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A screenshot of an interview with comedians on Zoom. Pictured are Maro Lesioti (top-left), Stavroula Pabst (top-right), Menelaos Prokos (bottom-left), and Angelos Spiliopoulos (bottom-right).

Only Stage Left, The Internet: A Look Into Greece’s Virtual Comedy Scene During COVID-19

Quarantine-related memes created and shared by the social media account The Real Ancient Memes (@ancientmemes). The account, which has over 278,000 followers on Instagram and over 404,000 followers on Facebook, has been popular with social media savvy Greeks for years.

“We realized [that for our first online show] we had some good parts and some bad parts…. We were doing some talks [during the first online performance] and some improv scenes. We the improv scenes, but we had so much fun during the talks… and, we were like “okay so that is what works online,” said Prokos. “In short, we cannot do what we really want to do in the theatre. But it is really fun to discover that you can use such an online medium to chat with friends and to drink and talk crap and hang out, which is what we all wanted to do anyways.”

Screenshot of Improvibe performance “Στου Καραντινίδη LIVE! — Πρώτη παράσταση” from 27 March 2020, which was organized through zoom and posted to facebook. Featuring performers Menelaos Prokos (top-left), Ester Seremeti-Azaria (top-right), Konstantinos Kintis (bottom-left) and Michalis Panagiotakis (bottom-right).

“Improv and stand-up are both hard if you don’t hear the audience,” said Aggelos Spiliopoulos, a stand-up comedian based in Athens. With stand up, “I cannot write the set [in the same way]. ….It’s difficult, I do the writing of the set, I do the performance of the set…. But without the audience, I have to do the performance online as is, not the correct way,” without feedback in order to further play with or build comedic material. “That is the problem with performances on the internet or online as they happen outside the tradition.” He adds.

“When you are on stage and you hear people laugh, even if you don’t like so much what you are doing, or if you have another idea, you follow this feedback — you follow the laugh. You say, okay, they are having fun. Let’s do it again, let’s go that way,” Lesioti continued. “I think it’s very dangerous to …not hear what you want deep inside. So, not having an audience makes you hear more of what you want, and what your teammates want.”

“I will start studying again for law school!” Angelos Spiliopoulos joked in reference to the financial situation for comedians. “Just kidding….there is some work with the video and with the online shows, but [payment] doesn’t happen like it does for live performances,” Spilopoulos pointed out.

“Life finds a way,” argued Prokos. Even in the heart of the financial crisis where we were like, “we can’t even afford food,” people were going and buying shit-tons of drinks at the bar. So this whole thing of “I’m not gonna have money to see a show?” No, they will have money to see a show. Not as much as before, but it will be fine.”

“I think it’s a good time to give ourselves, you know, a break… or give us some time to think, work personally on our arts, whatever that means, study, read books we didn’t have the time for …and you know, gather things that we can use later,”

“There’s no point to try to do work at this time,” Prokos concluded. “As I see it, this period is a time to do nothing. Everything is at a full stop. When was the last time in your life that you had time? Like, literally time to work on anything you possibly wanted without the guilt of time running out?…Chances are, when we get back to our daily lives, we won’t have time to do that anymore.” .




AthensLive is a non-profit, on-the-ground source for stories from Athens and throughout Greece.

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Stavroula Pabst

Stavroula Pabst

Athens, Greece

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