- Yakov Smirnoff: "Happily Ever Laughter"
- Cedar Rapids: 7 and 9 p.m. March 21, Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE; $22.50, (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
- Fairfield: 7:30 p.m. March 22, Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, 200 N . Main St.; $25, (641) 472-2787 or Fairfieldacc.com
- Dubuque: 4 and 7 p.m. March 23, Mississippi Moon Bar, Diamond Jo Casino, 301 Bell St.; $27 to $42, (563) 690-4800 or Diamondjodubuque.com
- Artist's website: Yakov.com
If Yakov Smirnoff has his way, he’ll laugh himself right out of a job. He’s on a mission to save us from ourselves by spreading the gift of glee. Comedy has been the saving grace for the Russian expat who came to America in 1977 with his parents, no English language skills and no money. Armed with wit, grit and determination, the young man who grew up in a communal apartment in Odessa, Ukraine, worked his way to a $2.5 million home in Pacific Palisades. And found himself summoned to the White House to rewrite a speech for U.S. President Ronald Reagan to deliver to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. No wonder “What a country!” became his declaration of independence. Born Yakov Pokhis — Smirnoff is easier to remember — this one-time college art professor at his Odessa alma mater became a U.S. citizen on July 4, 1986. He was among two new citizens from each state sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger in a nationally televised ceremony at the Statue of Liberty. He jokes that he “felt like Miss America,” then turns serious. “The patriotism at that moment was probably the highest I’d ever seen in America. It was building up to that and building up to that, and I was right in the middle of it. Then (Burger) said, ‘My fellow Americans,’ and I was realizing he was talking to me,” Smirnoff, 62, says by phone from a recent business trip to Los Angeles. “It was a beautiful, beautiful feeling of being part of this community I was in.” Every step of his Cinderella story has led to his “Happily Ever Laughter” tour, which swings through Eastern Iowa this week. He’ll be at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids for two shows March 21, at the Sondheim Center in Fairfield on March 22 and at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque for two shows on March 23. The details