There’s much of local color in Zakarpattia. There’re also many people who realize that it is an advantage of the region. This story is about the guys who have managed to tell about their unique area in an interesting, up-to-date, witty and satire manner. These guys are the authors of the animated series “Nasha Faita”. Their style is being compared with “Futurama”, “The Griffins”, ‘Bob’s Burgers” and “King of the hill”. They were the first to transform local peculiarities into funny jokes. Moreover, they were literally the first in Ukraine who created such series. They’ve been doing it for 3 years. At least, they’re the first to upload their series in the Internet. Anyway, despite the fact they’re really the first and gained a big popularity in their region – almost everyone in Zakarpattia knows them and the series got about 500 000 views each – this is the first major article about Myhailo Karpenko and Pavlo Mandzych. They dared to ridicule Augustin Voloshyn, by this they laugh at Zakarpattian spirituality, they make fun either of police or roads, or deforestation in the region.
The history of Ukrainian humor and animated cartoons resembles an X-Ray photograph of a patient, which is being from time to time resuscitated with a shocker.
In the early 90s it was clear that Ukrainian humor after Ostap Vyshya and the “Perets” journal which was founded by both Ostap Vyshnya and Vasyl Ellan-Blakytnyi, has disappeared.
The next age of humor was highlighted with KVK – Club of the Funny and Inventive People (humor competitions). It was started in 1961. Albert Askerold hosted the show then. At the beginning the gameshow was played only in Moscow but gradually it covered top universities of USSR, and very soon spread as a social phenomenon over almost all universities in the country. Since then the gameshow has been hosted by Oleksandr Maslyakov. It was the team of Odessa “Odesskie trubochisty” who was able to compete with Moscow teams. They later transformed into “Odessa gentlemen”. More than once the first place was also taken by teams from Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and Kryvyi RIh, which now catches up with the popularity of such obsolete shows in Ukraine as “Vechirniy Kvartal” and “Humorina”.
Since 1972 KVK had even been under the ban. In that year the team from Odessa – not “Trubochisty-Gentelmen”, but other – “Delovye ludi” from Odessa University of National Economy took the prize. However, it was the Odessa team most jokes of which were cut from that last episode. USSR began to experience Brezhnevian Stagnation then and any joke was taken for the threat to the national security. The absurdity was ultimate: if you ware on a stage with a beard it meant you were bullying the image of Karl Marx. KVK was banned for long 15 years, but leagues of humor continued to be organized in universities without being on the air till 1986, the next year “Perestroika” officially started.
Why is the history of KVK so important for Ukraine? The age of soviet league of humor still influences on the current state of things, even though Ukrainian teams have not been into Russian KVK for very long so far. Last time the Ukrainian team from Zaporizhia and Kryvyi Rih “Tranzit” scored the highest in Moscow in 1997. It was 2 years before the age of “Khuilo” and before the strict censorship again appeared on the Russian TV. The point is that most of the Ukrainian modern TV stars began their careers, again, in “time-honored KVK”. Both Zelenskiy and Prytula, Sivoha and Ukrainian Honored Artist of Israel Levinzon.
The listed above journal “Perets” was not the only independent from KVK branch of Ukrainian humor, which without a doubt was pressurized as well. The popularity across the whole USSR was gained also by both comedians Shtepsel from Odessa and Tarapunka from Poltava, by the product of “Perestroika” and director Perebiynis – the duet “Kroliki”. It was 90s when Ukraine saw the first comedy shows with anecdotes, as “Zolotoi Gus’, which sputtered out rather quickly.
Comedy content on modern Ukrainian TV is represented mostly by adopted foreign stand-up shows, KVK student league, which is now about to give up the ghost, trivial, plain and sometimes even brutal jokes from the comedy studio “95 kvartal”, which is promoted by the biggest Ukrainian TV channe
So, at the times when “Humorina” in Odessa resembles funeral more and more and it’s getting harder and harder to tell the Kryvyi Rih comics from the objects of their jokes, in 2013 in Zakarpattia appears the small group of former participants of local KVK , which becomes popular on the local level very quickly.
They’re called “Nasha Faita”, the subject of their humor is their historical area Zakarpattia. This humor is a particular one, it doesn’t make much sense to the mainstream audience or those, who aren’t ready to catch from the context Zakarpattian dialectic words, the specific character of Zakarpattia, Zakarpattian time and Zakarpattian cuisine. It was them who created a popular meme “Coincidence? Don’t think so”, although this team, “Nasha Faita” works without any official invitations on TV, they do it exceptionally for themselves and their viewers. They gained a great number of viewers by this time.
During 3 years they’ve made only 5 episodes, as they’re doing it solely for the pleasure. However, one million viewers have watched their series so far, which in fact is the number of Zakarpattia population.
They even have the office “Naha Faita” in Uzhhorod of with a nice sign. Three years ago their group was called “KarMan”, but after success of the series they changed the name, and now they’re known as “Nasha Faita”. Under this name they not only make animated series but also different events, which is their earning. Both Myhailo and Pavlo speak in the real life as well as in the series. That’s why when you talk to them after watching one of the episodes, you feel as you’re a passive participant of a new animated plot.
Myhailo: There wasn’t such an aim, I mean that we gathered and decided to make the first animated series in Zakarpattia. I was just aimlessly surfing the Internet and found a video made by a guy, a freshman in medical university, who made a 15 or 30 second video for the freshmen party, where he drew professors, our medical faculty… We were into KVK at that time, and we had to finish with that and do something new. And we thought it’d be awesome to make animated series… We were the fans of “The Griffins” then, of other American cool series and we thought, why not make something like that? Here, in Zakarpattia, we have a lot of interesting realia… We first thought of these Hungarian passports, contraband, out dialect. We didn’t intend to sound the whole series in this dialect. We wanted to use Ukrainian language and only little of Zakarpattian, just to slightly highlight our otherness. And then we realized that the thing people liked the most is our local color, so that’s why the series keep changing with every episode, they’re changing now also. Today it’s not as it used to be in the beginning. We tried to take into account at least in the last episode, which we were making the whole year, what kind of humor fits our Zakarpattians the most. It seems to us we have never worked so long on anything as on these 25 minutes.
Pavlo: It is people who write comments in Russian who don’t understand us the most. They don’t make any sense of it at all. However, among 200, 300 youtube comments there’s some per cent of people who say “OMG, you’ve just made a joke of it…” Some local people think that we’re doing the wrong thing, they think we should tell people how awesome it’s here. We believe that through the lens of humor it’s quite possible to tell about how awesome, special and different we are. We have three borders, two passports, tunnels and things like that. Why not speak about it? And people watch this. On YouTube you can check from what countries you have views. And from time to time we get views from Nigeria or Ruanda and it always puzzles us, how they learn about us. Once we got a mail: “Hi, I’m from Nigeria, I am into…”
Myhailo: … slavery! [Laughing]
Pavlo: No, he’s into Slovak cars, what else could he be into? [Laughing] Without joking, he’s connected with medicine somehow. And he wrote: ”Awesome series, we like it. We’re ready to invest money if you make a video like that for us. We’ll do the voicework”.
Myhailo: And what language do they speak in Nigeria?
Pavlo: Magyar of course! [Laughing] They offered to write the script and sound and we should draw. It was a high season for weddings so this idea didn’t develop. But we’re not marking time. We’re drawing. An awesome project, which we’ll soon tell about. A video for a Ukrainian popular band. Their style fits us. They’re making a pop-music but they’re self-ironic as well. The style of their songs is very similar to the one of our series. They’ve also found us on YouTube and said they were watching our series. People who watch “Nasha Faita” are mostly not from Nigeria of course. The leaders are Zakarpattia and the whole Ukraine, then Russia, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary – the countries where people from Zakarpattia mostly go to work. Last episode even includes the anthem of Ukrainian migrant workers abroad called “Golden putty knives” (Zolotyje shpatela).
Myhailo: A friend of mine worked at UN Headquarters in New York, and there’s a dormitory for Ukrainians. Once in the common kitchen she saw a cool guy watching our series. He showed it to her and said:” How awesome, have you seen it?”. She’s from Zakarpattia and used to work with us. Then we realized that the world is small place and Zakarpattia is just a village.
Before that there was only one comedy animated series in Ukraine – “Kozaki”. It started back in 1967, when it was produced at first by “Kyivnaukfilm” and then “UkrAnimaFilm”. The second comedy and the first animated series not for children is ‘Nasha Faita”. However, the authors consider it like a hobby. They could create more if they had a support. Guys make earning as well as most of the former participants of KVK and “Comedy show” – they are the hosts at the events, mostly at weddings.
Pavlo: We are fools. [Laughing] The point is you really need to find a big amount of time for it. We’re very busy along the year, with weddings and organizing different festive events and as soon as there’s some work-free week or two, we can calm down and write the script.
Myhailo: Actually, we continue to work on the series when the fasting begins.
Pavlo: Indeed, during the fasting people don’t make weddings, so we are just sitting and drawing. It’s a quick process. Our animator needs a month to draw an episode, if everything is ready.
Myhailo: If the voicework is ready and we’ve written everything, and nothing needs changing.
Pavlo: To be honest, we do everything in a Zakarpattian manner. I don’t want to stick any labels on Moldavians and say that it is in a Moldavian manner because it’s not true. We know how Moldavians work, they do it OK. And we do it in a Zakarpattian manner. Usually animators draw everything and then actors sound. We use a vice versa method. At first, we sound the episode and then animator draws it. Nobody in the whole world makes such things. But he’s very excited about it, so we follow it.
Myhailo: It is us who finance the series. Completely. We pay for all the expenses connected mostly with the animator’s work. For example, we’ve made the studio by ourselves. In the beginning we used to come to our friends who were occupied with the recording or go to the local TV company and they helped us. Then we realized that we needed a studio and we made it.
Pavlo: It made our work much easier, because the animator waits for the voicework more than anything. When we didn’t have the studio we didn’t record solely one sketch, we had been waiting till everything was ready. That means that the animator was also waiting and one day we just tell him: “You’ve got only 2 weeks. Good luck!” And he’s shocked, and he doesn’t sleep. And now we make up something, send it to him and he draws.
Myhailo: There is a minimum of such animated series in Ukraine. Most of people who are into it – about 90% – make it to sell. They draw them, but send to other countries. Animators just work to order. There’re no people who make it for their own money, who think: “I’ll pay money, upload a video on youtube and get some views!” Sadly, but virtually nobody works in that way.
Pavlo: Except for us! Once we needed a new animator, because we couldn’t meet the deadline. We started to search and couldn’t find anybody.
Myhailo: Then we learnt about some guys from Kyiv and one of them told us: “No problems, I’ll do it, 500 $ for an episode minute”. I told him: “Do you understand, 500 $ is our budget for 2 episodes, 25 minutes each” , he laughed, we laughed…
Pavlo: …and he hanged off the phone. [Laughing]
Myhailo: Of course, if we had more time and weren’t that busy, we would make it more often. Perhaps, we’ll change the concept and try to release the episodes with more regularity. Many people recommended us to make shorter episodes. People better perceive sketches which last for 15-20 seconds. It’s easy to make them up, and the plotline is not very long. But uploading only thee sketches is not very serious. For example, there’s a channel “Kid stupid”, they take it easy and upload 2-3 sketches every week. It’s clear, that not each of the sketches is funny but people watch them and they always have their audience. The most important thing when you upload your content on YouTube is to do it on a regular basis. If you do it, then you’ll definitely have more and more subscribers.
Pavlo: Monetization on YouTube doesn’t work well, especially for Ukrainian segment. You can earn only some cents, nevertheless, they canceled this function for us.
One of the episodes of “Nasha Faita” included a football match video from a news service TSN. The Ukrainian channel “1+1”, which owns TSN, complained to YouTube so the guys had not only to delete the video but also pay some fine.
Myhailo: We’re amateurs who make some such things for the first time. Now we are aware of different things which we should take into account. There’re no many places where you can learn about copyright. In the beginning we had some troubles using some pieces of music. It’s prohibited to use them at all, it’s non-compliance. We realized that and started to use only authors music, made by people we know or from the websites which allow to download tracks. It’s usually short 30 second tracks. But one thing is to argue with Aerosmith and another with TSN. Their complaint was taken very seriously and many functions of our channel were blocked for 6 months. We uploaded the last episode not on the main, but on the additional channel, because of TSN or our ignorance of copyright. We’re banned to upload video longer than 15 minutes. It all happened in January. They gave us a “suspended sentence”. They should calm down in July, but I have no idea whether they’ll unblock the channel.
Pavlo: If they do, we can make a tattoo “served full sentence”
Myhailo: The characters in the series resemble the people we meet in the real life. I used to be very skeptical when someone was saying that all the ideas were from the life. But it turned out, it is true. We see many peculiar people across Zakarpattia. Mostly at weddings, because we spend there 90 % of our lives, sadly or not. Two main characters Seriy and his cat Mikki resemble both of us. The thing is that we sound them. There’s a minimum likeness between the characters not only because we sound them. The animation has also been improved.
Pavlo: It now happens sometimes that people recognize us by the voice. They don’t know how you look but know your voice “Is it you – the cat?”
Myhailo: Were it you to call to the phone sex? [There’s an episode about the phone sex in Zakarpattian manner. – The Ukrainer] Last time they said:” You again?”
Pavlo: And we didn’t pay for the previous call … [Laughing]
Myhailo: The next episode will be about Uzhhorod and after that perhaps about Mukachevo. But when? It’s a good question. I guess we’ll write it in the summer. I don’t know how but we’ll definitely write it.
Pavlo: Let’s do it another way. When we speak about some deadline it always takes 3-4 times longer.
Myhailo: Then we say: 3-4 years – for sure! [Laughing]
To be honest, in the Uzhhorod episode we decided to change the standard scheme when viewers live in the modern realia, each in his own district. We decided to show Uzhhorod in several time zones. From the Stone Age to the future. The joke is that future isn’t different from what we have now. In 2100 everything is the same.
Actually, we have a unique animator, he’s called Erwin Olexandr Nimets. He’s got his own style, which you can hardly compare with anything. When we were making promo videos people realized that it was him. People who watched these videos said “Look, it’s Nasha Faita”.
Pavlo: He’s got such an imagination that he puts in the series the things which are clear only for some people, others will not just notice them. For example, costumes from Fallout [Fallout – a franchise Post Nuclear Role Playing Game, – Ukrainer].
Myhailo: He’s like Da Vinci from Uzhhorod. You can pause an episode virtually on any second and will see something quite weird and peculiar. Oddly enough, but there’re people who notice that. One in a hundred comments says: “Have you noticed that there’s a sign on the roller-blades “TSOI IS ALIVE” and things like that. He doesn’t explain anything to anybody, even we not always notice it.
Pavlo: Truly, we send him the voicework and write how it should look. And he sends us a finished work. We watch it, give some comments and send it back. And he keeps remaking it till we get what we’ve been imagining.
Myhailo: The recent comment said: “Have you seen that in the episode about Tyachiv district there’s a mask from Deadpool in the room? [Deadpool – is a 2016 American comedy adventure mercenary, – Ukrainer]. We looked at and there really was a mask.
Pavlo: He seems to like Marvel comics.
Михайло: He may also be drawing some other series and just forgets to delete some elements. [Laughing]
By the way, we always watch the video compilations with the scenes which weren’t included in a film or series. And we also have such a compilation. It includes the very first sketch which we drew, but we just couldn’t think where we could put it. I think we’ll upload this compilation sometime.
People often ask us what support we need from people. Nothing, we want people to watch, share and like it. We’re ready to invest our money, for now we’re interested in that. Some people invest in apartment remodeling and blocks of flats building. As for us, we invest in animated series.