Stand-up comedian Katerina Vrana on Stereotypes: Funny Because They Are True at TEDxThessaloniki conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Stereotypes – funny because they are true by Katerina Vrana at TEDxThessaloniki
So hi, my name is Katerina Vrana. I am Greek, I live in the UK, I live in London. I am a stand-up comedian.
As far as the power to create goes, I am a stand-up comedian. I’ve got two brothers, one is 30, the other is 14. The 30-year old is a drummer and a photographer. In fact, he is the drummer of the band that’s going to be closing TEDThessaloniki this year, TEDx.
So our Greek parents are very proud of our professional choices. Like, “Will you ever make money?” No. The 14-year-old wants to be a lawyer. Here’s hoping! So yeah — oh, and my hair, my hair. My hair is like this because this is how it is, OK? No discussion about it. In Greece, this doesn’t stand out that much. It’s big, but it’s not that extraordinary. In the UK, it’s become a sightseeing thing. Like people stop me in the street, people touch it without asking me.
And then, there’s teachers that bring little children out of the classrooms and go, “Look, look at the lady who looks like a tree!” is very annoying. So I’ve been in the UK now for 10 years — oh, and also, I am a 100% Greek. I was born here, I was raised here, both my parents are Greek, my whole family lives here. I have no idea why I speak English like this. Absolutely none! It’s a fluke. The rest of my family doesn’t speak English like this, they speak like proper Greek people.
So I asked my mum, I said, “How come when I speak English I sound awesome? And the rest of the family sounds like bloody foreigners.”
And my mum went, “Ah, darling, when you were born, you were so very, very ugly!” Don’t clap that. You bastards!
And she went, your father and I thought, “This one will need personality, and language helps. I wanted French and maybe piano, your father wanted English.”
“Yes Katerina, I wanted English,” – that is my father – “I will tell you why: because British royalty marries very ugly women. Go!” No! No. William is already married, and Harry has very red hair. And I haven’t got anything against red hair, right? It’s because I would totally have the sex with Harry. I am telling you this now. I just, I wouldn’t do it in the sun, I’d do it in the shade. Do you know what I mean? If you have sex with Harry in the sun, he’ll explode, “Aaah!” It’s not a good idea.
So, having lived in London — the thing is that I’ve been living in London as I said, for about a decade, and what’s happened is, over there I feel definitely Greek, but what happens is when I come back home there’s been a bit of a shift in my identity, and suddenly, I find myself say things like, “Why can’t the Greeks form orderly queues? God damn it!” I am trying to balance out the things to not feel foreign in two countries.
One of the things I’ve really come to find endearing about the British, for example, is how they get angry. They don’t! When a British person gets angry, they write you a strongly-worded letter, “Dear Sir…, regret to inform…, most upset!”
An English friend of mine was in a train. The train got stuck, they stopped in the middle of nowhere between two stations, and they left them there for an hour and a half; they didn’t explain why, they just kept apologizing. My friend’s telling me this story said, “Katerina, I was so angry, I was livid. I was so livid, I was tempted to complain!”
I was like, “What?!” I said, “In Greece, there is no strongly-worded letter, there wouldn’t have been a train.” You keep the Greeks five minutes longer than they need to be anywhere, you know, like in the boat at the time of “disembarkation”. You keep the Greeks inside that boat, and it’s like, “What? What you keep us here like animals, like animals? You call this an European country? This is not Europe, I don’t understand!”
Wait, there is so much more. And then someone always goes, “Where is the manager? I want to speak to the manager!”
“Please sir, please sit down, you are becoming hysterical!”
“Who are you to tell me what to do? Who are you?”
“I screw your mother!”
Wow! It takes five seconds to escalate that level. And also, as far as that goes, the “Screw your mother!” makes no sense. Like, “I screw your mother!”
What a coincidence! Of all the boats in all of Attiki, you walk into mine. The son of whose mother you are screwing, and it is… Hello, Yannis, the son. The lady who you’re having kind of relations with. What a — a pleasure to meet you. This kind of — also, right? No one you ever want to say it to you ever does, right? Because if Bill Gates comes up to me and goes, “I screw your mother.” I’ll be like, “Daddy…! You’re home!”
“And will all be going to Cannes, on my jet.” So I wish the Greeks would temper their rage that immediate “Mmm!” that happens. I don’t expect them to become like the English, no, “Dear Sir, I regret to inform…I screwed your mother.” just a little bit more of a thing.
Also, the other thing I’ve really come to enjoy about the UK, and I know this is weird for a Greek person, is the weather. I know, I know, I know, I know! Oh, one person going, “Yes! You tell them. It rains!” The thing is I keep trying to explain to the British that everywhere else in the world, clouds are functional rather than an aesthetic choice. In the UK, the clouds arriving, just go, “Hi, we are here. We’re going to just sit here, maybe a bit lower, do nothing, hi.”
In other countries, when the clouds arrive, it’s going to rain and the heaven is open, water pours down, water so thick you cannot see through it. So it’s like, “Where is my Tzatziki?”
“Behind the rain? Who knows?” That lasts for two hours, then stops, the sun comes out, and we forget about it.