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January 24: What a Country!

January 24, 2016

yakov-smirnoffComedian Yakov Smirnoff (Pokhis), who starred in a TV sitcom, What a Country! in 1986-7, was born in Odessa on this date in 1951. Smirnoff emigrated to the U.S. in 1977 and developed a comic persona as a Soviet naif appalled by communism, astounded by American consumerism, and befuddled by the English language. He became regular guest on Night Court, The Tonight Show, and other TV shows, but his career declined a few steps down the ladder of success after the break-up of the USSR. He nevertheless remained in the comedy business and bought his own theater in Branson, Missouri in 1992, where he has performed hundreds of times each year and presented other Russian artists, including dancers. Smirnoff also teaches “The Business of Laughter” at Missouri State University and Drury University. He had a one-man Broadway show, As Long as We Both Shall Laugh, in 2008. To see him in action (introduced by Rodney Dangerfield), look below.

“Powdered milk, powdered eggs, baby powder... what a country!” —Yakov Smirnoff