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Pantelis: Montreal’s Greek comedy god

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Montreal’s reputation as a comedy hub is well-deserved. As the birthplace of “Just for Laughs,” arguably the world’s most prestigious comedy festival, the city fosters an endless stream of talent. While most have niche audiences, Pantelis Palioudakis is receiving accolades across the board. Known simply as Pantelis, he is a proud Greek Canadian who chose his stage name at the urging of his comedy pals. They insisted it would look great on a marquee – and it does, with more and more frequency.

Given his ease on stage, no one would guess that Pantelis is a newcomer to the comedy scene. Only two years ago, he was at an Open Mic at Montreal’s “Comedy Nest,” when his friends made a bet with him, to get him on stage. Unlike most overconfident novices, Pantelis was convinced he would fail. “I got up there to prove to them that my comedy doesn’t work with an audience.” It was a wager he was happy to lose – the crowd loved him. So did comedian Eman El-Husseini, who invited him to ComedyWorks “BOM/ Best of Montreal” the following week, where he won the evening’s vote. His career then took off – only one year later, he co-starred in a recorded comedy special, "That One Night,” with Andy Tenderloins, Mike Meo and Darren Henwood.

Stand-up comedy came naturally to Pantelis, who’s never had stage fright. “I love it up there – it’s like a big conversation between me and the audience. I love the back and forth with the people. It’s hard to describe the feeling when we connect, when they respond.” His good nature instantly puts audiences at ease. Pantelis gives full credit to his childhood neighborhood of Park Extension, the heart of Montreal’s Greek community. “They were all so sharp! Everybody had a great sense of humor – so quick. At a young age, I learned it’s all right to make a joke, it’s good to laugh. It’s had a huge impact on how I speak to others. I like to meet people and learn from them.”

Unlike most comedians, who build their sets through constant repetition, Pantelis’s material continually evolves. “Every couple of months, I record what I’ve written and start all over from scratch.” He prides himself in being fresh and relevant. “Some people fall into a protective bubble. They’re scared to evolve, to explore themselves and let go of what’s holding them back – even if it’s not working.” When asked about his comedic inspirations, he explains, “Maybe 95 percent is based on events that happen to me. Then I restructure it in a way that flows, like a song.” Although Pantelis doesn’t play an instrument, his sense of timing and his cadence are musical.

While Pantelis embraces the business side of comedy, he fiercely guards his artistic integrity. His motto: “Make your art your business, not your business your art.” His elaborate web site, which he designed himself, showcases the full range of his talents. “There is no repeat content, so visitors can explore different conversations through the social media.” Pantelis plans to add a podcast as well.

On August 8, Pantelis is producing his one-man show, “Hercules Complex,” at "Petit Campus." It is the culmination of his past year’s performances. While he remains quietly modest, humbled by his accomplishments, his Park Extension neighbors devotedly sing his praises. Local business owners, many of whom have known him since childhood, are posting flyers and selling tickets.

“Pantelis: Hercules Complex”
August 8, 2014 9 p.m.
"Petit Campus"
57 rue Prince-Arthur E.
Tickets $10
(514) 844-1010

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