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An interview with Steen Raskopoulos

An interview with Steen Raskopoulos

17 November 2017 Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Australian actor, performer and improviser, Steen Raskopoulos, has been working in comedy for the last few years on stage and on screen. London Calling spoke to him in the lead up to his show ‘The Coolest Kid in Competitive Chess’ at the Soho Theatre this November.

London Calling: Could you start by telling us about your show at the Soho Theatre?
 
Steen Raskopoulos: My show is called ‘The Coolest Kid in Competitive Chess’ and it’s a mix of sketch, character, improv and a little bit of audience participation. The audience shouldn’t be scared when it comes to the participation, because everything is done with love and joy and I never get anyone on stage to get something I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing. If there’s a joke to be made, it’s always on me and they always look like superstars.
 
LC: Where did the title of your show come from?
 
SR: I had to have a title for the Melbourne comedy festival and I hadn’t thought of one yet. This title was actually the name of an old University improv group name from 2007, and so I used it like a placeholder. And then when I figured out what I wanted to call it I missed the cut off! So I was stuck with it. It ended up being cool though, and I’ve got a cool character from the title who bookends the show.
 
LC: How do you prepare for audience participation?
 
SR: Trial and error! That’s legit the only way you can do it. I do my shows as a full hour, just ’cause it’s so narrative based; it’s hard for me to go out to clubs and do five and ten minute spots. So I’ll take the material as a whole show out and see what works and what doesn’t. You can never plan. I’ll think in my head of all the different possibilities of how the audience can react to different parts. It might be the first or second time I do it, and the audience member will do something completely out of the blue, it challenges me but I enjoy the challenge as well. I think every show is different. It keeps me on my toes.
 
LC: You’ve got a background in improv and theatresports [he was the youngest-ever Theatresports National Champion of Australia]. How do you think that’s helped your comedy?
 
SR: Improv gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. It’s very freeing and liberating and I think it gives you a very round performance, training you in things like genre, physicality, words and poetry. I think there’s nothing more liberating than to walk on stage with absolutely nothing, and to come off and say, how did we come up with that.
 
LC: Have you always been interested in improv? 
 
SR: I grew up on Whose Line is it Anyway? back home. We used to watch it in drama at school. I was very lucky to be on the show last year. I got to do it with people like Rhys Darby, who is a hero of mine; it was a very surreal experience!
 
LC: You’ve performed in different places. Do you have a preference for an audience?
 
SR: I just try to do my best whenever I go out and try to put on a really fun show. Back home I might be seen as something a bit more new, someone not doing straight stand up. But I think everyone in the UK has a very sound knowledge of sketch comedy and character comedy. But I’m just happy if there is an audience out there to see me perform; I feel very lucky.
 
LC: Were you interested in British comedy when you were coming up?
 
SR: Oh yeah! At school on a rainy day they’d always put on Monty Python. And we watched Mr Bean a lot as well.  As I got older, I started to get into the Mighty Boosh and Snuffbox and the Office. Mighty Boosh is by far one of my favourite shows. I was lucky enough to work with Rich Fulcher on Top Coppers. It was really surreal. You watch these shows and then you get to work with one of your heroes. He’s the nicest man. One of the funniest I’ve ever met. He does the voiceovers for my show.
 
LC: What new formats of show are you interested in exploring?
 
SR: I think the next show that I’ll do I’ll try and restrict the audience participation and make it more of a one-man narrative. I’ve done five shows now where I’ve included a lot of audience participation and it’s always worked, and people have been happy.  But I think it’s time to get myself out of my comfort zone and start challenging myself.
 
LC: Have you got any favourite London hangouts?
 
SR: I love Rowan’s Bowling alley in Finsbury Park. That’s my favourite place in London. I had my 30th birthday there this year. I’m very competitive! It’s a nice place to bowl or go to the games room, and there’s a bar bit as well. I also like eating at Rosa’s Thai Café. That place is my jam.  
 
Steen Raskopoulos is at the Soho Theatre from 27 November to 2 December. Tickets from £9.
 
 

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