From cold war to warming humor

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Any comedian will tell you, being funny is serious business.

You have to find an audience that will listen. A club that’ll host you. Of course, a big break that will sustain you.

But you also have to have material.

Two superpowers – with way different ideologies and nuclear weapons pointed at one other — seemed to work for one man.

Comedian Yakov Smirnoff came along at the absolute right time, mocking his homeland to an audience in America that needed a little comic relief.

But the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union fell, relations between the U.S. and Russia eased – at least for a time – and Smirnoff faded into comedy history.

But not into history itself.

He went to college at the University of Pennsylvania, and then got his Master’s in Psychology, and began to focus his comedy on relationships, and the power of humor between people.

Married couples, business associates, co-workers, world powers.

He says the relationship between former President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev was made better and smoother – because each had a similar sense of humor.

He put his comic and educational chops to work in a new special called Happily Ever Laughter.

It airs Saturday night, March 5, at 8 PM PST on PBS SoCal.