Since its arrival on the Tashkent comedy scene two years ago, the comedy troupe Million has become hugely popular in Uzbekistan, especially among the young.
But Million's offbeat humor, laced with sexual innuendo, has apparently prompted the authorities to usher its act off the big stage.
An official from the state agency Uzbeknavo, which controls Uzbekistan's entertainment industry, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on condition of anonymity that Million had had its license revoked. The reason the official gave on September 15 was that the troupe had violated "ethical standards" with their jokes of a "sexual nature," despite repeated warnings to eliminate such content from its act.
The apparent move to silence the eight-member comedy troupe comes shortly after Odil Abduqahorov, a high-ranking Uzbeknavo official, said the agency had received "numerous complaints" about its "inappropriate" jokes. In late August, Abduqahorov said Uzbeknavo was deciding whether to revoke Million's license.
Clips of Million's material on social media and video-sharing sites provide a small sample of material that could be deemed offensive.
A skit called "Archeological Discovery" depicts two 22nd-century archeologists who discover the corpse of a man who lived in 21st-century Uzbekistan.
"The man was single."
"How do you know?"
"Look at the palm of his hand, it's rubbed raw."
Other examples contain innuendo that touches on immoral and often taboo subjects such as children out of wedlock:
"You know everything about movies. Tell me, how do they call discs made illegally in the street?"
"How many children have you had since you got married?"
"So the rest of your kids are 'pirated children'?"
"Shahlo and I used to go the same kindergarten. We used to share a bunk bed. She slept on the top, and I slept in the lower bunk. I used to claim the upper bunk so I could visit Shahlo. Now we are both grown up and live in the same building. I live on the first floor, she lives on the second. We still play 'kindergarten.'"
"The 'girls' at Chilonzor crossing [an area of Tashkent known for prostitution] have left home without their parents' permission."
...and the tiniest of phallic references
"Hey brother, are you also wondering if it must be 'that' thing?"
Uzbekistan's "Hurriyat" newspaper has described the troupe's material as "cheap" and sometimes "insulting." The Uzbek audience, the newspaper wrote, expects more appropriate content from a troupe whose "shows are being watched everywhere."
Million, which consists of seven male and one female performer -- all in their 20s -- has certainly gained a large following. Its performances are frequently sold out, and many young men copy members' hairdos and clothing styles.
The Uzbeknavo official who spoke with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service said that Million's chief producer, Mirzhalol Qosimov, had officially apologized for any inappropriate content. Troupe leader Davron Qobulov declined to comment on reports that Million's license had been revoked.
Uzbeknavo has been active of late, introducing a tough new regulation in June that requires artists to obtain Uzbeknavo's official approval to record any new song or album.
That regulation, an Uzbeknavo official was quoted as saying in May, was aimed at "getting rid of silly songs."
A separate regulation stipulates that artists in Uzbekistan must obtain a license to work as professional performers.
Under Uzbek law, unlicensed artists are banned from performing in concerts, on radio and television, as well as at weddings and all public functions.
Written by Farangis Najibullah based on report by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service correspondent Shukhrat Babajanov