The Russian Comedian Who Fled to Israel So He Can Stand Up to Putin

With 107,000 followers on Instagram and millions of views of his performances on YouTube, Aleksandr (Sasha) Dolgopolov may not be the most popular comedian in Russia, but he’s definitely one of the most intriguing. Dolgopolov, 25, represents a new generation of Russian stand-up artists – those who have grown up on social media and shows in small clubs, and have never set foot in the studios of state-owned television stations or the halls that have been the usual venues for popular, establishment comedy shows since the days of the Soviet Union. Few members of this younger generation engage in political satire, and even fewer dare to criticize not only the government in Moscow but also Russian society, as openly as Dolgopolov.

He looks younger than his age, and somewhat fragile. During his act he laughs at chauvinists and homophobes, and nonchalantly mentions the open relationship he had with his former wife and his bipolar disorder. He is biting and crass, but at the same time exposed and vulnerable – and he shatters the tough and dour Russian masculinity that President Vladimir Putin embodies.