A widely popular Russian actor and clown in Soviet Russia, he starred in many popular films including Brilliantovaia Ruka (Diamond Arm), and 12 Stulyev (12 Chairs). In 1973, he was awarded the title of The People's Artist of the USSR, and he received the Order of Lenin, both in 1980 and 1990.
He was a member of the Red Army in the Winter War against Finland from 1939 to 1940.
In 1990, he was given the Hero of Socialist Labour award.
His mother was a garage supervisor and his father was a satirical playwright, which influenced him to become an actor.
He was often regarded as the Russian counterpart of silent comedian Buster Keaton.