Yannis Pappas, comedian and viral video creator, talks about his career.
Yannis Pappas is a Greek-American stand-up comedian whose viral videos made with his childhood friend Jesse Scaturro, have been seen by millions. The Brooklyn born Pappas’ Ditch Films’ most famous, hysterical, videos have featured a stereotypical Greek diner owner named Mr. Panos and Maurica, a pre-op transexual. He recently had his own special on Comedy Central and has just finished a pilot for MTV. In addition to doing commentary on a number of news outlets, Yannis tours regularly. I spoke to Mr. Pappas about his career and characters.
SA: I remember one of my Greek friends sending me one of your Mr. Panos videos, and we all thought it was hysterical. Then there was Maurica, which one is bigger?
Mr. Panos was first, then Maurica and Maurica was bigger, Maurica really caught on.
SA: Mr. Panos definitely resonated with certain things I identified from my father and my uncle and I think you once said he’s an amalgam of all your Greek relatives?
He is sort of a combination of all of my observations about Greeks from Greece and yeah my mother being one of them she is from Crete, obviously the national pride is a big thing among Greeks and that’s Mr. Panos.
SA: You’ve been doing stand up for a while though, right?
Yeah, I went to American University DC and I started doing comedy right after I graduated college so overall it has been about 12-14 years minus about two years or so that i took off. I created Mr. Panos and Maurica in my stand up.
SA: How did your family react to that did they think it was funny? Did they take it personally that you were ridiculing them?
Nobody in my family did but definitely there have been a lot of Greeks who have been upset about it. I enjoy the hate just as much as the love. Either way I win.
SA: And Maurica came from where? Was she an observational character?
She was an observational character pretty much based on a Rosie Perez impersonation I used to do, yeah so that is where it started and then I built her totally on stage, built her story over time. She is a very NYC character.
SA: She came from growing up in Brooklyn?
Yeah from growing up in New York having Puerto Rican friends and dating Puerto Rican girls and just having a real love for Puerto Rican culture and a real knowledge of it as a New Yorker it just kind of all in there and there is a lot in her story, the American dream, search for love, gentrification, the whole thing.
SA: Right? There is nothing worse like a Puerto Rican and a Greek having kids together; Jesus what a family
It would be a lot of screaming, Greeks and Latinos are pretty similar they both have a word, you know Opa and Wepa which are the only two cultures that have a word that actually doesn’t have a meaning beyond I am so freaking worked and happy right now.
SA: Ditch Films was created by you and a friend, right?
Just me and my buddy Jesse Scaturro, we grew up together and we always had sort of a similar sense of humor and we always wanted to work together, he was in advertising and we started making videos and then we formed DITCH, we started doing like some online branding content for companies and some commercial work and we shoot the comedy sketches in our free time for fun and he is the one that directs all the videos. We are having fun with it, just having a laugh.
SA: How have Greek producers like Rita Wilson or Nia Vardalos reacted to Mr. Panos?
Greeks are always supporting Greeks and Nia has been very nice to me, she was a fan of Mr. Panos from the beginning and we kind of struck up an online friendship, we have not met in person but we have emailed back and forth. I know Rita Wilson has seen it, Tom Hanks has seen it. It has been around and everyone knows about it in the Greek community, I think.
SA: Have there been an offers can you talk about? Are there any possibility of seeing either one of those characters on TV? They are definitely better than a lot of comedy that is on right now so I can’t imagine that you haven’t.
Thank you, I appreciate that. Just more videos for now and please check out my comedy central half hour special online and check my websites for up coming tour dates at yannispappas.net
Check out the hysterical Maurica here