally has a problem with me.
- In How to Survive a Horror Movie, discussing the Haunted House trope: You don't gut the interior, the interior guts you.
- The compare-one-country-to-another form is Older Than They Think, first appearing on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In where Arte Johnson's ambiguously Eastern European character Rosmenko simply refers to "Old Country."
"Here in America, is very good, everyone watch television. In Old Country, television watches you!"
- MST3K had a Yakov Smirnoff knockoff saying: "In your country, you watch movie The Rock. In my country, we break rock in Gulag!"
- Used in Grimm. As the Blutbad (werewolf) Monroe explains to Nick, the Grimm, while human children are told stories of all the different monsters who make up the Wesen world who will come to get them if they are bad, Wesen children are told the same kind of stories about the Grimms.
- The Tom Baker era Doctor Who arc "The Seeds of Doom" featured a plant-monster called a Krynoid. At one point the Doctor observes, "Well, on most planets, the animals eat the vegetation. On planets where the Krynoid gets established, the vegetation eats the animals."
- Since it was the Cold War, no Soviet reference is made, but the original intro of I Dream of Jeannie ends with "...and there in this house, the girl in the bottle plays spin the astronaut."
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Gamekeeper," SG-1's Planet of the Week has a deserted but apparently well-tended garden, and an overgrown greenhouse in the center of it.
Daniel: I love what they've done with the place.
Jack: (seeing several people plugged into chairs in suspended animation) I love what the place has done with them.
- In The Big Bang Theory, when Leonard and Sheldon argue in the episode "The Staircase Implementation":
Leonard: Screw the roommate agreement!
Sheldon: No, you don't screw the roommate agreement. The roommate agreement screws you!
- In Deadwood, after someone says "Fuck the future," the county commissioner replies, "You can't fuck the future, sir, the future fucks you."
- Of Montreal has a song titled The Party's Crashing Us.
- A line in the Muse song "Knights of Cydonia" goes, "Don't waste your time or time will waste you".
- From Broken Social Scene's "7/4 (Shoreline)": "If you try to steal the beat, the beat will steal you."
- Queens of the Stone Age's "Someone's In The Wolf" has the line "You don't find your way, the way finds you."
- One collection of epic monsters for Dungeons & Dragons introduces the junkyard golem with the line, "On the world of the Sklavadok, the trash takes you out!"
- The title song of Anything Goes (1934), making this trope Older than Television:
Times have changed
And we've often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
If today any shock they should try to stem
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock would land on them.
- In the musical Leave It to Me! (1938), set largely in Soviet Russia, journalist Buck Thomas is handed a telegram by a messenger. He reaches in his pocket for a tip, but the messenger tells him:
Graustein: No tipping. In Soviet Russia, messenger tips you.
- In "Monica" from I Love My Wife, the effects the eponymous girl has on people include "Men go ape/Apes go man."
- The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples even applies to this one: in Richard II the title character, reflecting on his reign, laments that "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."
- Gorgeous Princess Creamy Beamy: "In Russian East Stereotypia, prostitute pays YOU! ... Why did I ever leave Russian East Stereotypia?"
- Trope Overdosed The Webcomic has the Heavy from Team Fortress 2 saying "In America, spy sap sentry. In Russia, sentry sap spy!"
- Mulberry: When the title character and her friends visit Russia in one comic, Jack claims to have trouble believing they're really there, since "the movies aren't watching people, the hamburgers aren't eating people, [and] the pants aren't wearing people". Mulberry explains that things have changed since the Soviets lost power. However, a later panel shows an anthropomorphic burger threatening to eat a Russian.
- Dead Winter has its resident Badass Russian say a version of this:
Yuri: Bah! Yuri does not need God. It is God who needs Yuri instead!
- Schlock Mercenary had the eponymous amorph remind local frat boys that "Sometimes you have fun, and sometimes the fun has you."
- A wordless strip of Nerf NOW!! shows a bunch of people in what's evidently Soviet Russia, standing side by side at a bus stop. When enough people arrive to completely fill the panel, their lower bodies bloodily vanish. According to The Rant, "... Tetris plays you."
- In Sinfest, In Soviet America Comic Strip Laugh At You!
- In this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic, the absurdity of this trope has lethal consequences.
Cowboy: Sonny, 'fore you hop in that saddle, there's somethin' you oughta understand — when you're a cowboy, you don't ride the horse. The horse ... ride's you.
- Some characters in mezzacotta try to make these jokes. One character states something, and the other character reverses it. Because of Dada Comics, the reversal tends to be as nonsensical as the original statement.
"In Soviet Russia, you make no sense to this joke!"
- The Monster of the Week version of The X-Files episode "Tunguska" has the Either/Or Title "Tunguska, or In Russia, Oil Lightly Seasons YOU"
- Rock Paper Cynic reversed the reversal, to give us In Capitalist America, Hope Loses You. Next In Capitalist America, Money Makes You. Next, they made a contest about it!
- Yakov Smirnoff's "In Soviet Russia" version went memetic long after the fall of communism. The Internet being what it is, these jokes ignored any attempts to make it seem Orwellian in favour of non-sequiturs like "In Soviet Russia, motorcycle rides YOU!!"
- Several trope names on this wiki: Ass Kicks You, Dog Walks You, Bullet Dodges You, The Door Slams You, The Can Kicked Him, and The Game Plays You. Also an alternate title for Too Rare to Trope is "Chairs Sit on People," as opposed to People Sit on Chairs.
- In the middle of a serious discussion about a guy getting his arms blown off by a bomb, some dipshit drops in with, "In Soviet Russia, bomb disarms you!!" This got a well-deserved Dude, Not Funny! reaction.
- Despair.inc advertised a t-shirt which mocked the bail-out General Motors received with the text: 'In Soviet America, the car drives you... bankrupt'
- During The Nostalgia Critic and Linkara's joint review of Superman IV, the two of them are stunned when Superman talks to some Russian astronauts...while still in the vacuum of space. "In Soviet Russia, physics breaks you!"
- Used in the RiffTrax of Spider-Man 3 when Spidey nearly gets hit by a subway car: "In Soviet Russia train misses you!"
- The Nostalgia Chick: "In Soviet Russia, Chick remembers you!" C'mon, she was reviewing Anastasia, she had to.
- In the second season of Game Dogs they're called "game makes you" when they meet the new Russian owners.
- From Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series episode 52: In Soviet Cyber World rules screw you.
- Twice in SF Debris's review of the ST:TNG episode "The Naked Now", referring to the Soviet-built ship Tsiolkovsky:
(as Picard) You know, number one, in your country, you send ships into space, but in Soviet Russia, ship sends YOU into space!
Well, looks like they're screwed; unable to muck with the tractor beam that can only pull things...it looks like that ship seeking boulder is going to take out the Enterprise and Tsiolkovsky, which won't make them happy back in Soviet Russia. Wait, that's it! In Soviet Russia, tractor beam will PUSH!
- Weebl's "Russian Dancing Men" has an image of a Whac-a-Mole machine with the caption, "Do not whack Russian, Russian whaks [sic] you."
- The internet short paying tribute to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Tomatoes Eat You.
- In Russia you rob bank. In Capitalist America bank robs you.◊
- In Soviet Russia, english learns YOU!!
- In Soviet Russia, sin commits YOU!!
- This t-shirt. In Soviet Russia, zero divides by you! But it's bad for your health.
- In Soviet Russia, shirt wears YOU!
- Seen on the Game FA Qs forum here, and then lampshaded by the next poster.
darkzero16: [A moderator or administrator was deleted at the request of this message]
- One of the comments on this article about the Soviet-made Buran space shuttle, which had a fully-functional autopilot system:
Kassad: "In America, you fly shuttles. In Soviet Russia, the shuttles fly you."
- A post in a "forumites being silly" thread on the Star Trek Online forums:
centersolace: Post 404: Error not found.
- In this video spoofing the The Most Interesting Man in the World ad campaign with My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash is described in the following way: "Her childhood fantasies dreamt about being her when they grow up".
- In your typical Wizard of Oz logic, you follow the Yellow Brick Road. In this partial screencap from Tumblr, said yellow brick road starts following you.
- This is everywhere on Uncyclopedia.
- Matthew Santoro:
- In 20 Valentines Day facts, Matt says that many countries celebrate Valentine's Day, including European and Asian countries, with the exception being Russia: "Because in Russia, Valentine's Day celebrate you."
- In The 10 WEIRDEST Superstitions in the World!, Matt says, "In Soviet Russia, web gets posted on the cat."
- Cracked: From the intro to 5 Soviet Space Programs that Prove Russia Was Insane: "Here are five spectacularly audacious Soviet space programs that prove that in Soviet Russia, space goes into you."
- An episode of Family Guy involved a car with a GPS system, and one of its voice settings was "Yakov Smirnoff".
GPS: Turn left at the fork in the road. In Soviet Russia, road forks you!
- "That's Lobstertainment!": Zoidberg's brief career as a stand-up comedian consisted solely of this type of joke.
Earth! What a planet! On Earth, you enjoy eating a tasty clam. On my planet, clams enjoy eating a tasty you! (glass clinking)
- Used and lampshaded in "Crimes Of The Hot":
Fry: That ice dispenser is so big, the ice crushes you! *laughs to self* Yakov Smirnoff said that.
Leela: No he didn't.
- There was The Simpsons episode with a revue of stars of The Eighties in a song "Ode To Branson". There is the line "So sit back, relax, and watch our revue," and Yakov slides in and says with a homophone pun, "In Soviet Union, review watches you!" This probably had a hand in revitalizing the meme for the Internet crowd.
- After Grandpa causes his mischief on stage, Smirnoff subverts this trope by commenting "In Russia, stage is for performers only."
- The King of the Hill episode guest starring Smirnoff has him buying one of these jokes from Bobby, despite the comedian's protestations that he has abandoned this type of material in favor of relationship humor. But give Bobby credit, at least he plays with the trope. "In America, you put 'In God We Trust' on the money. In Russia, we have no money!" Yakov pays for the joke and says keep 'em coming.
- Animaniacs had this line in the episode "The Girl with the Googily Goop":
Dot: You don't need to go to the potty!
Wakko: Oh, yes, I do!
Dot: Nah! In these cartoons, the potty comes to you!
- H. G. Wells is quoted as saying, "If we don't end war, war will end us."
- During the investigation of the sinking of RMS Titanic, one of the few surviving officers was questioned about when he left the ship. His answer was: "I didn't. The ship left me", which meant that he stayed on the ship until the deck was swallowed by the sea, leaving him treading water.
- The reason why one's lips and tongue often sting a little while eating pineapples is that pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down meat proteins.