Economical comedy

Costaki Economopoulos comes to Wiley’s

By Rusty Pate

Photo: Costaki Economopoulos performs Jan. 14-16 at Wiley’s Comedy Joint,

In many ways, standup comedy is the ultimate art form. Painting, music and filmmaking all have their virtues, but no other means of self expression allows the artist the freedom that comes with standing on stage, in front of a crowd, trying to be funny.

A painter can toil for months on a single work, shaping and refining his or her vision until they deem it perfect. A musician can rely on harmony and melody to sugarcoat a deeper message. Filmmakers depend on collaboration.

The comic only has a microphone and his ideas.

Costaki Economopoulos has been telling his jokes on stage for more than 20 years. He began as a Seinfeld-type observational comic, but his act has morphed into a more personal expression over the years. His “Economonologue” has become a weekly staple on The Bob and Tom Show, a nationally syndicated radio broadcast that reaches 5.5 million people in 150 markets.

He acknowledges that standing in front of live crowds telling jokes can be a terrifying proposition.

“That’s why they pay you,” Economopoulos says. “When it’s clicking, it’s beautiful, it’s minimalist and it’s magical. It’s like you’re surfing and floating on air. It’s so comfortable, powerful, raw, real and magical. And then sometimes, it doesn’t have that sort of magic and it’s hard, challenging and it doesn’t come easily—you feel like you’re pulling teeth to make them pay attention. That’s the nature of a live thing on any given night. It’s a total different experience than the one prior. That’s part of the art, too—on the nights that it’s tough, to hold it together and still be compelling, interesting and funny.”

The industry of comedy has changed over the years. While the late 1980s to early 1990s were a golden era, when people spent weekends in comedy clubs and unknown comics could make a decent living telling jokes to crowds who had no idea who they were listening to, the modern scene is much more reliant on putting asses in seats. Gone are the days of TV networks passing out sitcom development deals at the drop of a hat.

Still, for artists willing to do the work, opportunities exist. Podcasting allows comedians an outlet to get their material out without being invited to major radio stations or late night TV. While a fledgling act might now struggle to make ends meet, the artistic power of the standup is just as strong in the age of Louis CK and Bill Burr as it was in the days of George Carlin and Richard Pryor.

“At least since I’ve been around or paying attention to media, [comics have] always been important at some level,” Economopoulos says. “It ebbs and flows, but there’s definitely an uptick on sort of ‘name comedy,’ and there’s some very buzz-worthy things happening in standup and that trickles down and is good for everybody.”

Perhaps the most important thing, as in any creative field, is to evolve and adapt.

The best comics understand that the process really consists of trial and error. Growth doesn’t occur without taking risks and that means taking some lumps along the way. It might not be fun when jokes don’t go over, but it all is part of a learning curve that can sometimes be amazing … or brutal.

“You probably learn the most when it’s not going well, but it’s a whole lot less fun,” laughs Economopoulos. “Most of the shows are somewhere in between. There aren’t that many shows that are the most magical experience and there aren’t that many that are painful. Most of them are pretty good. You’re riffing, learning, trying and recognizing. You learn what not to do.”

For Economopoulos, the journey has moved from socio-political humor to a more personal brand of humor.

“Creatively, I’ve morphed,” he says. “I would write jokes about jury duty and Taco Bell. Now, I’m trying to write jokes about my experience, my thoughts, my wife, my kid, my custody battle. I’m also doing a lot more football jokes, which is fun for me. It’s weird that I’ve got a little bit of dichotomy where I can make fun of the Raiders, then talk about my custody battle,” he laughs.

It can be scary to explore those places in front of strangers, but it is also more fulfilling. The essence of art is to follow the muse and to constantly search and strive for the most elusive form of self expression: truth.

“Pick a band—if you follow them for years, they change,” Economopoulos says. “They get better at certain things and they go down a different road and hopefully you bring your audience with you. You have to do what you think is good, whatever that is.”

Costaki Economopoulos will perform Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 14-16 at Wiley’s Comedy Joint, 101 Pine St. in Dayton. He will perform at 7:15 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with a second show at 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $10 for all shows for patrons 18 and older. Patrons should arrive 30-45 minutes before show times. There is a two-item minimum for each show. For more information, please visit or

Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

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