Friday, September 25, 2009

Don’t Cut Down the Nyets Just Yet.

I just read that Mikhail Prokhov, the Russian billionaire has just reached an agreement with Brett Ratner and the ownership of the New Jersey Nets basketball team to help fund their Brooklyn arena and take over controlling ownership ship of the team. As one of six Nets fans who live in New York City, I am excited about the team getting an owner who is a passionate sports fan and has the money to spend to make the team better. That said, the first thing that came to mind after hearing this is what Russian comic Yakov Smirnoff would think of this news.

Yakov Smirnoff ,whose popularity is as connected to the 80s as Steve Guttenberg, Mr. Belvedere and that #5 robot from “Short Circuit”, owed his career to Mikhail Gorbachev’s mid 80s Glasnost era of openness and Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” rhetoric which helped eventually bring down the Berlin Wall. It also ended the need for Smirnoff’s social commentary on Soviet society in the form of 1950's style “Borscht Belt” jokes. Smirnoff’s popularity may seem ridiculous and his material may appear to be outdated now, but back in the 80s , we couldn’t get enough of him and some other WTF performers of the day, like Howie Mandell(back when he had the jew-fro and the hospital glove on his head), Boy George(back when he looked like a woman and not Darth Vader after the unmasking in Jedi) and Jim J. Bullock( back when obviously gay actors had to play asexual neighbors on sit-coms that would rather hang out with a father who draws cartoons while wearing a hand puppet than his two beautiful twin daughters who wear nothing but short shorts.)

So, in honor of Yakov Smirnoff, ThinkFink hails the end of the ineffective Ratner regime and welcomes the new era of Glasnost in Brooklyn. I’m sure in 3 years, Smirnoff might be persuaded to dust his old act out of moth balls and do a tour of NBA arenas around the country. I can see him at the Staples Center performing before a Nets-Lakers game and it might go something like this:

“Thank you Los Angeles, you’re a wonderful crowd. Let me be the first person to say, Let's Go Nyets. What a country we live in! In America, you watch basketball players on TV. In Brooklyn, the basketball players watch you on TV. What a country you have in America! Back in Brooklyn, it takes four hours to wait on line for the bathroom at a Nyet game. In America, you eat hot dogs. In Brooklyn, dogs eat you. I was so thrilled to meet the starting point guard for the Brooklyn Nyets: Devon Denisovitch. I think this season the Nyets have the teamwork to make the collective unit complete its government assigned task.”

I had planned on ending this essay with the previous line and then I figured I would google Yakov Smirnoff just to see what he was doing with his life now. I’d like to picture him living with Paul Hogan and Mr. T in a large house in Miami where they argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes. Paul Hogan would hold up a piece of cutlery and go” You call that a clean knife.” Mr. T would grunt and go “Hmmm. That’s not a knife. That’s my salmon slicer. I use it to slice my smoked salmon. You know I love my nova and cream cheese on a bagel every morning. I pity the fool who can’t appreciate a good nosh. Mmmm.” Then Yakov would smile and say “ In Russia, salmon does not swim up stream. You swim up stream to cross the Bering Strait. How do you think I came to America.” And then they would all laugh and Paul Hogan would point out that they have a washing machine as they continue to laugh. I assumed that they would occasionally hop in their van or maybe a boat and solve mysteries or maybe go back in time and “put right what once went wrong”.

As crazy as my “Dream-On” like sit-com saturated thoughts may have been, Yakov Smirnoff has actually been in Branson,MO since 1992. He opened up a theatre and has been performing to a packed house ever since. Yakov Smirnoff went from Red Square to being a red-neck and I think that’s unbelievably perfect. He wouldn’t even have had to to change his material that much. “I love the country out here in Branson. If a giant rat scurries across your property you can shoot it. In New York City, giant rat shoot you.”

I hope the Nets get the funding for their stadium in Brooklyn and the deal with Mikhail Prokhov is finalized or else I might actually get to see Yakov Smirnoff perform before their game when they start the 2011 season as the Branson Nats.

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