My wife and I were in Springfield, Missouri, shopping at a hobby store one evening when we noticed a bunch of kids around the checkout counter. The father was speaking in some kind of Slavic accent as far as we could tell and he was packing a lot of craft supplies into bags.
The man in question had a beard, dark curly hair, and was none other than Yakov Smirnoff, the Russian comedian who has a mainstay theater in our hometown of Branson. We didn’t interrupt his shopping since he is a private citizen but we did appreciate that some celebrities can be normal citizens.
My wife and I don’t really go “gaga” or squeal like fan boys and girls over celebrities in public because we do understand that they are private citizens and deserve to be treated like normal people. However our observations of his family interactions left us pleasantly surprised and we wanted to go see his show.
We already knew that most of Branson’s shows were family-friendly. We try to avoid them because we are more prone to do family activities like mini golf or boating instead of sitting there for two hours and listening to a show. However after seeing Yakov Smirnoff in public we had to see his show.
He was polite to the clerk and to his children who were trying to pack the materials in bags along with the clerk. Smirnoff really does have a Russian accent and surely isn’t faking it although his children seemed to speak normal English without an accent from half a world away.
We saw his show a few nights later and were impressed. Even our kids laughed at some of his jokes since he is a father and worried that his own children would join the KGB. (He’s joking of course.)
We’ve gone to his shows annually since then because he comes up with new material. Many of the jokes became a history lesson for our children since they don’t know about the Cold War or what the KGB is so not only does it contain humor for my family but also serves as a lesson in modern history.
Who knew that seeing a famous Russian comedian in public would be a first hand education for my kids? Go figure.
Yakov Smirnoff may have been born in Russia but has since become an American citizen according to his biography on WMA’s website, his official talent agency. Smirnoff came to America in 1977 and was naturalized in 1986 and has acted with such comedic legends as Robin Williams and Richard Pryor. Smirnoff has spent time in Branson since his theater was built in 1992 and has never left.
Yakov’s talent agency was my source for his biographical information.