JFL40: Yannis Pappas wants to bring people together with laughs

Pop Goes The News – Whether he’s on stage, on Twitter or on his podcast, Yannis Pappas will tell you what he thinks about just about anything – and it’s probably going to be hilarious. But, if it happens to offend you, that’s OK, too.

“People can get offended,” Pappas told Pop Goes The News ahead of his return to Montreal for the Just For Laughs festival. “You have to not be so narcissistic and say, ‘Hey, I might not have liked this but somebody else might have. I took offence. That’s fine. I didn’t like it. I got offended.’

“Well guess what? Life is offensive. Things offend you. And things much worse than what a comedian says is going to come down your pipeline.”

Pappas said he believes comics are providing a valuable service by putting into perspective some of the truly horrible things people have to face in their lives.

“You should thank comedians who are offensive, or who offend you, because they’re preparing you for life, which is going to offend you even more,” he said. “Trust me on that one. Life ain’t beautiful.

Wisely, Pappas is an equal-opportunity offender. He mines the extremes and hypocrisies of both the right and left.

“I really like to pluck from the zeitgeist and try to make fun of everybody and bring people together with laughs,” he explained. “My goal is to try to get people on both sides of the aisle to laugh at themselves. Also, they can laugh at the other. But we’ve got to remember that underneath all of the politics and beliefs we’re just people struggling day-to-day to keep our mental health strong, to put food on the table and find some meaning.”

Bottom line? “Come enjoy the jokes people! They’re jokes,” said Pappas. “Thicken your skin and grow up!”

Pappas has a full schedule at JFL, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and recovery from the pandemic. He’s part of the Just For The Culture show and will do two full shows of his own plus a set at The Iliza Shlesinger Gala. (He’ll also record an episode of his podcast LongDays.)

“I’m glad that it’s back and that we can be in the same room together at the greatest comedy festival in the world with the best comedians,” he said. “This is really a celebration and it means more this year, obviously, than ever because you don’t miss something until it’s gone.

“I look forward to trying to avoid poutine but it’s going to happen.”

Like so many others, Pappas made his JFL debut in the New Faces showcase, which he remembered as “one of the most special moments of my career.”

He explained: “It’s hard to top. It’s really that moment where you feel like you’re in the business. I’ll remember it more than probably this year – although this year will probably be the one I remember the most because I’m a dad now and I don’t really booze that much.

“I’m looking forward to doing shows and getting some nice sleep in the hotel where nobody wakes me up. They could have paid me zero and I would have come if I can just freakin’ sleep a little bit.”

Pappas has high praise for JFL audiences. “The crowds are incredible. This is it. This is the reward when you’re a comedian. You go to Montreal  and you go to the best comedy festival in the world. You celebrate comedy and what it does for people.”

Of course, stand-up comedy has had to adapt to the impact of social media, where people are bombarded with clips of comedians of varying levels of experience and talent. Pappas sees the pros and cons.

“It’s great you can create and just put it out there,” Pappas admitted. “Then you have the other part, which is comedians doing it three months or a year who throw out some crowd work clips, you know, starting to change the sensibilities of people going to comedy shows thinking they can talk to a comedian.”

He pointed out that comics posting clips on socials tend to share their encounters with hecklers rather than their jokes because they want to keep these for their shows.

“The unintended consequence will be to condition people to think that this is going to be some collaborative interaction, when it’s not,” said Pappas. “And coming to see a comedian, from a 45-second clip that they saw, who doesn’t know how to do comedy well. A 45-second stand-up clip on TikTok is not indicative of who somebody is when they see somebody live.”

All that’s going on in the U.S. right now provides Pappas with plenty of material but is it enough to make him consider moving north?

“Everybody in America is thinking about dual citizenship right now,” he said. “We’re not the shiny beacon on the hill. The Taliban is making a comeback – the religion is different but the robes are the same and I don’t think it’s really sunk in. In America, people are still in a little bit of denial.”

Pappas said he will happily take advantage of Canada’s universal health care. “I’m a hypochondriac. I’ll milk that system. I’ll be a burden on your health care system,” he promised. “I’ll go every other day with panic attacks until they have to kick me out.”

Yannis Pappas is part of Just For The Culture, which runs July 13-17 and 20-24 at Club Soda and July 26-28 at MTelus. He also performs full shows on July 27 and 29 at Salle Claude-Léveillée at Place des Arts and appears July 29 at The Iliza Shlesinger Gala. Click here for tickets. Just For Laughs runs July 13-31. Follow @JRK_Media on Twitter for more coverage of the festival.