Yakov Naumovich Pokhis (Russian: Яков Наумович Похис), better known as Yakov Smirnoff (Russian: Яков Смирнов), is a Ukrainian-American comedian, actor and writer. He began his career as a stand-up comedian in Ukraine, then immigrated to the United States in 1977 in order to pursue an American show business career, not yet knowing any English. He reached his biggest success in the mid-to-late 1980s, appearing in several films which include Moscow on The Hudson with Robin Williams, The Money Pit with Tom Hanks, Heartburn with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, Brewster's Millions with Richard Pryor. Yakov was a star of the television series What a Country! And was a recurring guest star on NBC's hit television series Night Court playing a part of Yakov Korolenko. His comic persona was of a naive immigrant from the Soviet Union who was perpetually confused and delighted by life in the United States. His humor combined a mockery of life under communism and of consumerism in the United States, as well as word play caused by misunderstanding of American phrases and culture, all punctuated by the catchphrase, "And I thought, 'What a country!'" Yakov did command performances for 4 different presidents of the United States and was the featured entertainer at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in 1988. The collapse of communism starting in 1989, and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, brought an end to Smirnoff's widespread popularity, although he continued to perform. In 1993, he began performing year round at his own theater in Branson, Missouri. He occasionally still performs limited dates at his theater in Branson while touring worldwide. In 2016, Smirnoff produced and starred a PBS Comedy Special, Happily Ever Laughter which was named "PBS Special Of The Year of 2016-2017". Smirnoff earned a master's degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 and a doctorate in psychology and global leadership from Pepperdine University in 2019. He has also taught a course titled "The Business of Laughter" at Missouri State University and at Drury University.