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“In Soviet Russia” or “the Russian Reversal” is a type of joke created by stand-up comedian Yakov Smirnoff. The joke was extremely popular in the late 80’s, fell out of vogue in the 90’s, and has been given new life among various online communities.
Ukrainian-born American comedian Yakov Smirnoff was popular in the 1980’s for his act that used wordplay to satirize the differences between his new life in the US and his old life in what was then part of the Soviet Union.
One style of joke in particular was known as the Russian Reversal, or simply referred to as, “In Soviet Russia…”
Here he is, doing an ad for Miller Lite, and ending it with a classic Russian Reversal.
Yakov’s popularity waned through the 90’s, as did his jokes.
In season 6, episode 9 of Fox’s King of the Hill in 2001 Bobby aspires to be a comedian and meets Yakov in Branson, Missouri; performing his own twist on the Russian Reversal.
In America, you put ‘In God We Trust’ on your money.
In Russia, we have no money!
That same year, Family Guy made a Russian Reversal reference as well. In Season 2, episode 16, entitled There’s Something About Paulie, Peter gets a rental car with a voice-nav system. One of the optional voices Peter tries out is an impression of Yakov Smirnoff, delivering the following lines…
In Soviet Russia, car drives you!
Turn right at fork in road.
In Soviet Russia, road forks you!
In 2002, The Simpsons also referenced Yakov Smirnoff’s Russian Reversal in the 13th episode of the 13th season, entitled “The old man and the key.” In the episode, Abe Simpson and his girlfriend Zelda visit Branson, Missouri where they see a Yakov Smirnoff comedy review.
“In Soviet Russia review watches you”.
Common Russian Reversals
Althought the exact cause is unknown, the popularity of “In Soviet Russia” seemed to peak in 2005 and today overshadows Yakov Smirnoff himself.
A popular hypothesis about the 2005 popularity peak is that reruns of Family Guy, The Simpsons and King of the Hill were the cause. A related issue occurred over the history of Peanut Butter Jelly Time.