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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 March 2018
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 MARCH 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Being Greek, and the art of claiming things as our own Comedian George Dimarelos is returning to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this month with a hilarious new show George Michael is Greek Comedian George Dimarelos in his new show, George Michael is Greek. PHOTO: FRINGE WORLD ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS It's that time of year again, when comedy fans start shortlisting the comedians to see at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and one name that should be on that list is George Dimarelos. The Melbourne-born act has been performing stand-up across Australia, Europe and Asia for the past five years and is returning this month to the annual event, with a new show, aptly being performed at the Greek Centre, titled George Michael is Greek. Forever fascinated by culture and where it comes from, this time around George will set out to explore how it shapes us in ways that we may not appreciate, with a comedic edge. "I've always been interested in where things come from, the basis for the way we act, and why countries are all different – we're all crazily different from each other – and if there's any reason why that is," Dimarelos told Neos Kosmos. "As always happens with shows, I have this huge, grand ambition, and then I'm like 'Oh wait, this is way too much'. So I've trimmed it back, and made sure it's good fun for everyone while still getting across the main points." Dimarelos is taking it back to basics, and has put together a show that draws from his own Greek Australian perspective and experiences, taking the mickey out of each side, as he does best. "From one side you've got the Greek culture and where a few of their ideas come from. For example, Greeks, we love claiming things. We do! We invented everything, so it makes sense," he laughs, and says he was particularly struck by this following the news of George Michael's passing. "I thought it was funny the way a lot of people were coming out saying 'We've lost a great Greek'. I kind of agreed in a weird way, but he's not Greek at all in another way. Any English person could almost be upset that the Greeks are claiming him," he says. Recognising the richness of Greek culture, he touches upon some of the aspects of tradition that Greeks of the diaspora seem to hold onto more than other cultural groups. "One of the examples I have is the practice of naming the kids after parents, which every culture does to some degree, but we just do it to an extreme compared to most," he says. "I actually looked up the stats of the most common Greek names, and how common they are, and it's crazy! The top five Greek names cover 40 per cent of the population." Ironically he found George at the top of the list, followed by "John, Jim, Costa, and Nick". Meanwhile on the other side, he looks at his Australianess, and the local value system tracing their origins back to the country's colonialist history, and the arrival of convicts. "We're all a bunch of convicts!" he laughs. "It's fun talking about it, because sometimes people are like 'Nahhh!' They get really defensive, and I'm like 'It's alright, it's just part of who we are, far out'." While the focus as a comedian is always to get the laughs, for Dimarelos there is no denying the show's deep personal roots. As the child of Greek migrants, who speak broken English and only ever listened to Greek radio, he admits that despite having felt himself to be more aligned with the western traditions he was exposed to, that at 31 he has realised just how very Greek he is. "I'm just so Greek! I'm less so than so many . . . but it's just so deeply intertwined in me that it's impossible to separate," he explains. Identity, however, is a complex concept, and while he acknowledges his Greekness, it by no means sums him up entirely, nor does he believe culture does for anybody. "What I've realised writing this show, is that it's all about labels. What is Greek? What is Australian? It's just a shorthand way to describe a person that obviously does not capture at all what any of us are, but every label is more or less intertwined in us." Comedy dealing with the Greek Australian experience is nothing new, with shows both on the stage and small screen emerging in the 80s. But that type of humour is not what you should expect from Dimarelos; rather it is comedy that is just as funny as it is thought-provoking, managing to weave through a myriad of themes that can appeal to a broad audience, whether it be in Melbourne, or Edinburgh, where he will be taking the show later this year. In its rounds so far, it's fair to say the show has been attracting its fair share of diehard George Michael fans. While it should be clarified that this is by no means a tribute show, it's not to say they won't leave satisfied, to see their laughs delivered by another George, rocking that crucifix earring and leather jacket like it’s 1990 all over again.
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