TORONTO — Two weeks before he’s due to take the mic at the Just For Laughs festival, Angelo Tsarouchas is already in Montreal.
“I brought my family to Montreal because my mom is here and she wanted to see her granddaughter,” explains the L.A. resident, referring to his two-year-old with second wife Alina.
Tsarouchas says he has to “hit all the places I miss” when he is back in the city where he was born.
“I go to Le Jardin de Panos because it’s got the best Greek food ever. And I will eventually hit Schwartz’s or Reuben’s. Definitely go to St. Viateur Bagels. I’ve got to bring four or five dozen on the plane when I go back.”
In addition to Montreal, Tsarouchas has called Ottawa, Toronto and London, England home before he settled in Los Angeles.
Tsarouchas says his act has changed because he’s got a different perspective. “I’m a Canadian who lives in America who’s got parents from Greece,” he says. “I still have that Canadian sensitivity, which is good.”
He says stand-up comedy is about relating one’s life to an audience of strangers.
“I always try to find the humour in everything. Most (comics) like it when there’s pain,” says Tsarouchas. “When there’s pain, there’s comedy. Now, I don’t feel like I’m in pain — unless you want to call marriage pain.”
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The comedian says he hopes audience members will keep their mobile devices in their pockets and purses.
“I get it. We live in an age where everybody wants to take pictures, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever and it’s cool,” he says. “But I always tell people if they try to tape at the show, ‘tape a couple of minutes but do me a favour and keep it for yourself or show it to your friends, but don’t post it on the Internet.’”
Tsarouchas says it’s difficult to try out fresh material if people are posting it online.
“Someone films your set and then all of a sudden it’s on YouTube. Well, that’s the new stuff I was working on. This is how we earn our living.”
At Just For Laughs, Tsarouchas is part of The Ethnic Show, which will be hosted by Maz Jobrani and will also showcase Elon Gold, Erik Griffin, Paul Varghese and Mike Marino.
“The common thread is that everyone is funny. Visibly, it’s an ethnic show but these are headliner comics who work all around the world,” explains Tsarouchas. “It’s easier to put guys together and say, ‘Hey it’s The Ethnic Show.”
He says he believes anyone can make an ethnic joke.
“Why not? We have to get over that,” he says. “By not saying that you’re making it seem like it’s dirty. It doesn’t have to be hurtful. It can be funny.”
Tsarouchas has, obviously, never hidden his ethnic background. He says he never considered changing his surname to make himself more marketable.
“My dad left the war in Greece to come here and build a life for us and I’m going to dishonour him by changing my name just because a couple of people in Hollywood can’t pronounce it? F*** them,” he says.
It wasn’t until the death of his father that Tsarouchas was able to visit Greece.
The result is a comedy special, One Night in Athens, that is set for a September release.
He’s also the subject of a documentary entitled Back To Sparta.
“I opened up my life for it. There was nothing hidden in that doc,” he says. “I exposed everything. I felt that was a story we needed to tell.”
In the film, he remembers finding himself inside an Ottawa jail cell.
“You’ll find out in the film why I was in jail, falsely accused. That doesn’t matter, I was still in jail. And whether I had a revelation or an epiphany — whatever you want to call it — I decided that I’m going to do what I want in my life. And I did.”
He also decided to make some life changes.
“I’ve dropped about 40 pounds. I’ve still got to drop more weight. It’s hard,” he admits. “I enjoy eating. A lot of people do. A Big Mac at 2 in the morning is f***ing delicious. It’s not good for you, but it is delicious.
“But yes, now being married and having a daughter I’m very aware of that and I’ve made an effort to eat much better. I have a two-year-old daughter. I want to be around to see her.”
The Ethnic Show, part of Just For Laughs, runs July 17-23 at Metropolis. Click here for ticket information.
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