The career in comedy of Manolis Zontanos, a Hamilton native who is now a veteran in the business, began as a child when he rented Eddie Murphy’s Delirious against his parent’s wishes, and would turn it off whenever they came downstairs.
As Manolis grew into adulthood, his love for comedy flourished but he hadn’t developed the confidence to go on stage. Manolis decided to go for it when none other than Russell Peters approached him and told him he would make a great comic.
Inspired and confident about his new career choice, Manolis told his girlfriend that he wanted to do stand-up comedy. She responded with, “do you really think you’re that funny?” But he was confident. Manolis took Peters’ words to heart and made a decision. Long-time friend Jason Rouse booked Manolis for his first show. “It was good that he put my feet to the fire,” Manolis explained. “The only way to learn comedy was to get out and do it.”
From his own Comedy Network special to performances in front of Gene Simmons, Manolis’ rise from Hamilton into the comedy scene was a combination of luck and talent. “I remember being 19 and thinking, ‘I got this,’” he said. “I remember being 24 and thinking, ‘I don’t know anything,’ but eventually I realized it doesn’t matter, and you’re just up there to have fun and win the crowd.”
To aspiring comedians at McMaster, Manolis said to step up to the microphone and try out your set. Soon enough, the scene will pick you up.
Manolis stressed the value of having supportive friends. “Sometimes you can have a bad set. The Hamilton crowd is tough and if they aren’t amused they simply won’t laugh. Your friends are sometimes the only thing holding you up.” Manolis added that supporting other comics is importance, because you share your victories and ride out the hard times together.
But in the end, he said, upcoming comics need to give the audience what they’ve paid for. “I’ve worked all my life, I know how hard people work for their money, and I’m going to do my best to make them laugh.”