For his new Showtime special, the comedian went back to the Soviet Union for the first time since 1978

Comedian Yakov Smirnoff says that, yes, he was a little uneasy about returning to the Soviet Union for his new Showtime comedy special. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, when Smirnoff was doing stand-up in the USSR (he emigrated in 1978), he says he often would be censored by the government. ”Now,” he says, ”I went onstage in Moscow and did an hour show, and told jokes about Gorbachev, and they laughed! And I got out!”

His special, Yakov Smirnoff From Moscow… Idaho includes footage from his 1990 Moscow trip and, of course, bits from his recent concert tour, which had as its final stop Idaho’s Moscow. The jokes are about everything from his early days in the United States to his first night in a new apartment: ”We were sitting on suitcases, no food, no furniture, and we heard a knock on the door and got so scared — it could have been the KGB, or worse, a Jehovah’s Witness.”