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Πόνος και γέλιο: Greece Finds Stand-Up Comedy Amid Economic Tragedy


THESSALONIKI, Greece (AFP-Jiji) — The crammed basement bar heaves with laughter as the young comedians take to the microphone, riffing on daily life in austerity-slammed Greece.

This is one of a growing number of open mic nights to have sprung up in the past few years as audiences find stand-up comedy in the middle of economic tragedy.

Ancient Greek dramatist Aristophanes — known as the Father of Comedy — was writing plays that lampooned the worlds of politics, art and philosophy as far back as 425 B.C. But stand-up here is a new art form.

“Ten years ago, Greeks didn’t know what stand-up was,” said professional comic Andreas Paspatis, 28, the emcee of the monthly Open Mic Thessaloniki, in Greece’s second-largest city.

“When I was booking gigs back then we would call the bar and when we said we’re doing stand-up, 90 percent of them would ask, ‘What’s that?’”

In Britain, successful stand-up comedians have a certain status, appearing on television panel shows and often commentating on current affairs and writing newspaper columns.

But, while Greek television features sketch and comedy shows, it has no stand-ups, and there are still only about 20 professionals in the country.

Many people get their first taste watching foreign stand-ups on the internet, says Ira Katsouda, one of Greece’s few female stand-ups, whose own influences include cross-dressing Briton Eddie Izzard and philosophical American Louis CK.

But the Greek crisis has also helped put stand-up in the spotlight and not just because of cheap production costs, says the 33-year-old, ahead of a sell-out show.

“Stand-up comedy is blossoming here. I do believe the crisis has played a big role in this.

“It’s a cheap form of entertainment and in these dark times — what I’m going to say is a cliche, but I’m going to say it — people need to laugh,” she said.

Enough of politics

In her routine for “Gluten-free,” touring in theaters in Thessaloniki and Athens, Katsouda, however, steers clear of politics and says most other stand-up comedians do the same. “The audience is sick and tired of talking about politics,” she said.

At the open mic night, the air is thick with sweat, smoke and laughter as the 12 stand-ups try out new material on a young audience, who have paid €3 (about $3.5) entrance fee and, in many cases, make their drinks last the length of the show.

With ages ranging from 17 to 37 and just one woman among them, the stand-ups include a schoolboy, four university students, a lawyer, a male nurse, a teacher, an unemployed man and three professionals … (read more)

via The Japan News

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