© Adam Ethan Crow
Ethnic Heroes Of Comedy
Note: This review is from 2009
So a Greek, Japanese, Egyptian, Italian, Jew and black guy all walk into a club… And perform at the latest in Just For Laughs' series of heavily-themed showcases.
The amount of attention each paid to their expected stereotypes varied; a couple of acts based their entire routine on what their ethnic type is supposed to be like. Others just mentioned it and moved on., neither approach proving conclusively better or worse than the other.
Host Angelo Tsarouchas, a local boy made good, created a genial atmosphere, even if his non-Greek material is decidedly hack. ‘Here, let me move this so you can see me,’ he jokes as he moves the microphone stand away from his 25-stone bulk, a waistline which he explains away because ‘Every time I screw your mum, she gives me a pie’. Gags about who he looks like, dumb Americans and being asked by Australian immigration: ‘Do you have a criminal record’ only to reply ‘I didn’t think you still needed one’ all come from the Mencia Book Of Unoriginal Material, although they are always retold with charm. He comes into his own with ethnocentric routines teaching us the Greek word ‘malaka’ and its usage, with moves away from the genetic comedy-by-numbers of the rest of his material.
KT Tatara began with quips about his Japanese background, but since he’s never been there nor embraces the culture, they are little more perfunctory nods to what is apparently expected of him and fall on stony ground. Better material about magicians being professional liars doesn’t save him and just as it looks like a stage death ahead. But before we dust down any borderline racist kamikaze references, even if they are in keeping with the enforced concept of ‘ethnic comedy’, he saves himself from the jaws of defeat by embarking upon the subject of women and relationships. There’s some close-to-the-bone misogyny in here, with no cloak of irony, but countered by some very strong lines. His take on why men don’t appreciate women for their brains is especially fine.
Egyptian-Austrian Akmal Saleh was equally patchy, with a chunk of predictable ‘Arab ≠ terrorist’ patter, which reinforces the perception as much as mocking it and culminates in the now all-too commonplace mocking of the 72 virgins reward. He flirts with deriding other religions, but shirks away from getting too meaningful, although the ‘Jesus is watching you’ segment was certainly enjoyable. But he never topped his opening gambit, a silly old-fashioned joke, which he claimed was his only inoffensive one.
Wiseguy Mike Marino is a living, breathing stereotype of a New Jersey Italian-American, who does little to challenge the idea of his people being elegant but intimidating Mafiosi. What if there was an Italian president? What if Italians were on this gameshow? What if Italians were in Sixth Sense? Threatened violence in every case. It’s a one-note routine, but adeptly struck, resonating with an audience educated on The Godfather and The Sopranos, and sporadically being much funnier than you might expect. Comedy-wise, Marino is a made man.
Gary Gulman’s special ethnic power is being Jewish: hardly a stand-out in the American entertainment industry. But his best material is actually about the Christians, with a devastating deconstruction of Christmas carols, illustrating that it often takes an outsider’s eye to illuminate the absurd. A couple of shorter segments disappointed, but overall he’s a smart cookie, with a witty take on anti-semitism and an ear for a good story.
Closing act Godfrey was decidedly mainstream with his slickly-delivered patter about nagging women and oafish men and a reconstruction of his parents’ oh-so zany Nigerian accents. His mimes about riding the crowded subway were well-observed, while his routine about the elder generation complaining how they had it tough was neat, but little more than a reworking of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch that Monty Python made famous, simply relocated from Leeds to Lagos.
Angelo Tsarouchas Dates
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