Cyprus Mail
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A funny way of being serious

In Georgiou’s World, one English Cypriot parodies those around him. NADIA SAWYER meets a young man taking the internet by storm from his ‘village full of sheep’

 Charlie Chaplin once famously said that, a day without laughter is a day wasted, which might explain why in today’s online world funny videos are some of the most watched, shared and loved. Cyprus, however, does not immediately come to mind as a place where this form of entertainment is frequently created, but there is one young male vlogger breaking the mould and putting smiles on the faces of his 20,000 followers on a regular basis.

Georgiou’s World is both the Facebook page and YouTube channel of Stevie Georgiou, whose short videos are mainly parodies on all things Cypriot and whose car journey to this interview also takes a funny turn when he gets lost in downtown Nicosia. A resident of the rural village of Mazotos, Stevie rarely visits the capital and is confused by the one-way systems and roadworks, going around in a circle like a man trapped in a maze. Chaplin, whose mirror maze sketch in the silent movie The Circus is comic genius, must have been looking down on Stevie and having a good old chuckle at his expense. I too am amused when he emerges from his vehicle as though he has just got off a merry-go-round.

But, as soon as he sips on a frappé, Stevie is keen to tell me his story. Born to second generation Cypriots in the UK, he came to live in Cyprus in 2004 “for a better life,” he says in his thick Brummie accent, though he alludes to other issues that may have forced the family’s hand. He and his sister were put into the Pascal English School in Larnaca for their secondary education where, he recalls, “we felt like aliens; we weren’t your average English Cypriots”.

“I have this concept,” he explains. “You have Cypriots, English Cypriots and English Cypriots in other different categories”.

As a young boy growing up in east Birmingham, he particularly noticed the difference between English Cypriots there. “You had those who had the fish and chip shops, and then there were those who were in other professions”. One gets the feeling though that Stevie, whose father is a barber, does not put himself in the salt and vinegar category of English Cypriots, although visits to the local ‘chippy’ seem fondly embedded in his mind.

Admitting to being a “bit of a clown” at school, Stevie suddenly turns solemn and says. “I won’t sit and have a conversation with you and just talk nonsense and make you laugh. That’s the last thing I aim to do. I want to have a serious conversation that has some sort of meaning. If you can add humour to it, then fair play, but I would never force it”.

At this point, I think of mentioning Peter Ustinov, an English actor and comedian, who once said that “comedy is a funny way of being serious”, but that might take us down a darker road. So what was the journey that led Stevie to making his satiric videos?

As soon as he finished school, he did his stint in the National Guard where he was initially put to work in the menial role of potato peeler but then went on to cook for hundreds of soldiers and ended up with the responsibility of the kitchen keys, proving to the impressionable young man that no matter what you do, there is always room for progression. With his parents’ support, he then went back to the UK to do a degree in communications and media, with an emphasis on radio and television, the latter having been his only form of entertainment living in a remote village that was, as Stevie says, “just full of sheep”. It was his existence in this community that fostered his ability to study human character traits, storing the information he had gleaned in a filing cabinet in his mind, ready to be unlocked at a future date.

While at Birmingham City University, football fan Stevie worked in their in-house radio station as a sports reporter, conducting post and pre-match interviews and undertaking match analysis. But, after finishing his studies, a Bachelor of Arts degree and a bit of work experience would not put Stevie in good stead for a job in his academic field and instead he found himself selling (albeit unsuccessfully) loft insulation in one of Birmingham’s less salubrious areas.

I ask tentatively whether he made any sales. “There was one woman I could have sold it to, but she had Alzheimer’s,” says Stevie, whose conscience got the better of him and prompted him, along with a run-in with an Aston Villa fan, to quit within two weeks. I dare to ask if he got paid. “No, nothing, it was commission based”.

The way Stevie tells this story is very funny and I do not do it justice when repeating it. It is obvious he sees the humorous side of life, but it is not very amusing being jobless in the UK and so Stevie flew back to Cyprus to see if he could get work here, securing a seasonal job at Larnaca airport which lasted only a few months. Unemployed once more, Stevie flew back to Birmingham to look for work and to intern, again unpaid, for Switch Radio as a presenter of their morning shows. By that time he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of job opportunities and his dire financial situation.

“You get to a certain age where you think all I need and want is money… and when you start meeting women… no-one wants a bloke who ain’t got no money in their pocket”, says Stevie, frankly. Although a full-time permanent job at Tesco came up, a lack of a UK national insurance number scuppered that opportunity and, with only sixty pounds to his name, Stevie went to a casino and blew the lot in ten minutes.

“When I lost that money I said to myself, come on man, what are you doing? Grow up! And in that split second, I decided to do something for myself”.

Having hit rock bottom, he flew back to Cyprus in 2016 and set about creating Georgiou’s World. Armed with his iPhone, an old computer and ideas stored away in his brain, Stevie filmed his first minute-long video about Cypriot TV and uploaded it to his new Facebook page. He woke up to a lot of views and comments and knew he was on to something.

He followed it quickly with more videos, but they were only getting a couple of thousand views. Although a big fan of British comedy, Stevie realised that he needed to do something unique so he thought “let’s niche it down” and target something that few have touched – English Cypriots. Stevie admits his first attempt did not work but his Mum found it funny.

“My Mum is my biggest fan. If your Mum ain’t your biggest fan, she’s not your Mum,” says Stevie. I find myself nodding in agreement.

His further attempt, entitled English Cypriot Words, hit the jackpot with nearly seventy thousand views. In it, Stevie tells his audience that English Cypriots in England have created their own dictionary of senselessness using words that are a cross-hybrid of English and Greek. He gives several examples, such as ‘experiotita’ and then invites his viewers to come up with more, which give him further ammunition for a series of videos on the same subject matter.

Spending the rest of the year just talking to a camera and discussing other subjects such as Cypriot Wedding Invitations, Greek School (he was forced to go every Monday night in the UK) and Cypriots Love Bread, it was not until early 2017 that he introduced caricatures into his sketches. In his spoof called The Cyprus Problem he plays Erdogan and Anastassiades and although he nailed the latter impression not everyone was happy about it and he received a lot of stick. So he decided to play safe – the characters in his future videos would be members of his family.“I thought, you’ve been living in the village since you were 11 years old, on your tod, with all these stupid things happening around you, making you laugh, or making you angry, portray that… there are so many people that could relate, that would find it funny”. You can tell that he sees and feels the comedy and the tragedy in the Cypriot psyche.

The ‘father’ character is actually based on his grandfather, the ‘grandmother’ on his own yiayia and the ‘son’ on himself with Stevie acting out all the parts. In fact, Stevie is a one man band, writing the scripts, filming, editing, and, adding music, sound effects and English sub-titles in places where the characters speak Greek. My personal favourites are Cypriot Car Insurance, Dad I’m Marrying a Non-Cypriot, Yiayia & Facebook and The Cypriot Suitcase, but with well over 100 video credits to his name, there is bound to be a subject matter that any Cypriot can relate to. In fact, when you watch Stevie’s videos, you realise you are not alone in your suffering. I bet most Cypriots reading this piece will have had their suitcases stuffed full of halloumi by their mothers on a flight to the UK, but Stevie goes one better and has his father throw in olives and trachanas Cypriot soup for good measure. Sad but true.

“You’ve got to put truth in comedy. If it is not relatable, no one will watch it,” he says.

It soon became apparent to Stevie that it was not just English Cypriots laughing at themselves in his videos. “It’s Australian Cypriots, South African Cypriots, American Cypriots, Canadian Cypriots. There are so many out there that live the life that we live and have experienced the same culture”.

So, by taking a great big melting pot, adding a pinch of English Cypriot and a dash of local Cypriot and, as Stevie says, “mixing them all together and giving them a good stir”, a recipe for success was created – the culinary skills gained in the army not having gone amiss.

However, despite his popularity, the venture is not lucrative, and, to fund production costs and day-to-day living, Stevie still has to work a normal job, most recently at Larnaca airport.

So what does the future hold for this talented young man who just wants to make people laugh?

Having been cast as English-Cypriot Nick in the short comedy film Southgate to London, which won Best Pitch at the Loco Film Festival, Stevie hopes that acting in film or television could be a possibility. Perry White, who directed the 2017 film War Has No Eyes (which was partially filmed in Cyprus at the Kofinou refugee camp) has already asked Stevie to play the lead character in his next project.

“It’s going to be a short comedy drama about the reality of living and working in London,” says Stevie, who will be flying there in early 2019.

But, before he leaves, he will be filming some more of his own videos – skits in a hairdressing salon. Asked by a proprietor (whose Protaras salon has already been used as a location for the UK’s reality TV show Geordie Shore) to help promote her new salon in Larnaca, Stevie can already envisage the endless possibilities, which he has just started to script.

“I want to squeeze every bit of lemon juice out of this,” says Stevie with a cheeky glint in his eye.

If you have ever frequented a Cypriot ladies hairdressers and, like me, can picture where he might be going with this, then I am very sorry to have to break it to you, but you too are living in Georgiou’s World!

 

Find more Stevie at www.facebook.com/GeorgiousWorld/, www.youtube.com/channel/UCaX1N_vrrgfS2bkJxjalnow

 

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