A slightly more experienced comedian once advised me to never use the word ‘wog’ in my act. Apparently the word “doesn’t really exist anymore.”
I was a few months into performing, desperate for any kind of laugh, and leaning on a couple of easy, stereotype jokes. I have since figured out that the guy was trying to ‘big-dog’ me (it happens a lot in comedy) but his point wasn’t without merit. In fact, for a large portion of my life, the word didn’t exist.
My parents were born in Sydney; my mum of Greek, and my dad of Italian origin. Beside learning to speak the languages, the occasional church visit, and the ridiculously over catered for lunches that would occur for the most trivial of reasons (we once had a big lunch to celebrate my cousin making it into the top 250 globally ranked FIFA players) we were, for all intents and purposes, an Aussie family.
I never even heard the word ‘wog’ until Nick Giannopoulos released his 2000 magnum opus. Yet by the time I was 15 years old, I was easily the most ‘ethnic’ kid at my, mostly white, Sydney private school. This was a result of my parents’ divorce when I was 12; both sought in their cultural origins a new identity in a post married world. Especially my mum, who brought over her cousin (who spoke no English) from Greece to help her out and act as my father figure.
Suddenly, Greek is our first language at home, I’m carrying around Greek worry beads at school, and openly screaming Greek (and Italian) slurs at my school bullies. And there were a lot of bullies. I’d cop everything from being asked where my falafel (not Greek or Italian) was for lunch, to how my dad’s Mafia was going. My intense pride in how much of a ‘wog’ I was, gave me strength.
I didn’t need that strength at Uni, where I gravitated to the University Greek Association, of whom 60% were Greek, and the remainder a mashup of other ethnicities (including Italian) who just wanted to promote Hellenism by drinking themselves into early onset Alzheimer’s disease. It was heaven for me. I was President of the Association within two years and running the show.
This came at a price. I totally neglected my studies and was unceremoniously removed from my Law Degree. The degree that my parents grafted and worked their asses off to put me in a position to attain. The degree that was always supposed to be my path.
I had spent all my time cultivating an identity based on the culture of my grandparent’s past, and it cost me my future. My intense pride in my heritage turned to shame.
I found myself in Insolvency (liquidations, bankruptcy) and despite such a cheery workplace and industry, my brain was eroding by the day. But I had my escape plan. For two years, I privately wrote stand-up comedy. The thing I always quietly wanted to do with my life but never felt I could. I had run out of excuses not to try.
In early 2017 I started performing and haven’t looked back, quitting my job as a corporate grim reaper in mid-2018. During this period, still scarred from university experience, I was very angry at my ethnicity and desperate to be more than just a ‘wog comedian’. But I draw my material from my life, of which, my ethnicity has been a big part.
So part of my act had jokes about my heritage – but to my contemporaries, the whole batch was contaminated. I was the ‘wog comic’ at Sydney’s inner west open mics. Which I absolutely resented.
In yet another moment of big dogging, one comic approached me before our sets to ask “I’m doing jokes about being Greek and Italian, you don’t have any of those do you?” This guy was not any sort of ‘wog’, but I am, so best believe, I took it personally.
There are, however, times where being the ‘wog comic’ had its perks. I was invited to tour with the ‘Wild Wogs’, which included the likes of Joe Avati, George Kapiniaris, and Tahir, all of whom I watched and loved as a teenager, and who have become mentors and friends. And to boot, despite being barely a year into comedy, I was performing to crowds of 800 plus (so I guess the word ‘wog’ still exists for some people).
So, I’ve bottled up all my pride/shame in my ethnicity and distilled it into Don’t Call Me A Wog!, my fifth hour of comedy in as many years. It is basically the story I’ve just told, recalibrated as stand-up comedy, and with the addition of props, music, poems, some stuff with lighting, and a slideshow with heaps of embarrassing videos and photos.
Even though I’m shamelessly using a word that doesn’t even exist anymore in the title to trick hundreds of my fellow Mediterraneans into buying tickets, this show is for everyone. So please come and check it out.
My name is Anthony Locascio, I am a comedian, who happens to be a ‘wog’. Just don’t call me one.