Yakov Smirnoff got his big break in America thanks to Mitzi Shore, who not only put up the Soviet immigrant in her home behind The Comedy Store in 1977 but also gave Yakov’s father a full-time job, too. Smirnoff himself became a big star during the Reagan years, starring opposite Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson, recurring on NBC’s hit sitcom Night Court, and getting his own Showtime special and short-lived sitcom. What a Country! He also performed several times for Ronald and Nancy Reagan, including a headlining gig at the 1988 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. In the 1990s, Smirnoff found a new professional home in Branson, Missouri. He still performs in Branson two months a year, when he’s not back in LA where he’s a Comedy Store regular, or out on the road with his new Happily Ever Laughter tour. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it!