They hate me,” Anthony Locascio tells me as he laughs about the thousands of Greeks in Greece who didn’t take too well to one of his comedy routines that he recently posted on YouTube.
The routine in question, which has raised the ire of Greeks living in Greece and throughout the diaspora, has reached almost 25,000 views. But what confounds Locascio is why his take on the economic strife in Greece and Italy brought so much hostility.
“People in Greece have really started following me after I posted that bit in the last 12 months and I don’t know what’s going on, I haven’t really done anything to warrant it,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
“I put a segment of last year’s show online and some of the comments are really funny, they seem to like the stuff that I say about my pappou and nonno where I am contrasting them. But I do this other bit about how when you get approached by Greek and Italian service staff in each of those countries they are really lazy and the Greek people are just really getting on my case.
“They are putting thumbs down on the videos, they are going ‘malakas ise’ (you’re a wanker), you are full of shit.”
Locascio burst onto the local scene 18 months ago after giving up a well-paid, but soul crushing, corporate job to follow his dream of being a comedian. While making the NSW State Final for the 2018 Raw Comedy competition was a highlight, he views his debut performance at Sydney’s iconic Comedy Store as a seminal moment in his young career.
“That show and the first time I performed my first hour at the Monkey Bar Theatre in the Darling Quarter are probably the best experiences that I’ve had since starting this journey by far,” he says.
“Having somebody somewhere recognise that I’m doing well enough to be given an opportunity to perform at the Comedy Store allowed me to gain a notch of confidence. Honestly, you’ve got to take the good with the bad, the times you bomb and people not liking you. These are all part and parcel of the game, so victories like this are just as important.”
The Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival is now in its eighth year and is a celebration of the best new comedy talent. Locascio will be performing at the Factory Theatre, which is one of the premier events of the festival and the comedian was eager for another opportunity to perform on a big stage.
“It’s my first time at the Fringe and I’m feeling excited,” he says. “When I started doing comedy last year I thought I’d throw caution to the wind and by the end of the year see if I could do an hour to a big audience. This show that is coming up now is more or less a tidied up version of that show plus some of the better jokes I have developed this year. So I’m very confident and excited.”
Locascio was born to an Italian father and a Greek mother who is from the Peloponnese, and the comedian explains that for a while his Hellenic roots played the more prominent role in his life.
“I’ve had a stronger Greek upbringing than the Italian side due to my parents getting divorced,” he says.
“There were a few years where my dad wasn’t around so much. One of my mum’s cousins came from Greece to live with us to sort of help out. He spoke no English, he was as Greek as you can imagine, and he was essentially my father figure for a period.
“I could already speak Greek fairly well from speaking to my grandparents but after this guy became a central figure in my life I learnt to speak Greek like a Greek person would. I became very into things like Greek soccer and Greek food purely because of his influence.”
It’s not hard to deduce that Locascio’s title for his Sydney Fringe show The Worst of Both Worlds explores his Greek and Italian upbringing. However the 26-year-old revealed his show covers more than just his cultural heritage.
“In the process of writing the jokes and my bits, I’ve found that my life is comically dichotomous – in that I have these two opposing experiences,” he says.
“Yes there is being Greek and Italian, but then I was also an obese child and now I’m skinny. I worked in hospitality for a long time and then I worked in the corporate world. I also compare and contrast watching VHS videos when I was growing up to the world we live in now, with social media and those sorts of things.
“It’s really how I get the worst end of the stick when it comes to all of them but I present them in a comical way.”
One of the jobs that Locascio worked in during his time in the corporate world was as a liquidation accountant and it’s not surprising to hear him admit that being a comedian is better for the soul.
“Comedy has been a private dream but there has also been this parental expectation,” he says.
“I finished University and then found myself working as a liquidation accountant for years and years and throughout the whole time I really struggled to find any joy with anything I was doing. As you might be able to imagine, writing people letters that we were going to take their house was not the nicest thing to do.
“The whole time I was just writing jokes for fun until I accumulated a decent amount of material to try. Then one day it hit me, I said to myself there is no reason not to give this a crack. I didn’t want to be 35 years old and not have tried this at a certain point.”
But his comedy is by no means restricted to cultural humour.
“My better jokes come from general things that I observe as a human being as opposed to someone who is Greek or Italian,” he says.
“There is a limit to how far you can go conceptually with your comedy, if you just to stick to, ‘oh my dad did this, my mum said this and we eat this food’. As comedians it’s our job to tackle everything that we see and there is a lot more to the world than viewing it through a ‘wog’ lens.”
Taking off the wog lenses for a moment, Locascio’s observation about humanity is that collectives are kind of, well, dumb.
“If there is an overarching message of my comedy it is that group identity is flawed for the most part,” he says.
“Yes our heritage is something we should be proud of, but we should not be afraid or offended to make fun of it. The underlying fact is that we are all different no matter if our grandparents came from the same village. It’s only funny to lots of people because these things are inherently ridiculous and every single person, no matter what your background, is different.
“So there is no reason to dislike anybody based on any group’s identification that they might hold, based on any race, colour, creed or sexual orientation.”
Anthony Locascio will be performing at the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival on 26 & 28 September.