Notes on a Mongolian comedy show
People of all ages were at the show, including toddlers and babies. There were too many skits to count. One of them was about a drunk son. It ended with the mother dying and his siblings begging him to stop drinking. It was a comedy show put on by a comedy troupe, and this was the only skit that didn’t end funny. “It is because they want to show how it really is for Mongolian families. It’s a big problem in Mongolia,” Toya whispered to me. Over the course of the skit the drunk son had sobered up only to marry a prostitute for the 500,000 togrigs Mongolian couples receive from the government when they marry.
One skit was about a country bumpkin, dressed in the traditional long coat and pointed boots of the countryside, arriving in the city for university. One was about two wives who go together to a romantic drama and then lie to their husbands about what they were doing because traditionally couples go together to such shows. One was abut Mongolian schools during soviet times, when none of the parents wanted their children in the soviet school system. All the actors had on costumes like the country bumpkin for this skit. By the end parents had come for all but one of the students. On skit had modern, urban hip hop fashion-attired students and an old teacher who lectured to the MP3 players and cell phones his students left on their chairs. One was a series of parodies of children’s songs—each actor performed the song in some style entirely unsuited to the occasion, directly inspired by Michael Jackson, guns n roses, Britney spears, you name it.
Rather in the style of the soap operas that air on Russian MTV, there was always a song playing in the background that had nothing directly to do with the characters or the scene. The luckier actors had on microphones like pop stars do for their dance performances, except that these ones required the large black box connected to them to hang conspicuously off the costume of the actor. The actors were continuously readjusting them. There were four microphones on stands near the front of the stage that the unlucky actors had to go stand by while they said their lines. As it turned out, the ability of these microphones to slide under the stage during dance numbers made it “a very modern system,” Toya told me. “Before they did not have microphones that could be raised up or put down for different scenes.”