July 12th, 2012

Q&A with Yannis Pappas

The hilarious Yannis Pappas and his wildly popular alter ego, “Maurica,” are returning to Carolines on Broadway for a full weekend of laughter, with shows kicking off this Thursday and running through Sunday.  Born and raised in Brooklyn, Yannis has sold out shows all over the world.  He was recently praised by The Wall Street Journal as a “must see” comedian.  He has become an internet sensation with his characters, including the aforementioned “Maurica” and “Mr. Panos.”  He also co-hosts a podcast with fellow comedian Nate Bargatze called IT COULD BE BETTER.  We had a chance to catch up with Yannis earlier this week.  Here’s what he had to say…

 

You started writing before you started comedy, what inspired the transition?

I actually started doing stand up. The first show I ever did was at Carolines– believe it or not– over ten years ago. I did five minutes and did great because all my friends and family were there. After that, I bombed for the next many years learning how to do comedy, but on that night I thought i was going to be a star in a week.   Having done my first show at Carolines it has been a absolute pleasure to be selling out so many shows this year there so many years later. It’s kind of like a fairy tale dream thus far.  

I have written a lot for myself and others and I just enjoy always thinking of what might be funny or provoking and putting it out there.

You were born and raised in NYC, and a lot of your characters like Mauricia, Mr.Panos, and Sneaker Keeper are all very urban characters. Are they based off people you grew up with, or reflections of aspects of your upbringing?

they are aggressively New York characters for sure.  NYC is in my veins, I have a Woody Allen type love affair with this city. It’s really no one specific, I culled the inspiration from many different people, I guess.  If you grow up in NYC especially in the 80′s and 90′s there is very little you haven’t seen or met.

You worked as a social worker for a few years after a traumatic event. Did those years give you material? What inspired you to eventually go back into comedy?

Wow, you did your research! Yeah I took pretty much two years off from pursing comedy to do 9/11 disaster relief and to work with the formerly homeless and mentally ill. It was all a very humbling and educational time for me. Everyone should have to do some type of social service as a duty to society. It should be like paying taxes. I believe that. It would make kids a lot more well rounded coming out of college.  

The traumatic event you refer to really did change my life and changed my career trajectory. I really had a fast start in comedy and it changed everything instantly.  I didn’t want to continue comedy until I knew why I was doing it.  Life is a sloppy ass journey.  Comedian Donnell Rawlings is really the guy that gave me my new start by providing me with an opportunity to perform every week. Then he took me on the road and that’s really when i started comedy again and really for the first time. I will always be grateful to him for that.

Do you prefer stand up or online sketches?

I really do love it all, however stand-up is sacred to me.  Live stand-up comedy is magical, there’s nothing like being in the room when it goes right. TV can’t capture it, you have to be there.  My roots are always stand-up and i’ll never stop doing it. I guess it’s so magical when it goes right because it is so ackward when it goes wrong. It’s a tight rope walk.

You created Ditch Films with your friend Jesse Scaturro. Why did you start a production company and what have you gotten out of it?

man, Jesse and I grew up together and we had a comedic connection from the jump. He had a very successful career in advertising yet we always worked together on the side. Our collaboration has been completely organic and Jesse is the guy who directs everything we shoot and essentially is the force that makes everything I do possible.  He’s a brilliant all around artist & amazing sculptor who always slanted towards the tragic and funny.  I owe everything that’s happening in my career right now to my collaboration with him sticking with me through all the tough times as we both learned our crafts.  Our dream is to make movies next and that’s where we are hopefully headed.  If Jesse laughs at something i know it’s good and if he doesn’t I know it’s not. The same goes for any comedian we work it.  Check out his artwork online he sells his shit all the time at Art Basil and in galleries. He loves making dope shit. his sense of what humor is is top notch and he’s invaluable to what we do.

What do you hope to produce? Purely comedies?

Whatever we are inspired to make at that time. If it ends up being a porno or a Sci-Fi thriller so be it. I can’t seem to escape the funny however.

Besides producing TV shows or motion pictures, could you ever see yourself starring on the big screen or do you prefer video sketches and stand up at venues like Carolines?

I am excited for more and more people to find out about my stand up and Carolines is the spot. Right in the middle of the big city with the world as it’s suburbs. All the best Burr CK Patrice –before he past– still play the world famous. I can’t tell you how thrilled it makes me to just be playing Carolines for the weekend just like those cats.  The best moment of my career was my stand-up solo show at Carolines last year for the New York Comedy Festival. It was the absolute best moment of my career thus far. It felt like all the years and all the work i have done was leading to that one moment and now everything stems from there. Thanks to Louis Faranda for that opportunity.

What advice can you give to an aspiring comedian who doesn’t quite know where or how to start?

If you want to start. go to an open mic. take a class show up or you can show up at my weekly work out show at Bar 4 in Park Slope Brooklyn on Sundays and I will put you up for 5.

I always tell comedians who ask advice to pay attention to where they are when they are asking me the advice. It’s usually at the same free show that we are both on. That’s where you will be in ten years i tell them, right where you are now putting in work at the gym.  My only advice is always always have your OWN agenda in everything you do, do it for you. Also, if you stink and/or no older comics in five years or so has never told you that you are funny it mean that you are not funny.  Quit.  Your clogging up stages. There should really be a dream police for that. just kidding. no I’m not.

 

“The Yannis Pappas Show” featuring “Maurica” runs this Thursday, July 12 – Sunday, July 15.  Click here for tickets.

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