The shows and attractions calling Branson home are among the first in the world to begin the reopening procedures following the COVID-19 pandemic’s “stay at home orders.”
Late last week, one of the area’s bigger stars, Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, announced he would be opening his new 2020 show May 22, but he’d be doing it at a new venue, the Caravelle Theatre.
“The main thing is location, and I felt like this would shake things up quite a bit for me,” he said. “The opportunity came, the owners have been very friendly, and Marty Scott from ‘Liverpool Legends’ was very welcoming, so it just felt right for me to move my ‘big head’ over there.
“Yes, I am bringing my big head to the Caravelle.”
This season, Smirnoff is set to perform “about 100 shows” in the 2 p.m. timeslot at the Caravelle Theatre over the remainder of the season. He said he’s excited about opening his show this season, especially in light of the current state of the world.
“I think Branson overall is kind of like a test run for the rest of America,” he said. “They’re still trying to figure out what, when and how they’re going to open back up. I think we’re in the new frontier here, and the rest of the country can learn from our successes, and our mistakes, to make things better.
“Right now, nobody knows exactly how this is all going to go, and I think testing this in a smaller, friendly setting like Branson, we can go through the learning curve and hopefully be helpful to the others who will follow, and not just in Branson, but Vegas, Broadway and everyone else who has no idea how this is going to go.”
Smirnoff skyrocketed to fame in the 1980s in TV advertisements and films like “Brewster’s Millions,” and “The Money Pit,” as well as on shows like “Night Court.” He has also given command performances at the White House for several presidents and honored guests. President Ronald Reagan even called Smirnoff a “national treasure.”
In 1993, he became one of the most popular acts during the Branson boom years. After performing in several venues in Ozark Mountain Country, Smirnoff purchased The Yakov Smirnoff Theatre, located on Hwy 248, in 2004.
In addition to performing all over the world, he received a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, has taught classes at Drury University and Missouri State University, and last year, he earned a doctorate degree in Leadership from Pepperdine University. Currently, “Dr. Yakov” is hard at work on a new podcast that celebrates the “American Dream.”
As far as putting his new show together, Smirnoff said he’s planning to “kick it in” this weekend.
“It’s all going to be tailored to current events and the coronavirus,” he said. “They’ll get a big kick out of it. I don’t yet know how, or what they’ll get a kick out of (laughs), but my creativity is flowing and I think the timing is great to help people come back to laughter being the best medicine.
“There are no side effects, you don’t need a doctor’s referral, or Dr. Fauci to approve it, or to inject Lysol, and you can’t overdose on laughter. I think it has great healing potential, and that’s what it is. Humor for healing.”