In the Soviet Union...Cliche question

What’s the origin of the internet cliche involving the Soviet Union? A recent example I saw at another forum involved someone mentioning a hangover they had, with another poster responding, “In the Soviet Union, the hangovers get over you.” I’ve also seen it refrenced much at What’s it from?

I think it’s a line that Yakov Smirnoff, a comedian, used. But I’m not sure.

Years ago, when Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff defected to America, he did a lot of jokes about the oppressiveness of the communist regime in the Soviet Union. A LOT of those jokes followed the same basic formula (in broken English, naturally):

“In America, you watch television. In Russia, television watch YOU!”

“In America, you go to party. In Russia, Party come after YOU!”

“In America, you can never find policeman. In Russia, policeman always find YOU!”

You get the idea. After a while, other comedians (especially David Letterman) began making fun of his schtick, and started making all kinds of utterly nonsensical jokes in a Russian accent.

“In America, you eat pizza- in Russia, pizza eat YOU!”

The line about “in Russia, hangovers get YOU” sounds like just another parody of Smirnoff. Even though communism and the Soviet Union are long gone, people still seem to enjoy ridiculing Yakov Smirnoff’s cheesey old routines.

I think this came back into the public eye when Yakov (or someone doing his voice) appeared on a recent episode of The Simpsons.

Which episode might that be?

And here is his website

Possibly “The Old Man and the Key”, where Grampa Simpson ends up in Branson, MO and there is a revue of washed-up celebrities. I don’t think the voice was really Smirnoff. The episode aired in March.

“In Soviet Union, revue watches you!”

Yakov’s signature joke back in his heyday was ‘In America you can always find a party. In Russia, the party finds you’ (meaning the Communist Party, obviously).

Or the parody of Smirnov on MST3K-
In your country, the men shave.
In OUR country, we wish the women would shave!

“In Soviet Union, stage is for performers only!”

Nah, it was when Crow T Robothired Yakov as a public debate speaker over a Finno-Russian picture they were watching.


Yakov actually guest starred on a recent episode of King of the Hill.

In Soviet Russia, cartoon character voices you.

In one episode of the simpsons, I believe the Canyonero one, Yakov Smirnov was one of the modes for the talking GPS system in their car. “In Soviet Russia, car drives you!”

I think that might have actually been a Family Guy gag.

In Soviet Russia, cartoon misremembers you! [sub]OK, I have to stop doing that…[/sub]

Actually, in all fairness, some of Yakov’s Soviet humor is kind of funny…like the credit card Russian Express (“Don’t leave home”), and Russia’s two TV stations: Channel 1, which shows nothing, and Channel 2, which says “Turn back to Channel 1.”

Of course, communism is long dead in Russia, so Yakov isn’t the man he used to be. He does have his own theater in Branson, though. And Putin brought back the old Soviet anthem and red star, so there may be a need for communist humor if things keep up…

On Fox’s highly under-rated Ben Stiller Show from 1993 he did a sketch about how great and all it was that the cold war ended, but that it had destroyed Yakov Smirnov’s career!

Then Stiller did an impersonation of him trying to make jokes like, “In America you can always find party, but, um, in Commonwealth of Independent States, um, you now can also be finding party…”