The Mystery of the “Friends” Boxing Kangaroo Poster

An authentic 1933 issue of the “Kangaroo Boxer” poster hanging on Joey and Chandler’s wall on “Friends”.

For those of you who are fans of the ’90s-early ’00s hit sitcom Friends, you’ve no doubt noticed that on the wall of Joey and Chandler’s apartment hangs a poster of a boxing kangaroo. At the top of the poster are the words “Кенгуру -Боксерand at the bottom “Владимир Дуров младший”. If, like many Friends fans out there, you’ve spent the past two decades wondering what this poster means, you’re about to find out!

In Russian, “Кенгуру -Боксер” means “Kangaroo Boxer” and at the bottom of the poster is the name Vladimir Durov, Jr. (Владимир Дуров младший), with “Junior” in parentheses. Vladimir Durov, Sr. (1863-1934) was part of the Durov family, who are Russia’s leading “circus family”. The Durovs became a huge sensation in the Russian circus during the Tsarist times and their reputation as the nation’s most legendary and pioneering “circus family” has continued up to the present day. Vladimir was a very famous clown and animal trainer who zealously supported the Bolshevik Revolution. Many of his performances mocked Tsar Nicholas II and his government and praised the Bolsheviks. Both Vladimir and his brother Anatoly referred to themselves as the “kings of jesters, not the jesters of kings”.

At least three members of the next generation of Durovs bore Vladimir, Sr’s name, and which one – if any – is depicted in this poster is uncertain. First was Vladimir’s own son, Vladimir, who died in 1912. Two other members of the Durov family, Vladimir Griegorievich (1909-1972) and Vladimir Leonidovich, followed in their uncle’s footsteps and became circus performers and animal trainers in the Soviet circus. Vladimir Griegorievich eventually became a People’s Artist of the USSR. According to author Miriam Neirick’s 2012 book When Pigs Could Fly and Bears Could Dance: A History of the Soviet Circus, a Vladimir Durov (possibly Vladimir Griegorievich?) performed at circuses at home and abroad and became a proponent of world peace, often releasing white doves over the audience as a sign of peace and goodwill. This Vladimir deeply loved his motherland and wanted to do his part to help foster friendship between the Soviet peoples and the peoples of the world. He used his performances to overcome international paranoia about the USSR and promote it in a good light, going well above and beyond the propaganda promoted by officials at the state-sponsored circuses to show the good sides of the peoples of the Soviet republics and how beautiful their cultures are.

The logo above the kangaroo’s shoulder is the GOMETs logo. GOMETs was the State Association of Musical, Variety Theater, and Circus Enterprises. This in itself was a division of the Ministry of Enlightenment, which oversaw the collectivization and regulation of arts and entertainment during the Stalinist period. GOMETs also administered the Central Administration of State Circuses (TsUGTs) during Stalin’s rule. Naturally this poster had GOMETs’s seal of approval and the event would be administered by them.

According to MyUSSR.ru, this poster dates from 1933. We can only assume that this poster is promoting a “kangaroo boxing” match held that year, or is just promoting the circus in general. In modern-day Russia, the poster seems to be famous for the same reason it’s famous elsewhere in the world: for being the “Joey and Chandler poster”! The choice in using Soviet propaganda and cultural posters such as this one to decorate the walls of the characters of Friends (yep, there were at least two others used to decorate their apartments) has been the topic of discussion on a number of Russian Internet forums and message boards.

Now that the two-decade search for answers behind this mysterious poster is over, it’s time to find another mysterious object from a TV show to spend decades investigating and researching, such as the name of the geodes that sit on the shelf behind Jean-Luc Picard’s desk on Star Trek: The Next Generation! Or maybe the psychedelic beads in Keith Partridge’s room in The Partridge Family. Or the painting on the living room wall on The Brady Bunch. The sky’s the limit!

Links:
http://www.circopedia.org/Vladimir_Durov (Vladimir Durov, Sr. at Circopedia)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatoly_Durov (Anatoly Durov at Wikipedia)
http://chasingprops.com/friends/joey-chandlers-boxing-kangaroo (A post at the “Chasing Props” blog about Joey and Chandler’s boxing kangaroo poster.)

(Poster image credit: rexstar.ru. Poster image used per Russian public domain laws, which stipulate that works of art become public domain 70 years after date of original publication.)

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2 Comments


  1. If anyone has any further info about those poster, particularly regarding which Vladimir Durov is depicted in this poster, please share it with us!

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