Comicus Erectus - more then just stiffies
A Greek, a Turk, an Italian and an American all walk into a bar...and so begins the story of an ethnic comedy revolution
"People always say to me, 'I am sick of that wog sh*t, you do, jokes about Monaro's and that's it'. Well we're not driving Monaro's anymore - we're driving Toyota Camry hybrids," points out comedian George Kapiniaris.
With almost 30 years of performing under his belt, George has seen many changes in not only the comedy industry but the way we are. As an observational comic, he knows that not only Greeks have evolved in who they are, what they do and how they live but also the mainstream. If he were to take to the stage dressed as Memo, off the Australian television show Acropolis Now, yelling 'oi chicky babe' talking about VIP entry to Medallions, well it just wouldn't cut the mustard... but secretly for me, it would.
And it's that evolution of not only comedy, of ethnic comedy, that got Greek American comic Basile thinking. And off he went to message George via facebook to tell him, nay, force him to do a show together. "Basile kept messaging me: 'come on George we gotta do a show together man! Come on George - you can talk about your yiayia, and I can talk about my yiayia'," explained George of the genesis of the show Comicus Erectus. After they agreed Italian Australian comedian Joe Avati would produce and perform in the show, they knew they needed to add another element to the mix.
"After our first jam session - that's making funny stuff up on the spot and not marmalatha - we thought who else are we going to get and I thought of Tahir, Australia's only Turkish comedian... probably the world's only Turkish comedian," he says matter-of-factly.
All four comedians will perform their own material and come together at the end of the show for a big finale, a song and dance number they have only thus far rehearsed via skype. The use of skype is another way comedy and the way performers come together has evolved. George says he is a fan of skype and uses it to speak to his grandparents who are all interstate.
" I am trying to teach the yiayiathes how to Skype and they're not interested. Then I said the magic words 'it's free!' and they're all over it."
In George's routine, his material ranges from Amy Winehouse to Dora the Explorer; tsifteteli to keftedes; not telling a Greek what to do, to religion and crying - not in that order of course.
"I am talking all sorts of other things I haven't talked about before. I am doing some retro stuff to show people the difference between what we were and what we are now. I talk about everything from the Greek economy, to yiayia using the computer - whatever land I live in at the moment is whatever I talk about."
But what I want to know is how do they remain straight-faced online and in person when you have four very different but very funny men together?
"Writing together can be fun but it can be a lot of stress and when you all click together it can be great. We do have a laugh but it's more like high-five laughing and then you have a couple of arguments too," explains George. He's the first to admit that all comedians come from different styles in comedy, different eras but together have joined forces to create an all-round show for everyone to enjoy.
The name Comicus Erectus evolved from the working title of ethnic evolution and pretty much popped into Basile's head after the artwork was developed. The poster for the show, sees a caveman Tahir, a '70s disco diva of George, a meterosexual looking Joe and Basile in a James Bond like pose. But the order had nothing to do with age, it had to do with how much hair was left on each comic's head.
"Tahir doesn't have a lot of hair on his head, I have like a map of Tasmania, Joe's got a bit more and Basile has a huge Greek version of the Donald Trump mop of hair going on."
George says when Basile first coined the name Comicus Erectus, his response was less than happy.
"I told him 'I'm not going to do a show about stiffies!' But it's more than just stiffies. If you get one in the show though, well done to you. Take it home. Use it and enjoy it."
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