Yakov Smirnoff

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Comedian Yakov Smirnoff will bring his performance Yakov Smirnoff Professor of Love and Laughter to the Mesa Arts Center on December 15. Smirnoff earned a masters degree in 2006 in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He is an adjunct professor at Missouri State University and is currently earning his PhD in psychology at Pepperdine. He also starred in a PBS special Happily Ever Laughter, the Neuroscience of Romantic Relationships. Smirnoff will appear on Arizona Horizon to discuss his career and how to put the love back in relationships through laughter.

SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON," I'M TED SIMONS.MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO WILL NOT BE FACING CONTEMPT OF COURT CHARGES FOR REFUSING TO HAND OVER 50 HARD DRIVES FROM A SECRET INVESTIGATION.U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE SUSAN BOLTON AGREED WITH EARLIER CLAIMS BY PROSECUTORS THAT THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS PREVENTS ANY CHARGES IN THE CASE.ARPAIO STILL FACES AN APRIL 4TH-TRIAL ON CONTEMPT OF COURT CHARGES FOR CONTINUING WITH IMMIGRATION RAIDS AFTER A JUDGE HAD ORDERED THE RAIDS STOPPED.COMEDIAN YAKOV SMIRNOFF IS PUTTING HIS EXPERIENCE WITH LAUGHTER TO USE AS A WAY TO REPAIR AND REINVIGORATE RELATIONSHIPS. SMIRNOV RECENTLY RECORDED A SPECIAL FOR PBS ON THE NEUROSCIENCE OF ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS.

SOUNDBITE: I BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN ONLY IMPROV THINGS THAT YOU CAN MEASURE. JUST LIKE A GAS GAUGE IN YOUR CAR THAT GIVES YOU INFORMATION HOW MUCH GAS YOU HAVE IN YOUR TANK, LAUGHTER CAN LET YOU KNOW HOW MUCH HAPPINESS YOU HAVE IN A RELATIONSHIP. LAUGHTER IS THE GAUGE OF HAPPINESS.

SIMONS: SMIRNOV WILL PERFORM "YAKOV SMIRNOFF: PROFESSOR OF LOVE AND LAUGHTER," AT THE MESA ARTS CENTER TOMORROW. WE WELCOME YAKOV SMIRNOFF TO "ARIZONA HORIZON."
SMRINOV: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.
SIMONS: GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.
SMIRNOV: I'M SO EXCITED. THIS HAS BEEN AN INTERESTING TOOL FOR ME. I WENT ON A TOUR FROM DIFFERENT CITIES AFTER FILMING THE SHOW. I DID CHICAGO, BOSTON, SAN FRANCISCO. THIS IS MY LAST STOP ON THE TOUR BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR. IT'S GREAT TO BE HERE.

SIMONS: GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. PROFESSOR OF LOVE AND LAUGHTER. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE?

SMIRNOV: I TEACH A COURSE AT MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY, I GOT MY MASTER'S DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA. I DECIDED I WAS HELPING TO END THE COLD WAR IN THE WAR ROOM IN THE '80S. NOW I WANTED TO END THE COLD WAR IN THE BEDROOM. I SHIFTED MY FOCUS. THERE IS A LOT MORE JOB SECURITY THERE. THE WAR OVER THERE, YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN BUT THERE ARE CHALLENGES MEN AND WOMEN FACE IN RELATIONSHIPS SO THAT'S WHAT I DECIDED TO DO. NOTICE THAT LAUGHTER IS A GAUGE IN THE BEGINNING OF THE RELATIONSHIP EVERYONE EXPERIENCES IT DURING THE HONEYMOON STAGE. IF THERE WAS NO LAUGHTER IN THE HONEYMOON STAGE, MOST PEOPLE WOULDN'T CONTINUE THE RELATIONSHIP. THEN THEY GET MARRIED AND LIVED TOGETHER. WHEN THERE IS TROUBLE IN PARADISE, LAUGHTER IS FIRST THING TO GO, SECOND, INTIMACY AND THIRD THING IS YOUR HOUSE, IN THAT ORDER.

TED SIMONS: I'M TRYING TO FIGURE THIS OUT. YOU ARE THE COUNTRY GUY, THE GUY FROM BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN TALKING ABOUT WHAT A TREMENDOUS COUNTRY THIS IS BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT USED TO ALL THE ADVANTAGES AND OPPURTUNITIES OF AMERICA. WHAT GOT YOU STARTED ON THIS?

SMIRNOV: THE COLD WAR ENDED 1991 AND DAVID LETTERMAN HAD A LIST OF TOP TEN THINGS THAT NOW WILL CHANGE. AND I MADE NUMBER ONE ON THE LIST, YAKOV SMIRNOFF WOULD BE OUT OF WORK I THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY. 6 MONTHS LATER, IT WASN'T. I STARTED TO LOOK FOR A PALCE WHERE THEY DID NOT KNOW THE SOVIET UNION COLLAPSED. I ENDED UP IN BRANSON, MISSOURI. THEY STILL DON'T KNOW AND I'M NOT TELLING.IT WAS A BLESSING IN DISGUISE BECAUSE NOW I HAVE MY OWN 2000 SEAT THEATER THERE. IT BECAME THE LABORATORY OF LAUGHTER. UNFORTUNATELY, I WENT FOR A DIVORCE SHORTLY AFTER MOVING TO BRANSON. MAYBE THAT WAS ONE OF THE REASONS. I STARTED NOTICING, FIRST MY OWN EXPERIENCE THAT IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS SO MUCH LAUGHTER AND SLOWLY IT DIMINISHED AND WENT AWAY, AND THEN THERE WAS NONE TOWARD THE END OF THE RELATIONSHIP. IT BECAME A THOUGHT BECAUSE AS A COMEDIAN I USED LAUGHTER TO GAUGE HOW IS MY AUDIENCE? ARE THEY HAPPY OR UNHAPPY? THAT'S HOW I CONTINUED TO PERFORM. IN MARRIAGE, I DIDN'T THINK IT WAS POSSIBLE TO USE THAT SAME TOOL. NOW I BELIEVE IT IS. I START ASKING PEOPLE. I ASK OVER 4.5 MILL I DON'T MEAN PEOPLE AT MY THEATER, HOW MANY OF YOU REMEMBER LAUGHTER BEING PART OF THE HONEYMOON STAGE. EVERYONE APPLAUDS. YOU ASK, HAS ANYONE HAD A HONEYMOON STAGE WITHOUT LAUGHTER? NO ONE. GOD GAVE ME THE ABILITY TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH. IN MARRIAGE, I COULDN'T SUSTAIN IT. THAT'S WHAT GOT ME ON THIS PATH.

TED SIMONS: YOU ARE STUDYING THIS. YOU HAVE A MASTER'S AT PENN, PHD AT PEPPERDINE. THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS INCLUDING THE IDEA OF LAUGHTER HAVING A SPECIFIC FORMULA.

SMIRNOV: VERY MUCH SO. WHEN YOU ARE LOOKING AT HOW I CREATE LAUGHTER, TOMORROW, I'M AT MESA ART CENTER, AND I WALK ON STAGE FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF, I KNOW EXACTLY HOW I CREATE LAUGHTER WITH THE AUDIENCE. IT'S A SPECIFIC ROLE. I'M TAKING A LEADERSHIP ROLE. I TAKE THEM ON A JOURNEY. THEY FOLLOW ME. THEY GIVE ME SUPPORT AND FEEDBACK. I MONITOR IT EVERY SECOND. I BELIEVE THAT IN THE BEGINNING OF THE RELATIONSHIP, THAT'S WHAT STRENGTHENS IT IS THAT WE KEEP DOING THINGS FOR EACH OTHER THAT MAKE THE OTHER PERSON HAPPY. THAT'S WHAT I FOCUS ON. THAT'S WHAT I DO. HUMOR TRIGGERS THE LAUGHTER. SO I BELIEVE IN THE BEGINNING OF THE RELATIONSHIP, FOCUSING ON THE HAPPINESS OF THE OTHER PERSON WE LATER STOP DOING.


TED SIMONS: IN TERMS OF YOUR FORMULA, SOUNDS AS IF THERE HAS TO BE A CREATOR OF THE HUMOR, AND THERE NEEDS TO BE AN APPRECIATOR OF THE HUMOR, CORRECT?

SMIRNOV: VERY MUCH SO. VERY MUCH SO. THEY CAN FLIP-FLOP. IT'S NOT CONSTANTLY ONE OR THE OTHER, BUT THE WORDS, I USE THE WORD "GIFT. GIVE IMPORTANCE, FUN AND TIME. THAT'S THE FORMULA. IT'S IN MY PBS SPECIAL. I EXPLAIN IT CLEARLY THERE. WHAT YOU DO IN THE BEGINNING OF THE RELATIONSHIP, YOU GIVE THE FUN AND TIME AND THE OTHER PERSON RECIEVES IT AND APPRECIATES IT AND LAUGHTER IS A BY-PRODUCT OF THAT.

TED SIMONS: ANOTHER FORMULA I THINK YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT, ONE NEEDS TO BE IN A THINKING MODE AND SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS TO BE IN A FEELING MODE. IF YOU ARE BOTH IN THE THINKING MOOD OR BOTH IN THE FEELING MODE --

SMIRNOV: YOU CLASH. WHEN TWO PEOPLE ARE THINKING, THEY CLASH. WHEN TWO PEOPLE ARE FEELING, THEY HANG OUT AND NOTHING HAPPENS, SO ONE OF EACH IS PERFECT. YOU CAN SHIFT GOING BACK AND FORTH, BE YOU HAVE TO SUSTAIN IT.
TED SIMONS: INTERESTING. YOU HAVE STUDIED THIS. THE NEUROSCIENCE. YOU ARE GETTING INTO BRAIN CHEMISTRY HERE?

SMIRNOV: VERY MUCH SO. THERE IS SO MUCH INFORMATION OUT THERE. WHEN THE WOMAN IS SLEEPING, ONLY 10% OF ELECTRICAL ACTIVITY IN HER BRAIN IS SHUT DOWN. WOMAN SLEEPING, 90% ALERT, WHICH IS A SCARY THOUGHT. DESIGNED BY NATURE SO IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, SHE HEARS THE BABY CRYING. THAT'S HER ROLE. WHEN MAN IS SLEEPING, 70% OF ELECTRICAL ACTIVITY IN THE BRAIN IS SHUT DOWN. AT THAT POINT MAN SWITCHES TO NATURAL GAS, WHICH IS HIS ROLE. THAT'S WHERE THE HUMOR COMES FROM. IT'S REAL STUFF.

TED SIMONS: YOU TALK ABOUT WOMEN HAVING BETTER PERIPHERAL VISION BECAUSE THEY ARE THE GATHERS. MEN FOCUS BETTER THIS WAY.

SMIRNOV: BECAUSE WE ARE HUNTERS. THE PSYCHOLOGIST IN SWEDEN DISCOVERED THAT WOMEN HAVE BETTER EPISODIC MEMORY. THEY REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED, WHEN IT HAPPENED AND WHO DID IT MUCH BETTER THAN MEN REMEMBER. SO IF NFL JUST HIRED THEIR FIRST FEMALE REFEREE, SHE'S GOING TO DO A MUCH BETTER JOB. SHES GOING TO BE PULLING FLAGS FOR PENALTIES THE TEAM COMMITTED YEARS AGO.

TED SIMONS: NO ONE CAN REMEMBER WHAT THE PENALTY WAS FOR.

SMIRNOV: YOU HAVE BEEN THERE.

TED SIMONS: IT SOUNDS FASCINATING, BUT, WHEN YOU DO COUNSELING AND YOU DO WORKSHOPS AND THINGS LIKE THIS, BECAUSE MEN AND WOMEN ARE SO DIFFERENT, DO YOU HAVE TO APPROACH THIS DIFFERENTLY?

SMIRNOV: VERY MUCH SO. IN MY SHOW, YOU WILL SEE THAT I NORMALLY SHARE THE FACTS, JUST THE FACTS. THEN I MAKE HUMOR AND JOKES ABOUT THIS. MOST OF THE TIME HUMOR IS ABOUT MEN. YOU CAN'T MAKE JOKES, REALLY. IT'S INTERESTING THAT IF YOU MAKE JOKES ABOUT WOMEN, MEN GET VERY PROTECTIVE. WOMEN GET VERY PROTECTIVE. YOU CAN'T WIN, BUT IF YOU MAKE JOKES ABOUT GUYS, NO PROBLEM.

SMIRNOV: IT'S HONEYMOONERS. THE WIVES ARE ALWAYS IN CONTROL AND THE MEN ARE DOOFUSES. YOU ARE FROM UKRAINE? HAVE YOU BEEN BACK?

SMIRNOV: I WENT BACK. I WAS THERE TWO MONTHS AGO. I GO PERIODICALLY TO SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING. IT'S AN INTERESTING SCENARIO, YOU KNOW. IT WAS FORMER SOVIET UNION. NOW THEY DON'T LIKE PUTIN BECAUSE HE SHOOTS MISSILES AT THEM. THE HUMOROUS PART IS THAT ALL OF THE SOVIET TECHNOLOGY IS SO OUT DATED THAT THEY HAVE SHOT THE MISSILE AND THEY HAVE TO WATCH CNN TO SEE WHERE IT LANDED. IT KEEPS ME, THE NEW SITUATION WITH TRUMP AND PUTIN'S GOING TO BE -- RELATIONSHIPS WILL BE INTERESTING TO WATCH THEM.WHAT'S HAPPENING IS INITIALLY WHEN I STARTED DISCOVERING THIS, REAGAN AND GORBACHEV, THEY WERE LAUGHING TOGETHER. THAT WAS A GREAT THING. THEY WERE ABLE TO FIND A PATTERN OF THINKER, FEELER, PERFORMER, AUDIENCE, WHATEVER IT IS, AND IT WAS WORKING. IT'S TOTALLY UNIVERSAL. THEN YOU COULD SEE THEIR LAUGHTER WAS A GAUGE. WHEN THE LAUGHTER GOES AWAY AND PUTIN AND OBAMA WERE NOT LAUGHING AT ALL, THAT WASN'T HAPPENING. WE'LL SEE WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH TRUMP AND PUTIN.

TED SIMONS: IT'S GOOD TO HAVE YOU. HOW OFTEN DO PEOPLE COME UP TO YOU AND SAY, WHAT A COUNTRY?
SMIRNOV: FAIRLY OFTEN.



TED SIMONS: DOES IT EVER GET OLD?

SMIRNOV: NO. I HAVE BEEN SO LUCKY TO BE -- TO HAVE A CONTRIBUTION. PEOPLE USE THAT PHRASE AND I BELIEVE THAT PHRASE IS LEGIT. I HAD A CONVERSATION WITH YOUR NEXT GUEST BACKSTAGE.WE WERE TALKING ABOUT VOTING. 55% OF PEOPLE WENT TO VOTE. IN RUSSIA, VOTING WAS MANDATORY WHEN I GREW UP IN THE SOVIET UNION. 100% BUT ONLY ONE PERSON ON THE BALLOT. WHEN YOU HAVE CHOICES, YOU NEED TO VOTE.
TED SIMONS: WE LIKE TO THINK THAT AROUND HERE AS WELL. GOOD TO MEET YOU. CONGRATULATIONS ON AN INTERESTING CAREER. YOU HAVE AN INTERESTING CAREER. AND GOOD LUCK IN THE FUTURE.
SMIRNOV: COME SEE THE SHOW. YOU WILL LAUGH YOUR YAKOV.
TED SIMONS: GOOD TO SEE YOU.
SMIRNOV: YOU BET.

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