If the name Mary Coustas doesn’t ring any bells, Effie Stephandis might. And bells are ringing her way – wedding bells.
The stereotypical, wise-cracking Greek goddess Mary created to most Aussies is guaranteed to raise a smile. It was the late '80s and after having success with a stage show, 'Wogs Out Of Work', Mary, Nick Giannopoulos, George Kapiniaris and Simon Palomares created TV show ‘Acropolis Now’ (playing on the Coppola classic film) about an outrageous group of Greek stereotypes.
The show was groundbreaking at the time because there were few ethnic faces gracing Aussie screens. It was a conversation Mary heard while in the loo at the university she was studying at that inspired the creation of Effie. “I overheard a conversation between girls that I was completely entertained by the pettiness of it, the narcissism of it, and when I came out and saw them with their super large hair spray, the super large hair and tight clothes, I just thought ‘I have to play this’.”
The show was a hit and ran for three years, catapulting Effie to national stardom with her phrases such as 'how embarrassment' becoming ingrained in the way people spoke. “Effie was tough on the outside and soft on the inside,” says Mary.
“She was uneducated, working class, Greek, a hairdresser, but she believed that she was the best thing ever, and she proved to people that attitude was everything.
“I really didn’t overthink it. I was attracted to that character from an audience point of view because I was intrigued by the accent, the attitude, the look.”
Dipping her finger in a few pies, Mary also released a compilation this year, 'Effie’s Greatest Hits', which captured the '90s era Effie thrived in.
“It became the soundtrack to a lot of memories. It was big for many young people; we’d always to go to a club after a show. It’s not as risky as it might be now with the drugs, and the drink-spiking and so on. You didn’t meet anyone online because there was no online. Effie was always trying to get into a disco called Vibrations and that was a running joke on the show. The '80s and '90s felt like a time when anything was possible.”
Mary insists that comedians still need to push the buttons to ensure freedom of speech in ensured. “The Americans are so prudish. We need people like Sasha Baron Cohen, Ricky Gervais, and Sarah Silverman to make people feel uncomfortable. “People don’t go into comedy to be controlled; they go to make people laugh.”
Effie’s new show, 'The Virgin Bride' starts early next year and Effie had a few things to share on a variety of issues.
“I seem to have matured in a way that is still hot. It’s the power of olive oil that keeps me lubricated both inside and out.”
On 'The Bachelorette's Sam Frost…
“I’ve been out with a lot of guys, I know what it’s like when you’re a desperate female. I’ve been so pro-active in looking for love, and when I say love, I say money.”
On whether the title of 'The Virgin Bride' is accurate...
“If I wasn’t a legend maybe I would be in the horizontal tango club, but guys like the chase and eventually the right guy is going to get me to roll over.”
On post-wedding ritual nerves...
“He popped the question, now when he pops the cherry am I going to be turned into a man-eater?”
On her first kiss...
“The first time me and my fiancé kissed, I slid off my chair and nearly decapitated myself.”
On the cities the show performs at...
“Melbourne’s my birth place so I definitely feel welcome there. Sydney’s full of gay guys who love me and I love them. Perth is the most grateful audience in the world because not many people go there. Brisbane goes off big time and if Melbourne and Sydney had a child it would be called Brisbane because culturally it’s getting better and better.”
Having said that...
“I’m a national icon so the whole country is on my doorstep.”
On what to expect at the show...
“Blatant entertainment and a whole lot of fun.”
TOUR DATESThurs 4 – Sun 7 Feb – Comedy Theatre (Melbourne)
Fri 26 – Sat 27 Feb – Astor Theatre (Perth)
Fri 4 – Sat 5 March – The Tivoli (Brisbane)
Fri 18 – Sun 20 March – Enmore Theatre (Sydney)