Yakov Smirnoff

"Spendidly funny!" The New York Times

A thumbnail of Yakov's PBS Special Video

Thumbnail image of link to Paul Harvey's "Rest of the Story" about Yakov


Yakov Smirnoff is a legend in American comedy. After escaping communist Soviet Russia in the 1970s, he came to the United States with nothing but a dream. Without knowing the English language, Yakov began working as a bartender at the famous Grossinger’s Catskill Resort in New York, where he was able to tell jokes each night after his shifts. As his English improved, he quickly grew in popularity. He soon made the move to Los Angeles where the owner of The Comedy Store, Mitzi Shore, took him under her wing.

His endearing view of life through the eyes of a poor immigrant captured the hearts of Americans. He soared to the top of the comedy world performing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and countless other television programs. Yakov was even a regular on “Night Court” and had his very own show, named after his famous catch-phrase, “What a Country!” He branched out to the big screen where he starred in movies with Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, and Jack Nicholson – just to name a few!

Most recently, Yakov – Dr. Yakov, that is – has earned a PhD in Leadership from Pepperdine University. While his show has residency in Branson, Missouri, he continues to tour the country with his unique brand of comedy. With the heart of dreamer, Yakov Smirnoff has made the impossible possible and continues to inspire others with his love for America – “What a Country!” Yakov is happily married to his lovely wife, and he enjoys working to create the next big project. Keep an eye out for his brand-new podcast on ABC radio, look for him at a theater near you, and stay tuned to see what Dr. Yakov does next!


yakov leaning with shadow


yakov leaning with shadow



What's Happening

Yakov with LOVE

What's Happening

Yakov’s comedic style is firmly grounded within his personal mission statement “to experience happiness and teach it with passion through comedy and sensitivity”. As part of his ongoing quest for knowledge and understanding about relationships, Dr. Yakov earned his Master’s degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and his PhD in Global Leadership from Pepperdine University in May 2019.

Always a forward thinker, Dr. Yakov is in the initial stages of developing a residential community in Branson, Missouri. “Yakov Towers” will be a unique community that fosters the ideals that have made Yakov such a beloved comedian and artist.

Introducing...Dr. Yakov Smirnoff!

Dr. Yakov Smirnoff

Yakov earned his Doctorate Degree in Psychology and Global Leadership at Pepperdine University, graduating on May 18, 2019.

For the Press

Bio, Photos and other resources.


Yakov, the Artist

Dr. Yakov trained in visual art at a prestigious institute in Russia. As an accomplished artist, he has taught the subject professionally and his work has been featured in the New York International Art Expo. The painting that Yakov created in response to the September 11 attacks, “America’s Heart”, was displayed as a mural over Ground Zero in New York City. His artwork hangs throughout his theater and condos located in Branson, Missouri. You can view his art by clicking the link below.

Yakov, the Artist


Yakov has videos, books, artwork prints, souvenirs and other items available for purchase.

Back to top