Yannis Pappas is a Brooklyn-born comedian that hosts a cast of characters in his head, all of which are funny. He is a proud Greek, and true New Yorker, with a depth to him that makes his audience want to both laugh and give him a really big Greek hug. He has an impressive array of successes with his Comedy Central Special, SiriusXM award, many TV appearances, YouTube following, and his dog loving podcast Funny For Fido.
Yannis is performing this week at Funny Bone Thursday 6/15 through Sunday 6/18
MD: You seem to have this really quick wit stand up where you seem to intelligently talk about every and any topic. Is there anything you steer away as a topic from or is everything truly fair game?
Yannis: Everything is fair game. The only thing I steer away from is a joke I that feel like probably won’t work – the goal is getting people to laugh. (laughs)
I mean I don’t do anything on the mentally handicapped or like anything like that. Yeah, I don’t find that funny. Making fun of the disabled or anything like that.
MD: Right, yeah I don’t find you very dark in general like some other comics, would you agree with that?
Yannis: Yeah I would definitely agree with that.
MD: You have your alter egos like Maurica and Mr. Panos which are both special on their own. How did your characters come about?
Yannis: Well, I grew up in New York City so they are just two characters that are very close to me, ya know, growing up in New York, obviously I am Greek and it comes from my background and observations in Greek culture. Maurica, ya know, if you come from New York, a big part of the culture is Puerto Rican culture. I have a lot of Puerto Rican friends, dated a lot of Puerto Rican girls, It’s just very New York like I am. I am bringing that New York to Albany! By the time I am done with that city, rent is going to be $3000/month for a one bedroom! It’s going to be a tourist destination after I am done.
MD: What actually do you do city to city, like you will be in Albany for 4 days? Any activities or rituals when you are a city like ours?
Yannis: I borrow my boy’s Chris Distefano’s advice and check out where the tours are and check out any tour I see. Double decker bus, I am going to check out the state capital, I am going to see if I can pay off a state senator, ya know, maybe try to do some dirty politics when I am there, see if I can figure out what is going on with our laws.
MD:: That’d be good This is definitely the place to do that.
Yannis: Yeah so I am going to do some tours. And I know you guys have some good italian delis up there so I am definitely going to eat a meatball parm.
MD: Yeah, there are some good ones. I work next door to one called Ragonese. They are good.
Yannis: Are there Greeks up there, too?
MD: Yeah, there are Greeks up here. There is a Greek Festival here every year.
Yannis: Oh wow, cool, yeah I hope they come out.
MD: I would think they will.
Yannis: I should have just scheduled my show “Greek Festival at Funny Bone” so they would come out. I should have had a lamb burning out front. Burn a lamb outside the show so the Greeks will smell it and follow it.
MD: I wonder how the mall would feel about that.
Yannis: Oh. It’s in a mall. They don’t mind a lamb burning outside of a Hot Topic.
MD: (laughs) It’s good PR, too.
Yannis: Yes, good PR! (laughs)
MD: So your characters seem to have a life of their own, truly and people follow them on the web. People seem to know you sometimes just for your characters and don’t even associate the stand up, is that the case?
Yannis: The characters definitely stand on their own. Oh yeah, sometimes people know the character and don’t know me. Whenever I do stand up I always do a little of the characters and they always leave happy. It’s a good show.
MD: Sometimes we see comics or artists, in general, get pigeon-holed into a “thing” and while you have “things” like the characters people know you for, you haven’t been pigeon-holed. Like a comedian that gets just known for the one joke. You seem to have surpassed all that.
Yannis: Yeah, well I have multiple personality disorder, so it helps… I am joking… not for real.(laughs)
Yeah, my stand up, and both characters are extremely different people with different senses of humor. It’s very cool to be somebody else and write jokes from their perspective. I guess you could say that about my career, it’s kind of hard to put your finger on, ya know, I agree with you, hard to pigeon hole.
MD: I read a bit about your past, it’s really interesting- like the fact you were fact as a social worker, and kind of a humanitarian in general, and then you had, some traumatic events happen that have shaped your life a bit and provided some real depth to you. How do you think these experiences shaped your perspective and influenced your comedy?
Yannis: They definitely made me grow up quicker. Ya know, that stuff happened when I was in my early 20’s and made me realize what is important in life, ya know, and how important it is to laugh and not be uptight. Life is hard, it’s tragic, that is why comedians exist because we provide a reprieve from the natural state of things which is ya know, hard and tragic best case scenario. Life is hard. What I learned from that is to always be loose. Ya know, anything that is too stiff breaks. So just be flexible, have a sense of humor, that’s really the only way to emotionally survive life. If you don’t have one, come to the show and develop one. You are going to need it. It is the only weapon we truly have against pain and injustice in a way.
MD: You have been doing stand up for 17 or 18 years?
Yannis: Yeah, yeah overall. I mean, I took a few years off. From about 2002-to about 2005. Overall, yeah started around 2000.
MD:: How do you put together a set with so much material to draw from? Is it your most recent material?
Yannis: Most recent. Yeah, mostly it’s the stuff I am working on now.
MD: So that’s what the audience going to Funny Bone should expect this weekend?
Yannis: That’s right. Nothing from my album or special.
MD: So you were raised in Park Slope Brooklyn. I lived in Park Slope in the early 2000’s, Dean and Flatbush. Probably could not afford that now. . I look around my neighborhood here and it’s surreal and I feel old seeing farmland give way to McMansions and chains. What stands out to you, good and bad, from the Park Slope you grew up in versus now? I imagine it was a much rougher place.
Yannis: Oh yeah, it’s changed. Things have changed. There are very few similarities between the old NY and the new NY. When I was growing up, NY was a place..people were kind of…When I left, people were happy to leave NY. It was so dangerous, I was just tired of it as a kid. I went to college and when I came back it was just amazing and it’s gotten a lot safer, now it’s one of the safest cities in the country. it’s gentrified ya know. Hipsters can be a little annoying, but for me it’s a small price to pay to be a liveable city. It’s great, so it’s changed a lot. There are still elements of the Brooklyn there, and actually and my buddy Chris Distefano are doing a web series called Bay Ridge Boys about sort of native New Yorkers that are navigating gentrified NY, it’s really fun.
MD: Aside from touring and stand Up, what else are you working on? What else should our readers know?
Yannis: Jumped the gun on that one…. Bay Ridge Boys that’s the thing!
And yes, Funny For Fido with myself and my buddy Justin Silver. I love dogs.