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Uladzimir Kireyeu

A first-year Computer Science student

Learn English up to C1 level on your own? Done!

Uladzimir Kireyeu is a first-year computer science student who is also involved in English stand-up comedy. It’s his way of sharing rebellious thoughts with people instead of keeping them in his head. Vova comes from Belarus, where he independently learned English at a C1 level over the course of a year by talking to himself and making up words that don’t actually exist. After all, who would correct him? To understand what truly exists and what doesn’t.

icon button go to media Excerpts from performances and initiatives supported by Uladzimir Kireyeu

Let’s talk about stand-up comedy first.

Can you please tell me how your performances go? What do you joke about? What do the audience enjoy the most?


Hi, Alona! I try to perform as often as possible, currently four times a week when it comes to English. I also tried performing in Polish, but after a “massive bombing” I realized I should leave my Polish comedy to Żabka! 🙂
I joke about anything that comes to mind, but usually, it’s about immigration and Poland because it generates the most laughter. People enjoy listening to foreigners struggling with something they don’t have to deal with themselves, like karta pobytu.. Or, for example, about trying to reach the bank to find out why I don’t have any money in my account… I’m joking! Anyway, I get an automated response that the assistant is only available from Monday to Saturday. It’s Sunday, so okay, Poland, my bad! So, I call on Monday, hoping for assistance. And immediately, I receive the same robotic voice response: “Hi, this is Kasia, your virtual assistant. How can I help you?” Okay… I have a question, Kasia, what the hell were you doing on Sunday, you artificial brainless pile of junk? Were you attending a virtual church or something?

Hahahha! That's life! So, you perform in English. But what about your daily life? Do you also communicate in English?


I try to communicate in both English and Polish. But you know, you get better service in English 🙂

How about your level of Polish now? You've already lived in Poland for more than half a year. Has it improved ?


Yes, definitely. I completed a language course at our uni and now it’s much better than it was! I’ve been living in Poland for 9 months now and I got to tell you that during the course which was 1,5 months long I learned incomparably more than I did in 7 months. And no matter how well I could say back then, “Dzień dobry. Czy pan mówi po Angielsku?, it wasn’t even close to reaching a decent and cozy existence in this environment!

Tell us about the course, how was it?


We were being taught by the teacher, who made an impression of a person who never would turn her back at the student if they would be drowning in the material. At least, she would make them drown faster to cause less suffer 🙂
Instead of sitting with our backs bent over the myriads of tests we were to talk about various subjects in a very pleasing, but the most important meaningful way. I liked that class was treated as a team, rather than a bunch of random people walking in and out in their own ways. Sometimes we would go for a trip to the beach on the Vistula to have a Barbecue, or we would drink home-made Ayran that one of the students would bring.

That's nice to hear. Let's go back to stand-up comedy. What motivates you to perform? Where did the idea and desire for stand-up and jokes come from?


The reason I do standup is because I can finally share my thoughts with others. I don’t have to keep it all in my head. Moreover, it’s the best community ever ’cause you can talk to these people about anything you want. Ideas for my jokes I usually get when I can’t sleep at 3am and my brain can’t let me go.

If someone wants to perform stand-up, what should they do? What are the steps?


I have just started performing, I would love to get an answer for that too!

In that case, tell us how you started :)


​​I started when I was 16. First I just went to the show called “Stand-up at Kuba’s” in Belarus. I enjoyed it a lot. After some time I decided to perform myself, and, Sweet Lord, I was scared! I liked to perform in public all my life but that day was particularly spooky. I was shaking and trembling but when I was invited to the stage I relaxed and all that was gone. It was a kill, which I didn’t expect to happen but it was surprisingly pleasing.
When I moved to Poland I didn’t know where these shows took place. I didn’t participate in standup for 7 months, but then I heard of ATM, a young standup organization that holds open mics in English every Sunday at Bar Bazaar, so my journey has continued from them.

In your opinion, how is English standup different from others?


Jokes in English are supposed to be international, so you focus on global events and develop your intelligence and outlook.

I know you have a C1 level. How did you get to the C1 level? Was it on purpose?


The first book I read in English was “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. I read it from cover to cover and learnt every single word and phrase! I wasn’t able to speak to anybody in English so I usually had a conversation in my head. So sometimes I use phrases that don’t exist because there was nobody to correct me!

You said earlier that you read a book by Hunter S. Thompson. He is the creator of the gonzo style in journalism. This style is a kind of artistic expression, where the author writes and expresses himself absolutely subjectively - beyond the norms of journalism. Do you see this style as having anything in common with standup?


Yes, absolutely. The truth is, nobody really knows what’s going on, there’s no objective way to observe events and make conclusions. The role of a comic in society is to observe and put their thoughts on the rails of reasoning. However, compared to the new wave of journalism, it’s not enough to be expressing yourself the way you see it, you need to make it fun, too. Coming back to Hunter, most of his texts are cynical, nihilistic and outrages combined. Having read him for too long, you never look out on the world in the same way you did. It’s the same with comedy, when you start joking, you never stop thinking of things as fun, so sometimes your jokes are terrific, but this is the only way that comedy is given birth. The border between nihilism and comedy remains subtle, and the role of the comedian is to balance between these two.

Do you have a person or people who are role models for you, who help you understand where you are going?


You know, I want to build my own voice, but according to my background, I like Doug Stanhope and Bill Hicks the most. As for Bill Hicks, it is about being relentless, careless, outrageous and wild. If you doubt what I say, look at the way he dealt with hecklers, screaming them into the most terrific farewell they have ever had in their lives. Besides, he lived in the epoch of my favorite comedian, Sam Kinison, where doing anything crazy on the stage was already considered a comedy. He seemed to me as a comedian that merges classic comedian jokes with a proper setup and punchline with acting and yelling something crazy from the top of his lungs. It doesn’t allow you to get ever distracted.

My aim is to joke about what I think about this world like Stanhope did. I have to understand how to drop jokes properly first and then all that will become more accessible. You can’t discharge a pistol with no rounds in it, where pistol stands for what I really want to say, and rounds are my capabilities to make it fun. So I need to get some more rounds!

Best of luck with that! You’re studying Computer Science, right? Why computer science specifically? What is or will be your major? Why?


I’ve been doing CS since I was 12. What you can create with code is simply amazing!
As for my specialty, it will be Project Management. I’m a programmer and I think it’s easiest to learn programming online, while management is a field where it’s not so easy to practice. In programming you basically don’t need anything but a computer and software on which to write code. Management, on the other hand, is the practice of calculating available resources and working and cooperation with people, so I thought UEHS would be a good place to get this kind of hands-on experience. The remainder of this answer is in my CV. So it’s a kind prompt to check it out!

Nowadays it's hard to get around the topic of war. Tell us, do the comedians around you joke from the stage about this topic? We often get over stress more easily this way, and it really works, I guess. But where is the line that you can't cross in such an uncomfortable situation? Can you make jokes about this topic?


Comedians avoid the topic of the war on open-mics, because it’s not enough time to cover a decent thought about it. I don’t think that jokes might or should bring any relief upon the subject of war. Maybe some staff are funny to joke about, but it’s a different staff. What it should bring is probably more attention but in the way that standup is supposed to be. Gonzo journalism is applied here, uncovering real intentions of politicians and doing it in a funny way. I will joke about that too when I get any stage, but for now I’m just developing my own voice.


Thank you Vova for your time, for your ability to joke and think seriously at the same time, for looking at life from different perspectives!

Alona Trokhymchuk,
UEHS in Warsaw

Excerpts from performances and initiatives supported by   Uladzimir Kireyeu

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