|Exclusive Interview with comedian Yannis Pappas (Mr. Panos)|
Brooklyn, NY native Yannis Pappas is quickly becoming one of the most funniest, colourful comedians to emerge in the comedy scene. One of his characters, Mr. Panos, has taken the Internet by storm for Pappas’ hilarious, stereotypical, portrayal of a patriotic, ethnocentric, diner-owning, Greek father. The Greek comedian has since gone on to doing numerous stand-up tours and starred in television shows. We had the pleasure to chat with Yannis on Mr. Panos, his love of Greek culture and a tease of what to expect from his Toronto show in June.
Natasha Tsakiris: What inspired you to create the character of Mr. Panos?
Yannis Pappas: My mother had these two big Greek flags that she brought back from an event she had gone to and when I saw the flags it hit me. The character just wrote itself. I guess I had been collecting a lot of data just from being Greek or being surrounded by Greeks. Panos’ personality is partly inspired by my mother; she’s very patriotic. She’s Cretan; it comes with the territory. (Laughs)
The three most prominent influences for Panos are my mother, a friend from college who’s name is Panos, and this Greek waiter I met the last time I was in Greece who was telling me all these conspiracy theories. And of course every other Greek who I’ve met along the way. Panos is an amalgamation of a lot of people.
NT: How do you think the modern day Greeks in North America versus the Greeks in Greece are responding to Mr. Panos?
YP: A lot of Greeks really like him. My favourite messages or comments from people are the ones that say “this gave me a good laugh during a hard time”. The Greeks in Greece are going through a very tough time, so I enjoy giving them a little bit of a reprieve. But I also have comments from people saying how bad [Panos] makes us look. I think generally Greeks in North America have a little more of an objective perspective on things because we’ve interacted with other cultures and assimilated with other races, whereas the Greeks in Greece really haven’t. Like the Greek saying goes, “The camel can’t see its own hump.”
That’s why Panos is who he is. We should be laughing at people like this, we shouldn’t be people like this. Panos should be a point of comedy. Unfortunately though there are a lot of people like Panos. Comedy is an art form that holds up a mirror to people. You learn a lot about yourself. All you got to do is read the comments below the videos. He’s a comedy character yes, but there’s a lot of people who closely resemble him, his view, and his personality.
NT: You studied History at the American University. What prompted the transition to comedy?
YP: I was always the class clown. I was always hyperactive and seeking attention from strangers. I had lots of energy and lacked focus, so I was always making people laugh. Laughing is the most important thing for me. This is all I ever wanted to do.
NT: Who is your favourite comedian?
YP: I didn’t think of comedy as a career until after I graduated college. George Carlin and Chris Rock were my two biggest influences when I started.
NT: Have you ever visited Toronto?
YP: I have been to Toronto. I have a bunch of friends who live there. I love it up there. A bunch of comedians that I’ve met over the years live there. I’ve done shows in Ajax and Hamilton, and this past summer I did a show at Yuk Yuk’s in Montreal. I’m excited to be back in the T Dot.
NT: What can we expect from your show at Local on June 14th?
YP: We’ve been doing the show here in New York and it’s been great. I do a set as me, and then Panos comes out at the end. Panos interacts with the audience. When I do my characters live, it’s so spontaneous and so much fun. I just become the characters. I just get lost in it. The live shows here [in New York] have been amazing; people have really responded well. [Panos] is a little edgier and I hope people expect that. It’s not going to be the safest show. He’s a little racy. Anything can happen. More details on Yannis Pappas Toronto show.
NT: What was it like collaborating with So Tiri?
YP: It was great! He was a fan of Panos before he started doing videos. He invited me to do the video shoot. I just did a quick little cameo. He’s really good and very talented for writing all those lyrics. He has a great voice. He’s like the Greek Weird Al Yankovic. He’s super nice.
NT: What is your favourite thing about being Greek?
YP: There’s a lot to love. The food is certainly one of them. Music is another. Greek music is unbelievable. As soon as I hear a bouzouki or a lyre, it tickles my bones. I love when someone is strumming the bouzouki. We are very industrious; it gets passed on through our genes. We’re very philosophical and it’s part of our history. I dig that. I dig that we are people that question things and want to know the truth. And the pride! I love the pride. Although it’s our biggest vice, it’s also our biggest asset, as often talents are. We are proud people and that’s why Greece and its people have resisted so many conquering and influences.
I think the Greeks in Greece will get through this. Things get worse before they can get better.
NT: What are your plans for the future?
YP: It’s an interesting time to be a comedian because the Internet has become so main stream. We are planning to stay independent for now. We will be releasing a new comedy special that we will produce and release online, one by one. We’re going to be releasing Mauricia as a series to stream or download. For me as a stand-up, I’m constantly on the road and constantly touring, and doing stuff with the characters. More comedy!
By Staff Writer: Natasha Tsakiris