AMERICA ON SIX RUBLES A DAY by Yakov Smirnoff

AMERICA ON SIX RUBLES A DAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Less a narrative proper than a patchwork of comic monologues, this slim book by immigrant Russian comedian Smirnoff offers an abundance of often funny--if monotonic--asides on American and Soviet life. Smirnoff, who emigrated to the US ten years ago after a successful career as a comic in the USSR, opens with a bouncy account of his 1986 swearing-in as a citizen, mixing crocodile emotions (""Now that I am a citizen of the great country, it makes me proud to think of myself as one of America's people"") with broad humor ("". . .my first thoughts were about how my life would change now that I was an American. Would I lose my accent? I hoped not, because then I wouldn't qualify to manage a 7-11 store. . .""). This deft, silly blend sustains throughout, as Smirnoff adopts the hoary comic guise of the fool to simultaneously honor and poke fun at American jobs, food, crime, travel, health care, dating, and other sundries. But what distinguishes this fare from standard Borsch-Belt patter is Smirnoffs slant as a fervent anti-Red comic. No wonder that he was asked to perform before President Reagan; while many of his American jokes play on a supposed misunderstanding of Yankee ways, Smirnoffs Soviet jokes are pure malice on the order of, ""If you didn't like the [TV] soaps, your only other choice was game shows such as 'Bowling for Food' and 'Wheel of Torture' ""; or, ""Russian women don't get Oil of Olay. They get Lard of Olay."" Smirnoff milks his material with vigor and gets lots of laughs. It's a shame, though, that he insists on always retaining the mask of the comic or the sentimental fool; it'd be interesting to hear what the off-stage Smirnoff thinks of his fascinating acculturation.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1987
Publisher: Vintage/Random House