In the excitement of all of the big comedy names that are in town for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the smaller acts can slip through the cracks. George Zach’s Greek Tragedy is one of them – however, if you can find the Red Violin on McKillop St (on Google Maps, it shows up several blocks east of its actual location), and climb several flights of stairs, you’ll find Zach (full surname Zacharopoulos) there – very earnest, very likeable and very eager to impress.
He makes small talk before the show, and the night’s audience is happy to oblige – many of the audience members have Greek backgrounds and they chat about Oakleigh’s Greek population, strict parents, Greece’s financial woes, as well as general chatting including the rest of the audience – where they were born, how they found out about the show, and so on. He continues interacting and building rapport with the audience throughout the show, but never comes across as threatening or embarrassing, often a concern for audience members sitting in the front row.
Zach has a great story – he was born in Greece and moved to the UK to study science, eventually forsaking chemistry for comedy, much to the chagrin of his parents. He’s full of stories about every aspect of his life, from the life-threatening heart condition he suffered as a child to his “stereotypical” Greek parents to his “proper posh” English girlfriend. It’s straight-up stand-up in a good way – easy to relax and enjoy watching.
As with most stand-up, the bigger the crowd, the better. Thursday night’s crowd fills about half of the small room, and although most of the jokes elicit chuckles and there are a few gems that are genuinely hilarious (including a brilliant penis joke), there are more than a few lukewarm responses to jokes – there’s no doubt a bigger room would provide Zach with more to bounce off. Zach is friendly and eager to please, but occasionally his eagerness is detrimental and comes across in his rushed, sloppy delivery, sometimes almost tripping over his own words to get to the punchline. The best thing he could do to step his stand-up a notch is simply to stop and breathe every so often, to let the joke land.
As for the title, Greek Tragedy, the first half is self-evident. The second, Zach ruminates on at the end of the show, concluding that his life hasn’t been particularly tragic. It’s nice that there’s some nod to the title, but he labours the point a bit near the end. Still, there’s real potential here. Zach’s comedy is unaffected and unpretentious, coming across more as a mate telling you a funny story than a professional comedian with a rehearsed routine. Well worth a trip if you want to support smaller acts at this year’s Comedy Festival – and you don’t need to be Greek to get the jokes.
Greek Tragedy runs until the 18th April at the Red Violin, 14 McKillop St. Tickets are $10-$20 and can be purchased online or at the door.