A hilarious Greek Tragedy

George Zacharopoulos, a biochemist turned stand-up comedian, is set to bring the Melbournians to laughter

Melbourne’s funniest and most euphoric festival will be up and running again from 25 March, inviting many local and international talents to put their rib-dislocating talent on display for a month. Whip-smart comedians from Australia and beyond, are gathering and forming a record-breaking menu of laughter around the city of Melbourne. There will be 559 acts, happening in 145 venues, by over 3,000 funny people respectively. Amongst mega comedy headliners the likes of Wil Anderson, Ronny Chieng, Dave Hughes, Adam Hills, Judith Lucy, Matt Okine, Nazeem Hussain, Fiona O’Loughlin, Celia Pacquola, Rhys Nicholson, Claire Hooper, Nick Cody, David Quirk, Sam Simmons, Joel Creasey, Em Rusciano and Tripod, will be Greek Australian sensation Steen Raskapoulos and UK based George Zacharopoulos. George will be performing at the Red Violin in Melbourne for a whole from 23 March, till 23 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

George didn’t always want to be a comedian, in fact, he had no idea comedy existed up until he came across the late George Carlin, a renowned American comedian. Back then he was still studying biochemistry in the UK. Before embarking on his stand-up comedy journey, he did a lot of not-in-the-spotlight jobs, all of which equally unsuccessfully. Five years ago, he became a stand-up comedian and since then he has been offering a great deal of laughter to the Britons taking the UK circuit by storm with his show, Greek Tragedy and his impeccable timing. Greek tragedy, is about him growing up in Greece, moving to the UK whilst dodging his mandatory national service with the Greek Army, amongst other things.

“Before embarking on my stand-up comedy journey, I did a lot of jobs as well as university,” George tells Neos Kosmos.

“However, I was always happy to be the centre of attention and have people listen to me, so I guess the inclination and megalomania was there.”

“I came to the UK in 2001 and did waiting, door to door flyering, football betting, worked at a credit card call centre, in insurance, played poker even, but I got sacked from every job I’ve ever had so I think I have a problem with authority in the force of management,” he explains.

As he was discovering comedians via You Tube, he was getting more and more into it. Later that year, he went on Gumtree looking for work at the personal ads section and clicked on a community forum advertising a comedy workshop.

“I took part, shared some of my ideas with the three amateur comedians who run it and got signed up for an open mic night on St Patricks day.”

“I did it and they audience loved it. The rest as they say was history.” he says.

The army has issued a warrant in case he ever goes back to Greece and his Mum still tells people he is a biochemist. This is in deed quite a tragedy.

“I thought ‘Greek Tragedy’ was a catchy title. A title goes a long way and in my case the tragedies are small and silly,” he admits.

“I hope people won’t think I will be putting on a Sophocles play.”

George will be presenting an hour of his best hits, mixed in with solid jokes especially prepared for the show itself. No woggy puns included, though.

“I still can’t believe we call ourselves wogs! It makes me laugh a lot because that’s a naughty word in the UK,” he explains.

“Greek stuff will be included but it will be done in a way that non-Greeks will find it funny and won’t feel left out, as I have only performed in English speaking people all this time.”

George is a native Greek, yet he manages to bend the language barrier with a hybrid Greek sense of humour that wins his audience over from the first minutes of his performances.

“My English has always been very good and I write all my material in English for English audiences so I don’t find the language barrier hard to break,” George says.

“I do find delivering the jokes a bit tricky sometimes as I know for a fact that I speak fast and people occasionally miss the odd joke due to my stupid accent.”

“It’s swings and roundabouts because I have also been told that my accent does help as I guess I sound a bit funny,” he adds.

Zacharopoulos was recently on BBC1, discussing the Greek elections and the series of events that followed, in his unique spiteful and to-the-point way.

“Being on live TV on BBC1 was an amazing and very valuable experience. Even though I became too patriotic and forgot I was a comedian,” he confesses.

“My appearance probably wasn’t funny, but Greeks are never funny about politics as all you have to do is mention elections and watch us go.”

To understand what happened in Greece, George believes, one has to consider the circumstances. Affected by his family’s and friends’ predicaments, who found themselves out of work in their thirties, he has implemented many examples and stories in his show.

“In recent years taxes have gone up but wages have been halved 60% of people under 30, my friends, are unemployed and live with parents,” he tells.

“Bear in mind, the benefits system is nonexistent and a lot of these people get nothing from the state.”

“This isn’t laziness, like the common misconception, it is lack of opportunity,” he stresses.

George is cautiously optimistic, but has also lost faith in the capabilities of what was the status quo before Syriza (Greece’s first left wing party to come into power).

“In many ways this is like when Obama came into power, but imagine Obama coming from neither the republicans or the democrats,” he says.

“Now is it going to work? Who knows. The real victory for this and any future government in Greece, is to rebuild the trust between them and the people, which means improving economy, health and general social welfare as well as debt. Certainly not an easy task and hopefully not another Greek Tragedy.”

George Zacharopoulos and his Greek Tragedy will be taking the Red Violin’s stage (14 McKillop Street, Melbourne) from 23/3 to 23/4, every night at 7.30 – 8.30 pm. General admission costs $20.00 and concession is at $15.00 (tightarse Tuesdays : $10.00). For more information visit redviolin.com.au. Bookings www.tixnofee.com.
On another note, Mighty Boosh, surrealist Noel Fielding (UK), Rich Hall (USA), Ross Noble (UK), Jason Byrne (IRE), Arj Barker (USA), Ruby Wax (USA/UK), Michael Che (USA), Miranda Sings (USA), Mike Wilmot (CAN), Urzila Carlton (SA/NZ), Neil Hamburger (USA), Paul Foot (UK), Deanne Smith (CAN), James Acaster (UK), Sara Pascoe (UK), Luisa Omielan (UK), Stephen K Amos (UK), Josie Long (UK), Nina Conti (UK), Milton Jones (UK), Mark Watson (UK) and John Kearns (UK) will be bringing the weird to the city of Melbourne as well, increasing happiness levels with a laugh overdose.
For the Festival’s full rundown enter comedyfestival.com.au or phone 03 9245 3700.