Ivan Urgant is one of Russia’s most recognizable TV personalities. He has hosted music programs, a cooking show, game shows, holiday specials, and Russia’s most successful “western-style” late night talk show. He also acts in movies and is increasingly seen in advertisements.
Urgant was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) into a family of actors. His parents, Andrei Urgant and Valeria Kiseleva, were both successful Soviet-era actors. Performing, then, was in Urgant’s blood and something that was ingrained in him from a young age. With his upbringing, it is no surprise that Urgant pursued a career in television and rose to fame.
Urgant graduated from Saint Petersburg State Theater Arts Academy. In 1998, however, he received his first acting job in the film Hard Time. In 1999, he received a position on a St. Petersburg radio station. During this time, he also began to appear on television as the host of the local program Petersburg Courier.
Urgant later moved to Moscow to pursue other opportunities. There he continued to host a show on Russkoe Radio and, later, another show on Hit-FM. In May 2001, Urgant appeared as a guest on MTV Russia. Due to the popularity of his guest appearance, Urgant was hired by MTV to host the Vivacious Morning music program and in 2002, he began to host two other MTV programs, Total Show and Expresso. Urgant’s trademark quick wit and dry humor soon landed him multiple television projects, including People’s Artist (a reality contest show based on Star Search) and the game show Pyramid (based on The $100,000 Pyramid, a TV show popular in the US in the 1970s and 80s). He’s hosted the celebrity cooking show Smak since 2006 and had a recuring part on the popular annual New Year’s extravaganza production The Olivier Show since 2010.
2010 was also a major year for Urgant’s film career. It marked his first appearance in the Christmas Trees (Ёлки; 2010) franchise, playing the straight role to actor Sergei Svelakov’s bumbling comic role. They have reprised these roles almost every year since in new holiday installments of the film – some better recieved than others. 2010 was also the year Urgant landed a major role playing the bridegroom in Twists and Turns, where western film star Milla Jovovich played his bride and wildly popular actor Konstantin Khabenskiy, known for both comic and dramatic roles, played the man who steals the bride away. Urgant has also done more serious roles in, for instance, Vysotsky, Thank You for Being Alive and the 2006 film Him, Her, and Me.
Urgant remains best known for his television work, however. He received his own late-night television show, called Evening Urgant, in 2012. It was a first for Russian television, and some debated if the format would work for Russian television audience. Urgant modeled his television show after American late-night shows hosted by the likes of Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman and has had considerable success with it. Similar to its American equivalents, Evening Urgant opens with a monologue, followed by Urgant interviewing various celebrities and performing comedy skits. In some ways, this show was an outgrowth of Prozhektorperishilton, a studio talk show hosted by four well-known comic actors that used humor to discuss current events.
Urgant continues act, host, and increasingly star in advertisements as well. He is revered in Russia for his charming sense of humor and charismatic presence.
Trailer for Christmas Trees 5, which heavily features Urgant’s straight-man character.
Clip from Ivan Urgant’s interview with American actor Jared Leto
Advertising for Tinkoff Bank, staring Urgant: