What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
The first time I saw Costaki Economopoulos, he was one of the brighter lights who made the finals of the 1997 Seattle Comedy Competition only to be overshadowed by Mitch Hedberg. The next time I saw him, a little more than a decade later, he was in New York City auditioning for NBC’s Last Comic Standing. In between, he’d performed at Montreal’s Just For Laughs, become a father, having a daughter with Caroline Rhea, and become a regular on the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom radio show.
Economopoulos has a podcast about the NFL called “Quick Snaps” which he’s also turned into a joke-driven radio segment on several stations across the country. He just released his newest stand-up comedy album, “Live at ACME,” as in Acme Comedy Co. in Minneapolis. It’s the first album on the new label, You Lucky Dog Productions, run by Aaron Hodges (formerly of SiriusXM). Econompoulos invited me up to the rooftop of his Upper West Side apartment building, where he lives with his wife, a photographer he met in the building. What other NYC stories does Costaki have to share? Let’s find out!
Name: Costaki Economopoulos
Arrival Date: Summer 2008
Arrived From: Los Angeles
“I’m an Atlanta boy. I did my early road gigs from Atlanta, driving. Then I moved to L.A. for about seven, eight, nine years. And then I moved to New York eight years ago,” Costaki told me. “It was the summer of 2008. I played in the World Series of Poker as a last hurrah, and I had a kid on the way.”
When and where did you first start performing?
“My first performance ever was in the Certs Doritos Comedy Competition in college, at the University of Georgia. And then I didn’t go onstage for an entire year, and I did the Certs Doritos competition the following year in Tampa – where I happened to be in school there. That’s when I thought, OK, I’ve got to do this more often.” But you didn’t go onstage between the two contests?! “Isn’t that weird? An entire year. When I tell comics that, they’re incredulous. They’re like, ‘What???’ They can’t believe it. And it went pretty well, first time considering, given my low standards. I did prop comedy, believe it or not, my first time.” I can believe it. “Do you remember the Rich Hall thing where he had detergent boxes? He did a piece with detergent boxes where he was like, ‘You can have it All, but you’ve got to take some Wisk.’ You know? And I thought, that’s a cool idea, but the best medium for that is cereal boxes. So I literally went to the grocery store and wrote down every cereal box’s name, then came home and wrote a story, and then went back and bought like 24 boxes of cereal.” For the first bit or the second year’s bit? “I did the same bit both times. I had all the cereal boxes!” How’d you do? “First time I was terrified and did pretty well. And the second time, I came in second place. The jokes landed. So I was like, OK, I have to at least work on this, and figure this out. I have to at least try this.”
What was your best credit when you moved to New York?
“I was a finalist in the Seattle Comedy Competition. That was probably my big one. That might have been it…I had written for a few things. I had written for MTV. I wrote for BET. Yeah. Not much. Not much to work with there.”
After initially moving to and living in Los Angeles, what made you decide to move to NYC?
“My girlfriend at the time was sick of L.A., and didn’t have a reason to be there anymore, and it was time to come to New York. She had a place here, anyway, so we came back here. New York’s a better place to be a comic.”
How would you describe the comedy scene there versus here for stand-up?
“It’s funny, because I’m a beast of the road. So many guys who bubble up through the scene, you know, they’re New York guys. I’m kind of the opposite. I’m a road guy. Literally on the road for 45 weeks a year for a long stretch of my life. I find them both sort of weird and quirky and cliquey and challenging and fantastic and terrible. They’re similar in that way. In New York, there’s a little more guts to it. It’s a little more stand-up oriented. In L.A., it just feels like everyone’s waiting to be a wacky neighbor on a show. That’s an over-exaggeration, but there’s a little bit more of that in L.A. It’s also more writer-driven, I think here. And just from a practical point of view, it’s a better place to be a comic because you’re closer to more humans and the time-zone situation, it’s easier to go to Indiana and come back. On the day that you go to the gig, it’s the same time. When you’re doing that from L.A., you lose three hours, and there’s traffic, and it’s a nightmare to get there. So I prefer New York by a lot.”
How long did it take you to get paid work in NYC?
“It’s still spotty. It’s still, these guys love me, these guys don’t know me – it’s still a crazy game. I always assumed when I came from the road. You know, from the road, the running gag is be nice to the waitress, she’ll be booking the place next year. It’s funny because there’s so much turnover, and I thought, well, someday I’ll graduate to New York, and that won’t be a problem anymore. And I think it’s even more of problem. Like, my walkable club is Stand-Up NY, and I think I’ve been in with 70-80 percent of the administrations in the decade or so that I’ve been here. But there have been more administrations than years! Right? It’s crazy!” That club has had some turnover in terms of bookers, true. “So I come back here to be Super Dad and be connected to show business, anyway. So for me, when do a few spots here or there, it’s a good number for me.”
What do you tell friends or relatives for your “only in New York” story or experience?
“For me, it’s this. It’s that you and I can have this conversation this week. My album’s coming out, so I’m doing 12 live interviews with people all over the place. Yesterday, I took the train down and taped for NFL Films, this Top 10 series that they do. It’s that you’re close and connected to all of those kinds of things. To me, that’s the appeal of New York. That you’re in show business. At least you can be. When I lived in Atlanta, there’s none of these things there. It’s zero.” CNN? “Well, yes. Some things are there. But in terms of the real day-to-day comic show business stuff, there’s zero. So to me, that’s the appeal of New York.”
What advice would you give to any comedian who’s thinking of moving here?
“Come see it first. I would say the same thing about L.A., and I did that when I went to L.A. the first time. I literally went around and couch-surfed and looked and thought, OK, I can do this. Yeah, this could be a thing. So use a friend and come visit the place, go do a couple of sets, hang around and see what you think. Don’t come blind. Plus, when you come – Plan A, you come and have some connections and have that process already initiated. Yeah, I would do it that way. It’s a good place to be. And even if you don’t stay here forever, New York is a great experience to have had. You know what I mean? So I would highly recommend it to comics.”
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
“Great question. Is this a job interview?” When we look at this page online five years from now? “I’d like to have a handful more TV credits. I’d like to have a Netflix special. I would like to have elevated this sort of cottage industry of being the football joke guy further. I’m already calling about 20 radio stations weekly doing this segment called Quick Snaps. It’s all topical NFL jokes, including Bob & Tom and their audience. To be honest, I feel like I’m in a really good place in the world. You always have those, ‘I wish I had this, or I wish that,’ but broadly, my life is good. I have a beautiful 8-year-old kid, and a great wife, and I get to be a comic for a living. Because of my radio exposure, I do pretty well. I can sell some tickets in the Midwest and so I’m going out less often, which means that I have a little bit more of a normal life. So right now I feel really good about the balance. A little bit more of everything, I think.”
And his new CD, “Live at ACME” is out now. Buy it here:
Here’s a track from the new album that he turned into a music video: “Snoring”
Hear a couple of tracks off Costaki’s new album now, both dealing with his daughter, Ava, at the age of 8.
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com