Athenian comedian Katerina Vrana is bringing her comedy show Feta with the Queen to Australian audiences for the first time. Born and raised in Greece, she left at the age of 19 to study in the UK.
The show reveals her first impressions of her adopted nation, her migrant experiences and the differences she finds between the two nations. This is the 32-year-old’s first visit to Australia and she was quick to point out she’s great company and loves food (a blatant attempt to be invited into Greek houses, bars, restaurants etc etc).
Neos Kosmos: When did you first get interested in stand-up, and did you ever perform in Greece?
Katerina Vrana: I have enjoyed watching comedy for as long as I can remember. The first time I ever did a stand-up routine was at my high school in Athens, at an end-of-year show. After I moved to England, I did a lot of acting and comedy improvisation and sketch comedy which naturally led on to stand-up. As an actress, I found improvisation an amazing way to stay sharp, improve my English and find out more about UK pop culture.
But what happened was that after so many years of working, writing and speaking in English, my Greek started to suffer. That’s when I decided to challenge myself to do a solo show in Greek which I performed in Greece last year and thank God they laughed… in a good way.
NK: Do you remember your first ever performance
KV: Well, the one I did in high school was easy; all the students were happy and anything I said was seen as hilarious. My first gig in the UK was… less of a success. It was one of those on-the-night competitions and there were maybe 12 audience members in a tiny room above a pub and they laughed at some bits, not at all at others and I got heckled about my hair.
NK: Your comedy features tales of migrant experiences, feelings of displacement in both countries. How do you find a funny side to something that can be so emotionally sad?
KV: That would be giving away the entire show. Let’s just say that for me, my migrant experiences are not negative. I visit Greece at least twice a year so I don’t really get homesick. And I love both countries, each for entirely different reasons. My displacement is the source of a lot of my humour. If you fit nowhere, it means you fit equally well everywhere
NK: Do you think Greeks have a good sense of humour? Does being Greek help you be a better comedian?
KV: Greeks have a lovely sense of humour. There’s a dryness to it that still takes me by surprise. Greeks on Twitter are hilarious, I follow as many as I can, it’s brilliant what they come up with. It’s not so much jokes, it’s more the turn of phrase and the wry observations. As for me, I wouldn’t say it’s my nationality that has helped me be a better comedian as much as the continuous gigging has. Being Greek is a big part of my point of view but being able to express that view in a funny way came with continuous practice.
NK: Tell us about the show Feta with the Queen
KV: Feta With The Queen is my debut solo show and it’s about being Greek living abroad and it’s also an introduction to me, an introduction to Katerina Vrana’s world. You also get a bit of background about me (and Greece) to be able to put it all into context. Oh, and it’s funny.
NK: You do one performance a week in Greek, why? Anything you want to tell Greek Australian audiences about the show?
KV: The festival organisers thought it would be a good idea if I did some of my shows in Greek so they asked me if I’d be up for it. I said YES because if there’s one place where I can do my show in English and Greek it’s Melbourne. The MICF is the ideal festival for that. Don’t think I could do that at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, for example. Far less Greeks there. Well, compared to Melbourne, there are far less Greeks everywhere. The only thing I’m worried about is the Greeks bringing along their yiayia or pappou to see the Greek one. Because I might swear or refer to sex. And I know my own grandparents were not enthusiastic about me doing either. So, just keep in mind, there will be swearing and sex. Not live sex. Or recorded sex. I think I should stop talking now.
NK: What’s your favourite thing about living in the UK and your favourite thing about living in Greece? And the differences between the two.
KV: I love how organised the UK is compared to Greece. Public transport and public services especially. And in Greece I just love the food and the availability of late night things to do. As for the differences between the two, I tackle the main ones in the show so I don’t want to give too much away. We’re talking about two very different cultures here and I think the weather plays a big part in the shaping of each.
Feta with the Queen is on at Three Degrees, from March 27 to April 20 as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For tickets and more information visit www.comedyfestival.com.au