3 questions with: Just-for-Laughs comedian Yannis Pappas

We asked comedians performing at this year's Just For Laughs Festival about what makes them laugh: their biggest fails, their best (profanity-free) jokes and the funniest thing about this city.

Just-for-Laughs comics on their biggest fails, their best G-rated jokes, the funniest thing about Montreal

Yannis Pappas used to perform as Mr. Panos, a character he created to exemplify peak Greek-ness, but he now does stand up. (Just For Laughs)

For the 34th year, the hottest comedians in the world will descend on Montreal for the Just for Laughs Festival. With so many funny people in one place, we wanted to find out about what makes them laugh: their biggest fails, their best (profanity-free) jokes and the funniest thing about this city.

First up is Yannis Pappas, a Greek-American who grew up in Brooklyn. He used to perform as Mr. Panos, a character he created to exemplify peak Greek-ness, but now does stand up. Pappas is part of the Ethnic Show lineup, which goes from July 14 to July 28, and has his own show July 25.

CBC Montreal: Can you tell us about a time when you experienced a comedy fail? A joke that didn't go well, an awkward moment or something that didn't go as planned.

Yannis Pappas: This was one of the first times I was at a college, had a big audience, so I started doing crowd work, which isn't a good idea. I pointed to one girl and I was like, "What's your major?" She said physical education and I just thought she was trying to mess with me. So I got ultra defensive and I was like, "You're too out of shape to be a gym major" and the girl got up and ran out crying.

I was bombing anyway and I got off stage early and there were like six fraternity brothers surrounding me. They were like "That was my girlfriend. That was really rude. You didn't know that girl tried to kill herself last week." I was scared. They looked like they were going to beat me up but they didn't. It was bad.

It was a learning experience, to not get too defensive. And colleges and the kids there are very sensitive, and that was the first college I did. I don't think I could sleep for five days after that.

CM: What is your best short-form G-rated joke?

YP: Do you think guide dogs get bitter after a while and start viewing regular pet dogs as lazy and living off the system?  Saying, "Hey, you just going to lay around the living room all day while I'm out there working a union job? Putting money into the tax system?" I bet you all service animals vote Republican.

CM: What's the funniest thing about Montreal?

YP: How so often the guys asking you for money on the street speak like a couple of languages. I'm from America and we can barely speak English. These guys who are out there hustling for change are more worldly than any American neighbour I have.

I see them switching to, like, five languages. So these guys are pretty smart, which is pretty hilarious to me. I tell them I don't speak French, so they switch to English. And I'm like, "No, I'm Greek" and they say something and I'm like, "OK, this guy's got me. Here's a couple of loonies and toonies."