I seem to recall The Simpsons having a hard time in overseas markets in early years because a lot of the humor didn’t translate. I think Seinfeld ran into similar problems. On the literary front, I’ve been told by several Russian readers that the humor of Dostoyevsky ‘s novels has been lost in their English translations. But maybe that’s a dark Russian joke my poor Anglophone brain just doesn’t get.
Karen Joy Fowler
If that’s a joke, it’s a really funny one!
It would make sense that films and programs based around verbal humor don’t always translate well outside of western markets. Whereas action films do perform well overseas. John Carter of Mars did much better box office internationally than it did in the United States–in fact, it broke records in Russia.
Yes, it came up a lot in my folklore and anthropology classes that humour doesn’t translate very well. There are certain basic patterns in what people find funny, but the way those patterns play out tends to be very culture-bound, depending on a million and one contextual elements that the foreigner may not get. (Which is true of lots of other things, too — but humour, more than most, tends to lose its punch if you have to stop and think about it.)
In Russian, they are uproarious farces, especially The Karamazov Brothers. On the other hand, Gogol in Russian is somber, humorless, pedantic, mundane. Go figure.
Guy Gavriel Kay
The laugh a minute Karamazovs, with the famous stateroom scene! Alas, they were all Zeppo.
Didn’t Woody Allen channel the antic spirit of Dostoevsky for Love and Death? (Uh-oh, I see the needle on the digressionometer inclining toward the red.)
Guy Gavriel Kay
Stefan, never accept being called jejune! You are the junest man in all Locus!
None dare call me junior.