Making America Laugh Again With Yakov Smirnoff

Episode 29

Do you ever get nostalgic for a simpler time when stand-up comedy was king and Johnny Carson was the BIGGEST star on the planet, like I do? Our next guest is one of the MOST recognizable and talented names from the heyday of comedy in the 1980s. But unlike most of the stars of that era, he’s still active, going strong, AND committed to massive self-growth.

He went from humble beginnings as a poor immigrant not even knowing the language to living the American dream … performing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, starring in countless TV shows and movies, performing for four U.S. Presidents, and obtaining his American citizenship in front of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.
His mission statement is “to experience happiness and teach it with passion through comedy and sensitivity.” He has an ongoing quest for knowledge and understanding about relationships, and earned his doctorate degree in psychology and global leadership at Pepperdine University.

Meet Dr. Yakov Smirnoff!

Yakov is so fascinated with different ways to create happiness that his doctoral dissertation was called “Law of Laughter” (LOL for short). This was his way of looking for a formula or a law that most people were not aware of.

As a comedian, he was given a set of skills that allowed him to listen for happiness. Every time the audience laughed, he knew they were happy. Even if they were going through a difficult time … at that moment, when something triggered them to laugh, they became involuntarily happy for a moment.

Yakov realized that in his personal relationship with his ex-wife, laughter was there in the beginning, but it slowly disappeared, and he wasn’t paying attention to it—something he normally did with his audiences. “If they don’t laugh … the next day, there’s going to be a different approach to the routine,” he says. But with his wife … it was too late by the time he discovered what was happening.

This became his focus for the next 20 years—figuring out that “formula.” In the end, he was able to prove and defend his formula with his dissertation, and it’s very basic: “It’s having complementary opposites.” If you picture the audience and the performer, one person is talking and the other is listening. In situations like a political debate, everybody is trying to talk at the same time, nobody is listening, and that’s not healthy. You need the performer AND the audience. You need the complementary opposites.

Then, you need to consciously understand what the needs of the other person are because in the beginning of a relationship, it just happened spontaneously, because Mother Nature wants us to procreate! She gives us hormones that make us happy, we laugh, and have a great time. Then a year later, all of those hormones check out and we start separating and finding other sources of creating happiness. Unfortunately, most of the time, it’s very difficult to get back to the beginning.

Yakov is an endlessly FASCINATING, talented, and super smart guy. Did you know that he’s also an accomplished artist AND developing a residential community in Branson, MO, called “Yakov Towers”? Who knew?!