For the first time ever, Steen Raskopoulos is bringing his carefully crafted characters, perfectly timed gags and inspired spontaneity to Brisbane this March.
Off the back of a best newcomer nomination at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe, 2015 was a big year for Steen.
First was his Barry Award for Best Show nomination at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and then his role in The Record, which was premiered on ABC’s iview as part of the station’s Fresh Blood initiative.
After that, he was off to the UK to star as ginger-haired detective, John Mahogany, alongside award-winning comedian John Kearns in BBC3’s Top Coppers, a ridiculous action comedy set in the fictional world of Justice City.
Now he’s back home in Australia and ready to take Brisbane on one hilarious ride!
We sat down with the funny man to chat all about his newest show, his love for comedy and how he comes up with his hilarious characters.
Steen, can you tell us a bit about your newest show?
The Brisbane show is called Steen Raskopoulos and it’s basically a ‘best of’ my current work, all in a solo sketch show.
Throughout the show I play various characters that all interlink and there is a lot of audience participation, but everything is done with love. I would never get anyone up to do something that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing.
You can expect an hour of a variety of different things. Every show is completely different, which is always really fun.
I do a far bit of improvisation, so depending on how people react to different things, it always leads to different results and sketches in the show.
It will be very interesting to see how Brisbane will react to everything.
All comedians approach audience participation sketches differently. How do you go about that?
I always make them look really funny and cool, to the best of my ability. Obviously, there are structures around what I need to accomplish and get across in order for the show to function as a whole, but I just try to run with it.
Has anyone ever freaked out on stage?
Not freaked out. There are a lot of people, who have been a bit shy to start with, but I always make them look like the star and I never pick on or bully anyone for a laugh. I make sure everyone’s laughing with them and supporting them.
Because you don’t know what everyone’s day is like or what they’re going through. I do it with love and joy to make them feel a part of it!
I want to make everyone feel part of the show and the more inclusive I can be and the more supportive I can be the better results I’ll get; they’ll be responsive and supportive back to me as well.
What do you think about comedians that bully on stage?
It’s definitely not my flavour or what I’d prefer to do. Obviously people and comedians have different personas and different things that they perceive as funny and their audiences react to that.
I think people that do that have a respect and are well known enough now to hopefully let the audiences know that it’s mostly just tongue and cheek. I steer away from that, though.
When did you first realise you were funny?
When I was four I always used to re-enact sketches about Skippy (TV series). I used to do it all the time and my parents would force me to do it.
I’ve always been bit of a larrikin in school too, not necessarily getting into trouble, but I liked to get the big laughs in the room. That was the start of it, I think.
After high school I went to Sydney University, they have a long standing tradition of theatre sports and sketch shows, they pumped out Ed Kavalee and The Chaser and heaps of others, which is awesome.
I got picked to be in a student sketch show and we ended up taking it to Melbourne and from that it kept growing and growing. It wasn’t until 2013 that I did my first solo show.
You’ve also done quite a bit of acting. What do you enjoy more? Acting or comedy?
I like a bit of both. The drama side of things excites me and I was lucky enough to do The Code on the ABC a couple years ago.
I also got the lead in Top Coppers which came out last year. That was awesome! It was a ’70s cop show parody and we shot in London for two and a half months.
I enjoy it all!
I think once I start touring and doing all the live shows though, I will miss the acting side of things. And vice versa when I’m filming, I’ll miss the live shows. It’s kind of a Lion King circle of life, it all comes in cycles.
What’s your favourite part about your job?
Turning up to work and making people laugh. I know that sounds so corny!
I just love getting into a show, regardless of what mood I’m in or anyone else and hopefully make people happy. I really enjoy that I can just shut off and enjoy my thoughts and hopefully the audience can do same.
How would you describe your style of comedy?
It’s quite niche to be honest. They do it a bit in the UK and a bit and the US, but I play 15-16 characters in the show and they’re all interlinked. At the start you think they’re all funny and then everything starts falling like dominos, so it’s a crescendo to the finale and the big end.
It’s not stand-up where I just chat into the microphone for an hour, audiences really have to be glued in and listening to see what takes place over the hour.
How do you come up with the characters?
Just by listening. I take a lot of public transport. If I see something I like, I’ll see if I can turn it into something. A lot of the characters that I create are based on something or someone. For example, I play a Greek Orthodox Priest that reviews movies, that’s because I went to a Greek wedding one time.
Have you had to deal with any hecklers before?
No, not really. I think everyone’s scared because of the audience participation, they know I can essentially get them up on stage and destroy them.
I had an interesting gig in Edinburgh two years ago though, where two mature women sitting in the front row just wanted to be part of the show. There was a bit in the sketch where I took my shirt off and they both essentially mauled me and jumped on my back and started riding me like a cowboy.
It was pretty hectic. The audience enjoyed it, I was able to turn it into something fun. Some people are too keen to be part of the show, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
What’s your usual approach to hecklers?
Being the type of person that I am, it’s always done nicely at first. I wouldn’t want to bring attention to anyone. With the improv that I do, it’s thinking on the spot quickly so I’m sure I’d be able to handle them and involve them in the sketch.
I did one show once, where a guy was just annoying me a bit and I did a sketch where I kicked him out for 10 minutes and told him that I would bring him back in during a different part of the sketch — which was kind of true — but I left him out there a bit longer than I should have.
Lastly, why should we come see your new show?
I think it will be a comedy show that I don’t think anyone has done in Brisbane before; it’ll be a unique experience, rather than a traditional stand-up show. It’ll be very interesting and intriguing and very different.
I’m excited to come to Brisbane, I’ve been wanting to come for a very long time!
Steen Raskopoulos’ new show will be on at the Turbine Studio at Brisbane Powerhouse in New Farm from Tuesday 8 to Sunday 13 March. For more info visit www.briscomfest.com
Lucky for you, though, we have 10 double passes to his Thursday 10 March show to give away! Enter now for your chance to win!
HOW TO ENTER: Enter via the form below. *Entrants agree to receive future promotional offers from Bmag. This prize is not redeemable for cash. Competition closes at 9am, Monday 29 February.