Yianni Afgisilaou’s “Comelody” has been a highlight of this years’ Melbourne Comedy Festival.
The mercurial comic starred in “Comelody,” a belly-aching, one-man show which featured a raucous melting pot of stand-up comedy infused with musical effects, sound effects, and rueful comical observation.
I recently sat down for a chat with Afgisilaou, enjoyed a delightful Greek coffee and walked away impressed.
Afgisilaou is a highly intelligent, self-effacing, humble and reflective comic who is not afraid to take artistic risks.
Comedy is a tough gig, particularly when you’re 12,000 kilometres away from home. The Melbourne-raised, London-based comedian has been able to sustain a burgeoning career as a comic.
From humble beginnings as a mobile disc jockey plugging the weddings and parties circuit in suburban Melbourne, Afgisilaou has forged a successful career as a stand up comedian in the United Kingdom with regular television appearances on the Comedy Channel and on Britain’s ITV television network.
London is his home now. He fits in well in London although, as he say rightfully says, “London is not England” and he is ever cognizant of class distinctions within the United Kingdom.
However he is chuffed that Londoners, “particularly in the winter months”, says Afgisilaou, are big on consuming their comedy (and not just their local pint).
He then regales me with stories of how he played in an Aussie Rules team in London for many years.
London’s thriving artistic landscape has been a constant source of inspiration for him.
“The Artic Monkeys are fun, they’re young, and their not contrived”, Afgisilaou tells me, as we discuss where he draws inspiration for the comic persona that he has created.
The softly-spoken, North Melbourne football club fan – “Dad liked the Greek blue and white stripes on their jumper” – belies the fact that this Hawthorn lad has worked hard at his craft.
Afgisilaou recalls how he took mime lessons in London in order to appreciate the power of a facial gesture, a stance, or a body pose on an audience.
Mime is just one of an arsenal of tricks that Afgisilaou has studiously cultivated as a way of successfully con-veying his muse – and mesmerizing his audience – in the process.
Never a fan of specifically “Greek” comedy he cringes at the Greek stereotypes propagated, in the main, by Australian Greeks.
However he has a grudging admiration for Mark Mitchell’s portrayal of “Con the Fruiter” and “Marika.”
Ultimately, “I’m a story-teller”, says Afgisilaou, “and I like to talk about relationships, families. My current show is really telling funny stories set to music.”
Afgisilaou has travelled widely and mesmerized grateful audiences in some intriguing places.
“ I loved the Johannesburg crowd”, he says, about playing at the aptly-titled “Heavyweight Comedy Jam” in front of a crowd of 4,000 people.
What struck him was that the home-town Johannesburg comedians would make wry in-jokes about Zimbabwe.
I asked him about whether he felt safe in South Africa and he noted that he and his comedic cohorts were constantly provided with a driver who kept the traveling band of comedians out of harm’s way.
However his best gigs ever overseas were on the the Falkland Islands.
While I expected that Afgisilaou would have been flown out in a British Army Gulf Stream jet, he talks of enduring a twenty-three hour flight from hell on “Orion Air” to get to the Falklands from London.
“Mate, no food, just a stop-over for fuel on a tiny island called Ascencion Island, which apparently only exists for the purpose of refueling aeroplanes.”
It was worth it ; Yianni made a big impression in the Falkland Islands.