Tourists checking out the various Branson, MO, shows may see Yakov Smirnoff’s name on a billboard and say, “I remember him.” But what they may not realize is the famous Russian comedian has remarkable staying power.
Back in the 70s and 80s, Yakov was seemingly everywhere with his “What a Country!” shtick. “In America, comedians say, ‘Take my wife, please,'” hed say and then deliver the rest, “If they say that in Soviet Union she’s gone!”
Naturally, the collapse of the Soviet Union required a few changes in Yakov’s routine, too. He, like many other performers past their heyday, found himself touring in smaller venues, eventually coming to Branson, MO, that center of wholesome entertainment. He has been there since 1993.
In between, Yakov branched out in many areas, producing several CDs and appearing in many movies. Hes even had a successful Broadway show, “As Long As We Both Shall Laugh.” He has written several books and articles, including a regular column on marriage and family for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Visitors to Ground Zero in New York in the year after the terrorist attacks are no doubt familiar with his America’s Heart mural that stood there for a year. Even fewer people know that he has a master’s degree in positive psychology and teaches classes at Drury University and Missouri State University on that subject as well as on the business of show business.
While many people would consider Branson an entertainer’s graveyard Yakov has flourished there. Although many big-name acts have come and gone, Yakov is still there. What’s more, his Yakov Smirnoff Theater features not one but two shows bearing his name: his stand-up routine is still popular, but he’s getting rave reviews with his new Dinner Adventure, which has been called “the only dinner feast” among all the Branson, MO, shows.
The Dinner Adventure is the latest evolution for Yakov. It features high-quality Russian entertainment, with stars from the renowned Moscow Circus and the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet. While Yakov narrates the moving, patriotic tale, the emphasis is on the story and on the Russian-styled circus, which is part circus, part theater, and all entertainment.
This new development has added a new accomplishment for Yakov successful children’s book author. Those who buy a video of Yakov’s Dinner Adventure may also purchase a children’s book that echoes the plot of the show. It makes a great gift for grandchildren and an excellent memento of the performance.
What makes Yakov Smirnoff such a survivor? Why does his act continue to sell Branson tickets, year after year, no matter the state of the economy? The answer lies in his talent, of course, but also in his outlook on life. His work always begins and ends on an upbeat note and emphasizes the importance of laughter in marriage and in life. Perhaps it’s also because of his early years in the former Soviet Union that have made him grateful for all that America has to offer and eager to share that joy with others.
Shows in Branson, MO, are almost universally positive. While some may sneer at such optimism as “corn,” no one can argue against the sincere and moving Yakov Smirnoff’s Dinner Adventure. It’s full of love, laughter, and happily ever after.
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