Old Piecīši humor still works sometimes

As part of their live performances, not only do the Čikāgas Piecīši perform satirical songs, but they also do satirical comedy sketches. The sketches poke fun at a wide variety of topics, but the most common motif is the experience of being Latvian while living in the United States.

The latest compact disc from the Piecīši, Jocīgie gadi 1, collects a number of these sketches. Many of these sketches were already released on the vinyl recording Vēl jau viss nav pagalam, but this collection also contains other sketches recorded throughout the group’s career. And because this is a comedy album, there are very few actual songs here.

So do jokes from as long ago as the 1960s hold up? Not surprisingly, some of the material doesn’t age well, but some of it can still provoke laughs even today.

The theme of being Latvian in the United States is a rather timeless one, so there the humor is still relevant. One of the funnier sketches on the album is “Jauktā laulība,” which is about the marriage of a Latvian man to an American woman. The woman finds out more than she wants to know about certain Latvian foods, like asins desa (described to her as pig’s intestine filled with fresh blood) and galerts (compared to frozen vomit).

The sketch “Pēc pilsoņu papīriem” details the travails of a Latvian getting his American citizenship, coached by another “helpful” Latvian about how to best answer the questions. “Kokteiļpartija” also has a conversation between a Latvian and American, with the American being bewildered by some of the Latvian customs that are described.

Generational differences are always good for comedy, as shown by “Draudzīgais aicinājums,” which has an older Latvian going on an extended rant about the way the young Latvians dress, with the obligatory comment about “back when I was young…”

But the political humor doesn’t hold up too well. The occasional reference to President Lyndon Johnson dates the humor.

A few “songs” are found on the album, including “Sunītis,” which is a comical attempt at performing “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?” in Latvian.

Most of the texts were written by Piecīši leader Alberts Legzdiņš as well as Uldis Ievāns.

Perhaps some of the recorded humor not working as well as it could is due to sketches having a certain visual aspect. The few photographs that are in the CD booklet show the members of the band dressed up in costumes, which often add to the humor in live performances.

As with most all comedy albums, this CD does not invite repeat listenings. There are more laughs here than I expected, but it is still not a CD I listen to with any kind of regularity. It best serves as an archive of the last 40 years and as a reminder that some humor can be timeless.


Jocīgie gadi 1

Čikāgas Piecīši

Balss,  2002

BACD 067

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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