Interview with Just for Laughs: The Ethnic Show’s Angelo Tsarouchas
A week ago I prepared for my second interview ever. A lot of things were different this time around. I’m 34 now, not 16 anymore, and this time it was me asking the question. How odd to be on this side things.
For my first ever interview I got to meet up with Angelo Tsarouchas, who will be a part of this years Ethnic Show at Just for Laughs. We talked world cup, growing up Greek, local flavor… and oh yeah, some comedy shop too.
Angelo was larger than life, super friendly. I met up with him at the lovely Hotel 10 on St. Laurent and chatted with him while he enjoyed an afternoon stogie, his wife and daughter not too far away.
Me: So Angelo, you are part of the Ethnic Show at this year’s Just for Laughs festival. Tell us a bit about the show.
Angelo: Well I like to call it the World Cup Elimination show, as we have representatives from each eliminated country (except Greece at the moment, Greece is still in it!) in the show. It’s hosted by Maz Jobrani, Erik Griffin is also on it, Paul Varghese, Mike Marino and Elon Gold are all on the show. I’ll tell you what I love about Montreal, when you look at the diversity of Montreal how can something like the Ethnic Show not be a hit? If you look at “The Ethnic Show”, sure we are visibly different, we’re professional stand-up comedians who work everywhere. What it really is, is a point of view, and I think the reason, (ironically so), that the biggest English comedy festival in the world is in Montreal, is that Montrealers get “it”. I mean everyone, French, English, Greek, Jewish, it doesn’t matter. If you live in Montreal you know what Couscous is, you know what tsaziki is, you know what humus is, and these things don’t have to be explained. If you tried doing this show in Omaha, Nebraska, good fucking luck!
Me: As a comic I can definitely understand having to taylor material to an audience sometimes.
Angelo: Well yeah, I mean someone asked me once “When you do a show in LA, do you put Canadian references in your set?”, and I was like “Fuck no, they don’t care about Canada in LA”. What I mean by they don’t care is they (Americans) are isolated. I mean there is diversity, but the diversity is packaged specifically for them. It’s funny how people will say to me, “Oh the Ethnic Show” what it really is, is a point of view. All comedy, there is gay/lesbian, white comedy, black comedy, alternative comedy, shock comedy, nasty comedy, there is a variation of it cause it makes it interesting, and makes people feel like they want to go to this show because I can get to know my neighbors better.
Me: Right and I mean with an Ethnic Show one can be pretty safe to assume that people are going to talk about their unique cultural perspectives, maybe riff on stereotypes, and maybe break some down.
Angelo: Well I’ll give you a great example. My daughters’ name is Olivia, but traditionally in Greek families you have to name your kids after the Grandparents, so I’m talking about the dilemma of having to deal with my angry mother who wants my daughter to be named Despina Tsarouchas… I think Tsarouchas is bad enough, so we settled on Olivia Sage (my wife is a hippy so there had to be some plant reference in there, Olive wasn’t enough…) Tsarouchas. It’s all about making things relatable to a point, the trouble with the grandparents, naming the baby before it’s born etc…
Me: So what is your favorite part about coming to Montreal.
There is a beat….
Me: I know your wife is around so don’t say the women….
Angelo: By not answering that I think you have gotten your answer. I love the parks (I’m so full of shit now). The “parks” (metaphor) are very attractive in Montreal. I try to explain to people, that the hottest babes in the world are in Montreal in July. And I’m not trying to suck up here there is no fucking better place to be in July then in fuckin’ Montreal. Restaurants, café culture is really something I like here. Something for everyone. Prince Arthur, Crescent, Ste-Catherine… great neighbourhoods… and I really enjoy the ballet in Montreal (metaphor 2) and then there is the food! Find me a bad meal in Montreal.
Me: What, aside from performing is the best part of JFL?
Angelo: Well comedians are kind of like lone wolves right? So what’s kinda cool for me is the parties afterward, where you get to just rub elbows with guys you haven’t seen in a long time, reminds people of stuff, and you never know where its gonna lead too. For a lot of us it’s sometimes the only time we get to see one another, it’s like the country club of comedy. Then there’s stuff like I mean Don Rickles… this could be his last show… I think to be in this hard business, I’m not going to say shitty because I love it, but it’s hard, it’s fucking hard, you are cultivating on stones sometimes, it’s so hard to stay relevant, and fresh, travel and do it, be a part of it, be accepted with your peers, there is so much going on, and we have our own struggles as comedians, inner struggles, and I think the fact that that man has been in it for so long, you gotta pay your respects, I think a lot of comics will be attending the Don Rickles gala…. I mean he is part of the Rat Pack of comedy, that era, one of the last guys and I think people want to have a chance to be a part of that.
Me: Here’s a bit of a goofy question for you… If your comedy was a beverage, what kind of beverage would it be?
Angelo: If it was a drink I would have to say it was a gin and Tonic.
Me: I like gin and tonic.
Angelo: well you see because it’s likeable, it’s tangy, and a little sweet….
Me: and the ladies love it right!?!
Angelo: And the ladies love it, and after four you look a lot better… I like GnT in the summer too. That’s a good question actually. Goofy yes, but it represents a personality if you think about it. A drink would be, as a comic, I’ve never been asked that before, and I had one coming up on the plane, and just thought hey, yeah, gin and tonic!
Me: Best and worst things about doing comedy?
Angelo: Ok. Saturday night, national art center, Ottawa. 3000 people. I’m staying at the Weston hotel in a suite. I do the show. There is a standing ovation at the end of the show, it is phenomenal! Now that same week, Wednesday night, Highland California, a Casino show. Staying in a fucking DUMP! At the Tuckett Room, no admission or cover, and they are booing me off the stage. I’m giving you the scenario how you can do this amazing show at the NAC and you can hear a pin drop and they are hanging on your every word, a limo picks you up, you feel like fucking Sinatra and then in Highland California, fighting, people from middle earth, and you’re getting booed off stage by a guy in a Gollum outfit. Doing the crappy gigs really make you appreciate the good ones.
Me: Last question, who are your favorites?
Angelo: Alive or ever on stage Mike MacDonald. Carlin. Sam Kineston. I admire a lot, like Cosby, and even blue collar guys like Ron White.
Go and buy your tickets for the Just For Laughs Ethnic Show running through July 17th to the 23rd.