YIANNI AGISILAOU | INTERVIEW
YIANNI AGISILAOU | INTERVIEW
What’s the greatest TV series of all time? Game of Thrones? Corrie? Not according to comedian Yianni Agisilaou. He reckons it’s the mighty Simpsons.
“It’s the writing,” he says. “Incredible, sharp, satirical and perfectly placed into the mouths of wonderful characters.”
After debuting in The Tracey Ullman Show, the bright-yellow dysfunctional family graduated to their own series in 1989 and made an instant (and significant) cultural impact, spawning comic books, a blockbuster movie, and an incalculable amount of merchandise. Part of a new Golden Age of TV animation, The Simpsons influence can be felt in the many cartoons and live-action sitcoms that followed, from The Office to Family Guy and beyond.
In honour of the long-running series (600-plus episodes), Yianni’s latest solo show is The Simpsons Taught Me Everything I Know – a homage/love letter to Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, Comic Book Guy, Millhouse, Apu, Krusty The Clown…and all the other Springfield residents.
“I originally had the idea for the show when my mum didn’t get one of my Simpsons references,” says the Australian comic, now UK-based. “I can’t remember which one it was, but I remember thinking ‘Most of my mates would get that’, and I felt sad that mum didn’t because I felt that a part of how I bond with some of my friends is that we both know lots of Simpsons references, and can use them to sum up life situations.”
“For example, I have a friend who falls in love about five times a day. When my friends ask me how he’s doing with some new belle, I just say ‘Mindy has a motorcycle!’ which is a non-sequitur which Homer says to Lenny and Carl when he’s obsessed with Mindy in the episode ‘The Last Temptation of Homer’,” says Yianni of the Season 5 episode that guest-starred Hollywood lead Michelle Pfeiffer as Mindy (one of many celeb cameos).
“From that, I started thinking about how, for a lot of us, The Simpsons is kind of a language, that over the long period it’s been running it has covered almost every situation that could occur to a person – South Park even had an episode on this idea called ‘Simpsons Already Did It’.
Featuring clips, observations and impressions (Yianni’s skill at mimicry nearly landed him job in the series when cast member Harry Shearer looked set to leave), the comedian stresses you don’t need to be a mega-fan to enjoy his show.
“[The Simpsons’ creator] Matt Groening said in an interview once that ‘The Simpsons is a show which rewards you for paying attention.’ I think he meant to society in general, which makes sense because of how much it references pop culture, politics and history. The same applies with my show. The more you know, the more you’ll get out of it. But alternatively the less you know, the more you’ll learn. But it’s funny either way.”
As to what The Simpsons have actually taught him, Yianni is quick to respond: “The meaning of ‘cromulent’; that you shouldn’t sign up for any loan with strict usury laws; that the wisdom of crowds is highly overrated; that you don’t win friends with salad; that someone with a lot of ivory is less of a threat to your elephant than someone whose ivory supplies are low ….”
And that’s just the tip of the Springfield iceberg!
words Dave Freak
Yianni Agisilaou – The Simpsons Taught Me Everything I Know, The Glee Club, Cardiff, Thu 19 Oct. Tickets: 0871 472 0400 / https://www.glee.co.uk/comedy/cardiff/