If you're a veteran in the Montreal comedy scene then chances are you've heard the name Joe Avati. He's the Australian-Italian comedian who's been touring around North America, England, and his native of Australia for almost 20 years! With his charming accent and ability to perform in both English and Italian, it's no wonder Joe continues to fill up venues all over the world and has been called "the greatest comedian you've never heard off". I caught up with Joe back in June, right before he hit the stage for his Back To Basics Tour show at the Leonardo Da Vinci Center to discuss the tour, upcoming projects, and all other things comedic. The evening also marked his 67th show at the LDV Center proving how Montrealers just can't seem to get enough of this wonder from down under.
GC: Welcome back to Montreal Joe. How has the tour been going so far?
JA: It's going really well! It's basically a North American tour. We just added Montreal because we get so many requests on Facebook from fans. We thought while I'm performing in North America we'd jump up and do a couple of quick shows for the people who missed out last time or want to see it again.
GC: What can fans expect from the Back to Basics tour?
JA: On this tour there's always new material. I haven't been here for 3 years, been touring around. I would describe it as the best of the old, best of the new for this particular show. We haven't built it as a new show on purpose. You wouldn't want to fool anybody. When it's a new show, which I'm writing now at the moment, I'll probably come and tour that. I'm doing a 20th anniversary tour next year and that's when I'll probably have a new show.
GC: You're very popular here in Montreal and people can't seem to get enough of you. How would you describe Montreal fans versus other cities?
JA: They're very loyal fans! They really embrace the comedy. Many acts are doing this kind of comedy and they're selling really well, which is fantastic and good to see. I would hope that the 67 shows that I've done at this venue over the years would've helped started an Italian- comedy culture in Montreal. There are people who've been doing this a long time as well. I take no credit for their success. But I hope that I had a big part to the play in the culture of Italian comedy in Canada.
GC : Besides Montreal, what are some of your other cities to perform in?
JA: I love performing in New York. London is fantastic as well. The crowds in Vancouver are great. Shows that are normally supposed to be an hour and a half end up being about two hours because of all the laughter
GC: Who are your comedic inspirations and idols?
JA: Definitely Bill Cosby. Billy Crystal. Billy Connolly. All the famous Billy's pretty much! There's also an Australian guy called Austin Tayshus who's great as well.
GC: When you're not performing on stage what do you like to do?
JA: Nothing! I really enjoy having time on my own.
GC: You're known making jokes about Italian culture and stereotypes. You often include your own family members in your jokes. How do they feel about being inspirations for your acts?
JA: They love it! They come and see me all the time. They're a bit older now and don't come as much as they used to. I actually brought them along with me to Canada in 2002. They're very proud of what I've done and very supportive.
GC: Do you ever get bad crowds or audiences and how do you handle them?
JA: I don't really have bad crowds but they do vary. Probably the worst show I ever had was here (at the LDV center). Normally I would do an hour and twenty-five minutes and then do another seven minute encore. This particular night, by the time I did all my material and got off stage it was an hour and five. It was twenty minutes less than I did the night before and I did the exact same material. The reason was that the laughter was so lame. I've never had a bad show in terms of people booing or anything like that, it's often due to audiences not laughing or not getting it.
GC: Can you share some crazy stories that have occurred while on tour?
JA: I've had bomb scares in Perth. Underwear thrown at me from old Italian ladies. I've had people die during my show, have heart attacks, epileptic seizures and asthma attacks. I once had a guy in Melbourne beat up his girlfriend. He would hit her every time the audience would laugh so no one would hear the slap and scream.
GC: What's next for you after the tour is done?
JA: I'm going to continue to tour. Touring never stops. I also do a lot of corporate work, which is something I never used to do. The reason is because my show has gone from being bilingual to all in English and it's clean, family friendly and non-offensive. I get a lot of requests from corporations to perform at various conferences and I do a lot of motivational and key not speaking. A lot of people don't know that
Cheers to great interview with a very funny mate. A big thanks to Joe Avati for making time to chat with me during his busy schedule. Like always, the show was fantastic. Be sure to check out Joe's website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter for tour schedules and upcoming performances.
Photos courtesey of www.joeavati.com