It's the 70th anniversary of OXI Day, the day when the Greeks rejected an ultimatum from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on Oct. 28, 1940. I know this thanks, in part, to Mr. Panos. Who is Mr. Panos? Roll the clip!
Mr. Panos, in fact, is the brainchild of New York City stand-up comedian and filmmaker Yannis Pappas. He has produced more than 20 "Mr. Panos" videos, with some generating hundreds of thousands of YouTube views. Before I can say "it's all Greek to me," I decided instead to let Pappas explain his creation.
Is he based on anyone you know?
The character is based a little on my mother, a little on my friend from college and my observations of some of the darker side and the stereotypes of Greek Culture. I have met many Greeks who remind me of Mr. Panos so he is really a combination of many people I have met throughout my life. Unfortunately, the prevalence of his mentality has been in the shadows for a long time and has kind of now become known to the world due to the crash of the Greek economy and all the corruption that was exposed to the world.
I decided to create the character when I was at my mother's house and I saw these two huge Greek flags that she received at a Greek event. The idea for the video blog just popped in my head with those in the background. From there, the character really created itself.
Mr. Panos represents small-minded nationalists everywhere. People like Mr. Panos are why people still fight national wars that oligarchs and their political puppets start. I am sure you could find a Panos in every culture and country. He is stuck in the past and stifled by culture.
Does this make more sense if you're living in Astoria, Queens?
He is from Astoria and if you have ever lived there certainly you have come across someone who reminds you of Panos.
What do you make of the feedback you've received so far on Mr. Panos?
The feedback I receive runs the gamut from people who love him too much as a hero-type to people who get it to death threats and anger. The Greeks who get angry I assume are the ones that feel it strike close to home. The crash of the Greek economy I think has brought a lot of outside interest to Greek culture and has thrust that country into the news and in Europe it is an area of major concern considering the experiment of the European Union so I think a lot of people who are not Greek watch the vlogs and get it. I think it has also created interest outside the Greek community for this reason.
What's next for Panos?
There will be more video blogs on YouTube and we are pitching a show that would involve him.