Six Minutes, Six Questions — Yakov Smirnoff

Six Minutes, Six Questions — Yakov Smirnoff


Comic Yakov Smirnoff will help reopen Branson with a new show starting May 22. Titled “Laughter Rx FDA Approved,” it makes reference to the fact that Smirnoff really IS a doctor — or at least a Ph.D.; he recently received a doctorate in leadership from Pepperdine University — and his prescription for recovery from the covid-19 quarantine is laughter.

Smirnoff, who last performed in Branson in November 2019, took a few minutes to answer these questions for What’s Up!

Q. What made this seem like the right time to return?

A. I escaped from Los Angeles before the lockdown. My thought was, I escaped from Russia; I need to escape from California before they put up an Iron Curtain and then you can’t get out. Branson felt like a safe place to weather the storm of pandemic. When the governor of Missouri lifted restrictions, I realized that people will need “Laughter Rx FDA approved.” As a doctor, I am prescribing humor for healing.

Q. What have you been doing while everyone has been in quarantine?

A. I have been working on my podcast titled “American Dream with Dr. Yakov Smirnoff,” doing interviews on Zoom with people who have achieved their American dream and how. I’m still fine tuning the concept, and I plan on introducing it at the end of the year or early 2021.

Yakov Smirnoff says he’ll make social distancing fun when he opens his new show May 22 in Branson.
(Courtesy Photo)

Q. How do your college degrees affect what you do in your show? How do you use that knowledge to be funny?

A. I have a master’s degree in psychology and doctorate degree in leadership. All of the elements of my show have scientific knowledge, gift wrapped in laughter. When my daughter was 11 years old, she said: “Dad, your show is like a Disney movie. You come to laugh, but you are definitely going to learn something.”

Q. How do you walk the line between funny and the reality of the covid-19 pandemic?

A. My goal is to make it funny. There is plenty of depressing information on television and social media. People want to get away from that. My material is comical, tasteful and sensitive. During the time when people are most depressed, they reach for humor to release stress. That’s how I grew up. We told jokes, to the people that we trusted, to release the tension. Something like: on Russian TV we only have two channels. Channel 1 is propaganda; channel 2 KGB officer tells you: “Turn back to channel 1.”

Q. What kinds of safety measures will be taken at the theater?

A. We are trying to create a fun, relaxed and yet safe experience for our guests. We will be using tongue-in-cheek humor to make the protocol more fun. We will make it just like the Soviet Russia. Before entering the theater, every guest will stand in line (6 feet apart) then there will be a gun pointed to their head (to measure their temperature) and then the KGB officer will ask them questions:

Were you in the proximity of somebody infected with COVID-19?

Are you over 60?

Have you been in Wuhan China laboratory? Etc.

Before the doors of the theater are open, everything, including seats, will be sanitized. Guests will be seated 6 feet apart between parties. The show will have no intermission and no concessions to maximize social distancing.

Q. Will you be in Branson all summer or also on tour?

A. Because of venue closings, my tour dates have been rescheduled to late this year and early 2021. I decided to stay in Branson and add more shows through the summer and fall. You can find my Branson and tour dates on my website My prescription to everyone is: “Laughter is not a vaccine, but it’s still the best medicine!” Come see my show. You’ll laugh your YAK-OFF!



Yakov Smirnoff

WHEN — Opening May 22

WHERE — Caravelle Theatre, 3446 W. Missouri 76 in Branson

COST — $47-$58 adults


Categories: Music