The wave of Italian immigrants who arrived in Australia after World War 11 produced a generation
of highly successful Italian-Australian stand-up comedians. Although Italians had been settling in Australia
since the 1800s, this large influx of escapees from war-torn Europe changed the face of the country as its
descendants came of age. And one place this is very evident is in the field of entertainment.
Earlier waves of Italians had a tendency to keep their heads down, work hard and raise their families, while their
children made an effort to become 'Australianized', a response to the open hostility often shown towards
'foreigners' at that time. These Italians had quietly assimilated into Australian society by the time the post WWII
influx arrived. Now, city streets were once again ringing with Italian (and other European) accents, and whole
neighborhoods and school districts assumed a predominantly 'wog' character.
Enter The Greeks
Fast forward to 1987 when two Greek-Australian comedians, Nick Giannopoulos and George Kapiniaris – along with
Spanish-Australian comic Simon Palomares – changed the face of Australian entertainment when they created a stage
show calledWogs Out Of Work. In a series of comic sketches, the cast poked fun at the foibles of their
families and friends, at the same time taking the sting out the word 'wog', an equivalent of the American term
'wop' which was considered the ultimate insult by Italian-Australians. The show used humor to highlight the
inherent racism in the host culture. Audiences loved it.
Wogs Out Of Workwas an instant hit, touring the country and becoming one of the highest grossing Australian
live shows of all time. Their next project was a 1989 television sitcomtitledAcropolis Now, which featured
Greek-Australian characters running a café in Melbourne. Nick went on to produce and star in a feature film
calledThe Wog Boy(2000), which co-starred Vince Colosimo. The film became the 15th highest grossing
Australian movie of all time, and the pair recently reunited forWog Boy 2: Kings of Mykonos,which was
released in 2010.
The Italian-Australian Stand-Up Comedians
Around the early 1990s, a number of Italian-Australian comedians were making a name for themselves on the comedy
circuit and on television. These included:
- Frank Lotito: Frank is a
writer, producer, actor and stand up comic. Producer of the 8-part series
Stefano's Cooking Paradisoon the
Lifestyle Food Channel, Frank starred in the romantic comedy feature filmBig Mamma's Boy, released in 2010.
Lucia (born 1960): Bruno became popular in the early 1990s
with his role as Wayne on the television sitcom All Together Now. He's currently based in Los Angeles, and performs comedy internationally.
Sorrenti (1961): Vince performs at many high profile
functions and events, and writes an opinion piece forThe Daily
Telegraph. Vince's wit is often very biting, and he often makes
outrageous observations that would have been impossible to voice 20 years earlier.
Avati (1974): Joe performs his comedy routines in Australia,
as well as in Canada, the USA and the UK. He was a member of theIl
Dagocomedy team with George Kapiniaris, Simon Palomares and Nish
Selvadurai. Joe's sharply observed comedy has prompted comparisons to American comedian Jerry
The Italian-Australian comics have allowed large numbers of young Australians who share an Italian heritage to
laugh at themselves while retaining a feeling of affection for their parents' and grandparents' culture. And
Australians of other backgrounds 'got' the jokes as well. Their brand of comedy reflects a new, more confident
version of Australian 'wog' culture that has emerged since the 1950s. It's a testament to the power of laughter to
help affect social change.