Ben Lewis takes what I call the Louis Theroux approach - there's a faux seriousness to his writing, trying to make out a scholarly aim that isn't really credible in the face of low cultural quasi-voyeurism. But even if his questions about minimalist and maximalist theories of Communist jokes isn't really concluded one way or the other, it's a fun ride. There's an approximately chronological approach, from the Revolution, through the Great Terror, World War II (and an interlude to compare with Nazi jokes), Eastern Europe and occupation, through to Glasnost, and a post-Communist review of the contemporary era. A great many of them are marcarbre, of course, but gallows humour has always appealed to me.
A Georgian delegation has come to visit Stalin. They come, they talk with him in his study and they leave.
No sooner have they disappeared down the corridor than Stalin starts looking for his pipe. He opens drawers, moves papers, but he can't find it anywhere. "Beria," he shouts down the corridor, "I've lost my pipe. Go after the Georgian delegation and see if you can find if one of them took it."
Beria bustles off down the corridor. Stalin carries on looking for his pipe. After five minutes he looks under his desk and finds it on the floor. He recalls Beria. "It's OK," he says, "I found my pipe. You can let the Georgians go."
"It's a little too late for that," Beria replies. "Half the delegation admitted they took your pipe and the other half died during questioning."
A (Polish) Party Secretary and a farmer are talking. "I've heard that you go to church every day," says the official.
"Yes, that's right," says the farmer; "I've been doing it since my childhood."
"I have been told," the Party secretary continues, "that each time you kneel in front of the cross and kiss the feet of Jesus."
"That's right. It's a Catholic ritual," says the farmer.
"But you are a member of the Party. Would you also kiss the feet of the leader of our Party?"
"Yes - as long as he was nailed to a crucifix."
A Soviet citizen returns from a trip to the West. His friends crowd round him with questions. "Is it true," says one, "that Capitalism is rotting?"
"Oh, it may well be rotting," says the man with a sigh, "but what a lovely smell!"
"And is Capitalism on its deathbed?" asks another friend.
"Yes, definitely," he says, "but it's dying a magnificent death."
"And is there any evidence that people are rich or poor there?" asks a third.
"They must be poor - they can't afford to buy anything," he says. "I passed hundreds of shops and their windows were full of all kinds of exotic fruits, delicious sausages and beautiful clothes, but there were no queues."
The British, American and East German governments have agreed to launch a joint mission to raise the Titanic. This unprecedented cooperation is possible because each nation has a different interest in the sunken ship; the British want to examine the hull of the vessel to determine the exact cause of the disaster; the Americans are after all the treasure that went down with the ship; and the East German government wants to learn more about the band that played until the end.