The Unfunny Comedian

“I love to eat. Who here loves to eat?” Barry Becker said to open his show in Waukee, Iowa. “You’re applauding politely. Most people do. Very few people applaud that line wildly. We all eat, and we all enjoy it, but we’re not going to hoot and holler a joke about it. Especially, if we’re on a first date. Nobody lets their lover see them naked with a line like, “You like what you see? Enjoy it while you can, because it’s all going to end soon. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a big mess of Frito’s and Skittles. I love to eat babe.

“I’ll tell you who does hoot and holler. Skinny people. Yeah, they don’t mind sharing it with the world. “I love to eat!” Really, well, you obviously don’t love it as much as I do. I’m here today to take it back for we, the people. “I love to eat!” Shout it loud. Shout it proud. I like to sleep, and I like to sit and do nothing for hours at a time, but nothing compares to eating. 

“Have you ever had a friend say, “Let’s go get something to eat.” Their presentation is so mundane and routine. They act like eating a meal is just something that we should do, so we can get it over with and do something else. Hey, hey, hold on there little doggie. I don’t know what you plan to do after the meal, but the meal is the event to me. I’m getting old, and keeping these beautiful curves ain’t as easy as it used to be, so I’m not into ‘Let’s just get something to eat’. If I’m only going to be able to eat one meal a day, and you’re going to tell me to cut back on snacks, then you better get your A-game out if you’re going to ask me to have a meal with you. Use your words. Dadgumit! Seduce me.

“I ate a big, beautiful ribeye the other day. It was an event for me when the waiter placed that big old thing before me. This is what I planned for all day. It was just gorgeous. I could hardly see any plate. I wish I would’ve enjoyed it more, but I had to get down to eating. Then it was over. The event I looked forward to all day was gone. It was so hot and so good that I ate it too fast. I didn’t chit chat, and I didn’t look around the room too much. I even forgot I had someone sitting across the table. I hate reaching the end of a meal and having to force down the last few lukewarm bites. So, I eat those big, beautiful looking ribeyes so fast that I can’t remember how good they are.

“It’s my dad’s fault that I eat this way. The man taught me how to eat. He did not allow for chit-chat at the dinner table. We were there to eat, and like a huskie on a dog sled, if we didn’t have our utensils locked and loaded in a timely manner, our musher would start making those kissing sounds. Barry! Barry! Mmh mmh mmh!”

“My dad didn’t actually make kissing sounds, but what if he did? What if the Iditarod was so popular in our country that its tradition of making kissing sounds to get huskies to go faster influenced our parents to make kissy sounds at the table when we wouldn’t eat?  

“When we think about all of the quirky and odd traditions, is it really such an insane notion? My mom used to read to me every night, she’d tuck me in, and give me a kiss. Then, right before she’d close the door she’d say, “Good night. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

“She did not intend to introduce horrific thoughts into my already creative mind of course. It was a tradition that she passed that line down to me, because her mom passed it down to her, and I passed it down to my kid, and we do this without really thinking about what we’re saying to them. We think it conveys sentiment. I love you, and have a good night’s sleep. Oh, and don’t let the bedbugs bite. She did it so often that by the time I started thinking about what it was she was saying, it was already an accepted part of our parting ritual at the end of a night. I also think she just liked the phrase, because it rhymes, “Good night, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” If we take a step back and think about what we’re saying before we close the door, immersing our kids in total darkness, where their unusually creative minds spin just about everything we say into some horror that causes them insomnia and nightmares, we might want to give some thought to ending that tradition.

“I heard another tradition that we’ve passed down for generations when I picked up my kid from school. Some kids, somewhere on the playground, began singing the borderline horrific rhyme Ring around the Rosies. I smiled when I heard it. “Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, ashes ashes, we all fall down,” they sang. Apparently, there are numerous versions of this song, and some of you might know a different one, but that’s the one I know. That’s the one we know right? For as many versions as there are, there are almost as many interpretations of its lyrics. Most of us sang it just to sing something while we did something else, but some folklorists suggest the lyrics ‘ring around the rosie’ might have developed as a result of kids teasing other kids anytime they had a red owie on their arm. The theme of their teasing was that owie probably means that you have the plague that was killing over 100,000 Londoners in 1665. The ‘pocket full of posies’ lyrics, some suggest, were to mock those who thought that carrying flowers in their pocket was a homeopathic remedy to prevent the onset of the plague. “Even though you had a pocket full of posies, you still caught the plague, sucker!” The conclusion of the song might be the most horrific, as the “Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down” lyrics suggest that the tormentors relented that we’re all probably going to get the plague anyway, and we’re all going to die en mass. One would think that in the age of COVID, we might want to give some thought to ending that tradition too. 

“I’ve heard that that folklore that arose around these interpretations of the lyrics might not be true, but even the most obnoxious fact-checking, internet sleuths will have to admit that there’s enough speculation among folklorists who’ve examined the lyrics of the song that we should probably stop teaching it as a sweet, pleasant “sing-along” rhyming song our kids can sing on a playground. I mean, how can anyone spin “Ashes ashes we all fall down?” as anything other than a relatively disturbing image? A creative young mind might even spin the lyrics as a warning for all participants to prepare for a nuclear winter?

“In that spirit of the odd, decidedly less violent traditions we pass on, let’s say we meet our friend and his kids out at a restaurant, and he starts mushing his kids with the kissy sounds that can often be heard in an Iditarod. “Aiden, Aiden, mmh mmmh!”

“Why are you doing that Cliff?”

“The kid won’t eat,” Cliff says. “He gets distracted by every little thing, and if I don’t continually mush him, we’ll be here till eight o’clock waiting for him to finish.”

“So, you accomplish that by making kissy noises at him?”

“I guess I never put much thought into it before,” Cliff laughs. “My dad did it to me, and I kind of do it now without thinking when the boys here get to playing with their food and junk. My grandfather raced in the Iditarod, and I think he took that mushing sound home with him. My dad did it to me, and I guess the practice just made its way down to me.” 

“Okay, but you might want to reconsider doing it in the middle of the Olive Garden,” we say. “People don’t know your story, and I don’t think the Child Protective Agency will understand your family tradition.”

Guy no Logical Gibberish II

1) “If you can’t create, you perform; if you cannot perform, you teach.” Those who have no talent to create, perform, or teach, critique those who can. Those not knowledgeable enough to critique in a constructive manner, make it their lifelong goal to crush all of the above. They kill the butterfly, because they cannot fly. They knock it down, smash it into the sidewalk, and twist their foot on it for good measure. Their favorite shows run clips of the errors, mistakes, and bloopers of the accomplished, for the enjoyment of who could never create or perform. When the successful fall, it makes them feel more comfortable in their quiet, sad corner of the world. They never tried to accomplish anything outside their comfort zone, and anyone who does should know they’re subject to scorn and ridicule. Creators know that any time they create, they invite these types to treat them like a piñata, but we move on from our failed or subpar creations with the knowledge that they still have to live with the idea that they can’t create anything worthwhile. They’re stuck in that, and they laugh at those who struggle to achieve flight. They don’t remember how it started, and they don’t know why they enjoy it so much. When they started pointing out the errors creators committed, and ridiculing them for those errors, it just felt right.

2) How many us spend most of our time trying to justify our existence? When an employer hires us to find errors in another employee’s work, we find them. Some errors require notation, constructive criticism, and possible retraining, but most of the errors we find are trivial, and we know it, but finding them justifies our employment.

When someone suggested that I was “brutally honest” I tried to live up to my billing. I enjoyed this characterization so much that I eventually worked my way to “You’ll say anything”. I loved it. Others loved it too, and they wanted to be around me on a “You never know what he is going to say next” basis. I lived by the credo, “It’s not funny, not truly funny, unless someone gets hurt.”

Two consequences of this pursuit soon emerged. People stepped out of their woodwork to get me back. Otherwise, sweet people made it their goal to get savage with me. They capitalized on my every mistake and they searched for my vulnerabilities. I considered myself a victim without reflecting on how I brought this house of cards down around me. I also hurt some peoples’ feelings. Some people seek offense at every corner, but there are others. The others are innocent victims leading otherwise inoffensive lives. They have vulnerabilities. We have vulnerabilities, but the “brutally honest” who “will say anything” don’t have any regard for feelings. We might have been joking when we said something brutal about someone, because no one else would, but how many of those who are brutally honest with us are only joking? 

“When you think you’re the toughest kid on the block, someone is going to come along and beat the tar out of you,” my dad said when I told him the story about how one of my best friends beat up one of the toughest guys in school. I told him that my friend was now the talk of the school. In some strange way, I thought my dad might be proud that one of my best friends, someone with whom the two of us dined, was now considered one of the toughest kids in school. He wasn’t proud. “Tell your friend that his worries aren’t over now. They’re just beginning. Kids are going to come out of the woodwork to challenge him now, and your friend will learn that there’s always someone tougher.” When I argued that point a little he added, “There are no Queen’s rules of order when it comes to fighting. There’s always someone nastier, meaner, and dirtier. They might even pull out weaponry. There are no rules of war, and some kids will do whatever it takes to win.”

Due to the fact that I never tried to prove I was the toughest kid in the school, I didn’t think that advice applied to me. It didn’t apply in this way it was provided, but when my good friends started dropping all these characterizations at my feet, I discovered that there’s always someone smarter, funnier, quicker, and meaner and nastier. I also learned that people came out of the woodwork to take me down. They capitalized on my every mistake, and they searched for my vulnerabilities to hit me where it hurt. My fighting friend never learned the lesson my dad thought he would, but I did.    

After I learned my lesson, one of the vulnerable teed me up by telling me “Where it hurts.” I didn’t know the guy that well, and he’s telling me where he’s most vulnerable. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought it was a test. It wasn’t. I held my fire, and left comedy gold at that lunch table. I could’ve had a moment at the his expense, and people lived for the moments I created, but I let my people down by letting the moment float by without comment.  

3) “Never tell them where it hurts.” We make this mistake all the time. We’re with friends, and we get to talking. Somewhere along the line, we reveal a vulnerability. We also reveal our vulnerabilities to those with whom we feel most comfortable, and we also “get vulnerable to ourselves to potential friends. When they use this information to crack a harmless joke, we get defensive.

“Ah, come on, I was just joking,” Marvin says. “Don’t be so sensitive.”

“Okay, but I just told you that I am very sensitive about that.”

Marvin is not a bad guy. He’s not overly insensitive or mean, and we did not make a mistake when we chose to befriend him. Marvin is simply a victim of the “don’t think pink” paradox. The paradox suggests that the moment after we say, “don’t think pink”, pink will be the only thing on the mind of everyone we warn.

Marvin probably didn’t even know why he cracked that joke, but when we revealed our sensitivity to him, he saw pink. He never noticed how large and glaring our flaw was, until we told him about it. Every time he sees us now, he sees pink, and we’re all pink on the inside. 

If you want to debate how prevalent this predilection is, try telling someone how sensitive you are about the size and shape of our left eyetooth? If you have no such sensitivities, tell a trusted friend that you are extremely sensitive about it. They might not say anything about immediately, but they will eventually crack a harmless joke about it. They will eventually see pink. Should we think less of them in the aftermath, or should we view it as a challenge similar to the don’t think pink challenge, or the challenge we experience when we have a sore in our mouth. We know touching the sore with our tongue will only irritate it and make it worse, but we’re obsessed with it. When we see all of this for what it truly is, it shouldn’t concern us as much as how often we forget to cover our wounds when we meet new people. Never tell them where it hurts.  

4) “How many time do I have to forget these these lessons before I finally learn them?” we might ask ourselves the next time someone exploits our weaknesses. “If someone taught me such principles, I might not make them so often.” Were our parents this incompetent? Are we incompetent parents? How do we prepare our kids? Should we? Do they have to learn such lessons on their own, or can I prepare them better to help them avoid the lessons I keep forgetting?  

“I gave birth to you, what more do you want?” was the philosophical answer provided by the Rosanne Barr School of Parenting. It was a line she delivered on her hit show Rosanne. It was a joke. We don’t know if she believed it or not, or if it was just something she said to be funny. Students of comedy tell us that clever humor can hit the laugh-or-meter, but if the purveyor of comedy wants to hit that rarefied air of hilarious, the joke needs an element of truth that the audience can relate to their life. It was a joke, but it obviously resonated with some of us.

When our kid was born, it was the most glorious moment in our lives. The kid was life, and no matter how anonymously some of us live, this kid will provide proof that we were here. Then it happened. Parenting got all hard and stuff. The kid didn’t appreciate us as much as they should have. The kid talked back, the kid wanted things they couldn’t have, and we weren’t always right. A line like, “I gave birth to you, what more do you want?” let us off the hook. We did our job. It’s their job now to do something with it.

“If you have to ask,” Adam Carolla once said on his podcast, “then you’re probably doing it right.” If you feel the need to call into a show or read a book for answers, and ask other parents for advice, you’re probably what they call a good parent, because it shows you’re trying. We’ve all heard the phrase parenthood is the hardest job in the world, and we often put parents on pedestals, but parents aren’t good people just because they become parents. Some parents know this, and they struggle to find the best way to raise their child. “The very idea that you just called into a national call-in show to ask that question probably means you’re a good parent,” Carolla added, “because it shows that you care.” Carolla then went onto answer the caller’s question for the benefit of all of the “I gave birth to you, what more do you want?” parents who might be listening in.

Rasputin IV: Why is Rasputin Still Famous?

The idea that we would still be talking about a lowly, ill-mannered, poorly educated peasant from the Siberian village of Pokrovsho in the Tyunsky Uyezd of Tobolsk Governate (or for the rest of you the Yarkovsky District of Tyumen Oblast) would’ve shocked the millions of people who lived during this era. They probably assumed we’d be talking about one of their leaders, one of their military heroes, their artists, philosophers, or even their murderers, but this lowly peasant wasn’t any of those. Yet, his story, his legacy, still intrigues movie makers, those who write bios, news magazine pieces, web articles, and blogs over 100 years after some Russian nobleman, and the richest man in Russia, murdered Rasputin on Dec. 30, 1916. 

6) He Brought Down an Empire. A story about a relatively benign citizen bringing down an empire would be noteworthy regardless the circumstances. The idea that the man who did it was a lowly, ill-mannered, poorly educated peasant in the inhibited class structure of early 1900’s Russia is one of the primary reasons we’re still fascinated with Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin.

For a variety of reasons, there will always be gaps between the classes. There are gaps in every country and every era, but the gaps we have now don’t even compare to the cultures and societies of the early 1900’s and before. Russia’s class structure was so entrenched, in the early 1900’s that if a Russian teacher were caught teaching her students that they could be anything they wanted to be, the parents of those students would’ve complained that the teacher was engaging in a very cruel joke. The idea that a commoner, much less a peasant, might climb so far up the ladder to one-day advise the ruling family of the empire was likely so far-fetched that no Russians considered it a possibility.

While many historians argue about the actual level of influence the peasant we now know as Rasputin exerted on the Romanovs, some of them argue that Rasputin’s murder precipitated the fall of the Romanov Empire. Whether it was a direct result of Rasputin’s influence, his murder, or some sort of tangential influence, I believe the correlation derived from what I now call The Rasputin Paradox.

The Rasputin Paradox occurs when a team uses a scapegoat to explain their relative lack of success. When the leaders of this enterprise found, or take over, an enterprise they believe they are the ones who can lead it to success. When they fail, they might not view the individual they deem responsible for that failure a scapegoat in the purest sense, of course. If they are able to remove that person, however, they believe their last impediment to success will be gone. What often happens, shortly after they remove this person, is that they find themselves exposed to blame for anything that goes awry in the aftermath. The leaders might attempt to convince the team members, and themselves, that the scapegoat’s coattails can still be found in the accounting figures, but the team members eventually focus the blame on the remaining leaders.

In the relationship between the Romanovs, Rasputin, and the citizens of Russia, it’s vital to note that the Romanovs may not have ever considered Rasputin a scapegoat in the purest sense. They probably assumed they were doing just fine. The citizens didn’t, and they might have placed an inordinate amount of blame for the ineptitude of the empire on Rasputin. After his murder, however, their perception of glaring failure on the part of the Russian Empire focused squarely on the Romanovs, and it eventually led to their bloody overthrow in a February revolution that started less than two months after Rasputin’s murder.

5) He was a Piece of Junk who Influenced an Empire. Even by the hierarchical standards of early 1900’s Russia, in which they viewed peasants as below vermin, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a slob. He was an ill-mannered poorly educated drunk who stunk. We’ve all met men who have no regard for standards of politeness, but most of them find a way to conceal their ignorant, belligerent ways around women. The impolite might not revere women the way most of us do, but they’re usually respectful in their company, especially if that woman exhibits impressive levels of refinement. No matter how one chooses to characterize refinement, chivalry, or manners, historians suggest Rasputin was likely the exact opposite. Russians reviled him as a sexual deviant. They suggest that he was a little more than a con man who used women to make political connections and gain influence.

When these women recommended Rasputin to the empire, they informed the court that he had the otherworldly powers necessary to help the Romanovs cure their son of hemophilia. When the Romanovs agreed to see him, his appearance before the court must have shocked them. Did they find some way to overlook his characteristics for the presumed benefit of their son, or did his appearance, and the rumors of his demeanor, lead them to presume he was a conduit to otherworldly powers? When the well-mannered, more attractive men, schooled in refined ways stood before the court, detailing the ways they could help Alexei Romanov, the Romanovs were likely more skeptical. What was Rasputin’s appeal? He had a history of “curing” people long before he stood before the Romanovs, and that word-of-mouth surely made it to Alexandra and Nicholas before the interview, but that likely didn’t prepare them for the appearance of this man. When he appeared before them, they likely fell prey to the very human belief that a person who eschews common pleasantries and niceties is more mysterious and more in tune with spiritual and less conventional means of healing. (Most historians suggest that Nicholas never fell under Rasputin’s spell, but Alexandra did.)  

Another element that aided Rasputin’s rise was that the Romanovs were desperate to end the suffering of their child’s pain, and they exhausted the conventional means of the more conventional men of medicine with far more education. Were they so desperate that they were willing to try anything, or were they more susceptible to what they considered the more spiritual means that Rasputin appeared to fulfill? Whatever the case was, Rasputin managed to use this speculation, based on his appearance, to gain more influence in the Russian Empire, and he used it to achieve a place in history for which Russian peasants didn’t even bother dreaming.

4) His Appearance. “Those eyes,” is the first and last thing we say when we see a photo of Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin. Some have “nice eyes”, others have “striking eyes”, but there is something notable, striking, and unusual going on in Rasputin’s eyes. We don’t know exactly what we’re seeing when we look into those eyes, but we can’t look away. No matter how we look at those eyes, we cannot walk away without thinking that the man had a powerful gaze.

We can feel the power of those eyes, just looking at them. A cheap, con man, hypnotist might pay good money to attain those eyes. We can only imagine how Russian citizens must have reacted under their spell, but the photos we now have of Rasputin are black and white. If those eyes were as coal black as they appear in black and white photos, we might almost feel soothed by the certain consistent definition they appear to have. The idea that they were blue, which some describe as an “intensely, cold blue”, as depicted in the colorized version below, must have proved so unsettling that a part of Rasputin’s purported charm and charisma probably came from reassuring those who saw “those eyes” that he meant them no harm.

We all act to enhance and counteract our physical characteristics, and Rasputin might have developed a soothing tone to counteract the imaginations of the spiritual and easily spooked villagers he knew. Coupled with the eyes, we have the long hair, the infamous beard, and overall unkempt appearance, and we assume we have an appearance trapped somewhere between our caricatures of Jesus of Nazareth and Satan. If the eyes were as hypnotic as some suggest, we can imagine that he would be the most memorable person those of the era ever met in any crowd or gathering. Couple his unsettling appearance, with his much talked and charm and charisma, and the rumored size of his member, and we have a figure who left such a profound mark on history that we’re still talking about him 100 years after his death.          

3) He Cured a Child of Hemophilia. As stated in the Rasputin II: A Miracle at Spala article, Rasputin never “cured” the tsar’s son Alexei. Alexei Romanov had hemophilia the day he was born, and he died with it. What is not in dispute is the fact that Rasputin temporarily ended the suffering Alexei experienced as a result of the temporary, painful symptoms of hemophilia. How Rasputin accomplished this is the subject of much speculation. (Some suggest Rasputin used horse-whispering techniques to soothe the boy, some say he understood the healing powers of magnetism, and others suggest he knew more about medicine than most of his peers, including the medical professionals of his day).

No matter what he did, the consensus at the time suggests he did soothe the boy into temporary health. Some historians suggest that Rasputin simply called for Alexei’s doctors to stop giving him aspirin, an agent of blood thinning, as we now know. Did Rasputin know more about aspirin than Alexei’s team of doctors, or did he happen upon someone who just happened to theorize that aspirin thins the blood, and Rasputin happened to witness the results that no other medical professional in his era knew?

As a lowly peasant, Rasputin also had less to lose than the medical professionals who were lining up to be a close advisor to the Romanovs. If he failed, he would go back to living the life he always knew, as a peasant. Did he step in and say something as simple as, “Why don’t we try something different?” That might seem so simple, but we can guess that the medical professionals didn’t want to make all of their other colleagues look bad, or they simply followed the “proper diagnosis” of hemophilia by giving Alexei aspirin. Our modern minds suggest this is less a compliment to Rasputin’s ability and/or know how and more a critique of the medical knowledge of the era. If this speculation is true, we might regard Rasputin as nothing more than a right-time, right place charlatan who took advantage of the lack of knowledge in his era to become a close advisor of the tsarina Alexandra Romanov. In light of this theory, we might even consider the “healing” of Alexei a footnote in history.

Historians debate what Rasputin actually did to cure Alexei, but what is not in debate is that everyone from Alexandra on down regarded what Rasputin did amazing, at the least, and miraculous at most. This poorly educated peasant essentially saved the empire by saving their heir to crown, and mother Russia was so grateful that they (Alexandra specifically) awarded him the role of close advisor.

He would use this seat to not only advise Alexandra on how to treat Alexei’s ailments, but some believe he fostered such a quality relationship with her that he began advising her on matters of state. Some believe she would then whisper such advice to Tsar Nicholas II. When the tsar then went to join his fellow countrymen in battle, the tsarina was left in charge, and some believe Rasputin’s influence grew in that capacity. 

Some, including the British Secret Intelligence Service, believed that Rasputin’s influence on Alexandra, and thus Nicholas, was so strong that it might precipitate Russia withdrawing forces in WWI. They believed that Rasputin, for all of his folklore, was actually something of a pacifist, and that he was advising the empire to withdraw its forces from World War I. This conspiracy theory suggests that Britain needed Germany concentrating at least some of their forces on Russia, until the United States would enter the war. This theory suggest that the British Secret Intelligence Service was so worried about Rasputin’s influence on the empire that they might have encouraged, devised, participated in, or financially funded the murder of Rasputin. The author of this theory, Joseph T. Fuhrman, further states that “Britain’s Military Intelligence, Section Six, (MI6), [recently] promised to publish its files on Rasputin’s murder, but it decided to delay it, we can assume, to avoid cooled relations between Moscow and London.”

2) His Murder. “They tried poisoning him, shooting him and drowning him,” my History teacher said, “but Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a man who would not die.” The various stories of the assaults on Rasputin suggest that a prostitute without a nose stabbed him, and that he survived, even though his blood loss was considerable, and his internal organs allegedly fell out.

Two years after the prostitute stabbed him, a team of nobles led by Felix Yusupov, the richest man in Russia, attempted to lace his tea and cakes with cyanide to assassinate him. When Rasputin showed no signs of succumbing to the cyanide, they upped the dose they put it in his wine. When that didn’t produce immediate results, they tried stabbing him, and then they tried shooting him. They shot at him five times, and three of those shots hit. He was not dead at this point, allegedly, so they tried clubbing him to death. Convinced that he was finally deceased, the team of assassins rolled him up in a carpet and threw him in the Malaya Nekva river. Some speculate that he was not dead when he hit the water, and that he drowned or died of hypothermia. My History teacher added to this myth stating that “The assassins secured Rasputin in this carpet with chains connected to concrete blocks that they hoped would bound him to the bottom of the river.” The History teacher added that when Russian officials were finally able to crack through the Malaya Nekva river to retrieve the body, they found the carpet, the cinder blocks, and the chains, but they found no body.

“Is he alive today?” one of my fellow students asked.   

“They never found a body,” our teacher answered.

Even if only one-tenth of this story is true, we thought, it’s quite a tale. Historians suggest that it might be quite a stretch to say one-tenth of that tale is true. They all agree that a prostitute with no nose stabbed him, but they suggest that it’s debatable that his interior organs fell out. They agree that a team of assassins gathered to poison, stab, and shoot him. They agree that the nobles shot at him, five times, and three hit. The historical accounts we’ve read suggest that the final shot, the one delivered execution style to the forehead, killed Rasputin. The autopsy report, these reports say, confirm that. The historians suggest that it’s plausible, due to the dose of cyanide and the locations of the bullets on Rasputin’s body, that any mere mortal could’ve survived in the short-term, but that Rasputin would’ve eventually succumbed to them. They suggest that when Rasputin didn’t die immediately, the team of assassins panicked. They may have assumed that Rasputin’s much-speculated supernatural powers kept him alive through all that. Historians speculate that much of what followed Rasputin’s demise, including the clubbing and chaining him to the bottom of the river was based on irrational fears that led the assassins to some literal measures of overkill.   

No matter the much-debated truth of the matter, the myth of the man who couldn’t be killed, and wouldn’t die, fascinates us so much that it comprises much of the reason we’re still reading and writing about him over 100 years after his murder.

The myth of the man who wouldn’t die also probably influenced the writers of Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street. For many of us the details of how Rasputin lived pale in comparison to the manner in which he was killed. He was the original Man Who Wouldn’t Die. As discussed throughout this article and Rasputin III: The Murder of Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, there is speculation, interpretation of eyewitness accounts, and myths surrounding Rasputin’s. There are some facts, such as those detailed in the autopsy report, and official reports, but are those facts? We might never know for sure, but the one thing we do know is most great story tellers don’t let facts get in the way of a great story.

1) The Myth. Some might say the folklore surrounding the tale of “the man who wouldn’t die” is the number one reason the fascination surrounding Rasputin might never end, but I believe it is a combination of all of the above. If, for example, Rasputin managed to leap through the strict class structure of his culture to the roles of advisor to the empire and Holy Fool, he saved the life of the tsar’s son, and he escaped death a couple of times, but he looked like Jimmy Carter, it might have affected his historical value. The fact that not only are the facts of Grigori Rasputin’s story a little spooky, but he looked creepy and spooky ups his historical value exponentially.  

The Russian Empire, at the time of Romanov rule, was so mired in secrecy that we will never know the truth of what happened during these years. The problem with a government that engages in secrecy is that folklore, myths and conspiracy theories fill the gaps. Yet, we do have to sympathize with the Romanovs for how damaging would it be for them to release information that when the Romanovs finally produced a male heir that he was constantly on the verge of death, until a “lower than vermin” peasant came along and “cured” him. It would do nothing but damage their cause to publicly admit, or historically record that crown, or the court, received advice from a peasant on state matters. When we gather all of the secondhand information together, and we couple it with the notion that some of the information we have about Rasputin, the Romanovs, and their relationships was likely spread by the regime that took over after the revolution to advance their own agenda further complicates any attempts at separating fact from fiction. Even if one tenth of these tales are true, they’re so wild and fascinating that we’ve been passing it down for over 100 years, and those who hear these stories will probably be passing them on for 100 more.