Greek-American Discovers a New Life Through Comedy

980122_461148600637314_1053208617_oGreek-American comedian, writer and actor Grigorios Kritikos has been told he was funny since he was a kid. It would be years though before Kritikos, who goes by the stage name “Greg The Greek,” became familiar with his sense of humor.

Born in Greece, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1971, where his father opened a shop in Astoria, a predominantly Greek immigrant neighborhood of Queens in New York.

“The kids were ruthless back then,” recalls Kritikos, saying that he was given the disparaging nickname “Hamburger” because his Greek accent made it difficult to pronounce the word properly. As a young adult, the comedian got involved with a rough crowd, running with a gang and indulging in drugs, alcohol and crime.

“There was a lot of pain and bitterness in my family growing up,” he said in an interview. “We were a poor family. I was the kid next door that didn’t get any toys under the Christmas tree.” After his mother was struck by a drunken driver, Kritikos went into a depression that further exacerbated his alcoholism.

He entered rehab in 2011 and has been sober since. He’s also lost a considerable amount of weight since giving up drinking.

Last July the Greek-American moved northwest to the U.S. city of Spokane, where he decided to embrace his funny side and start acting. His “adventurous” past experiences fuel his comedy, making light of the darkest chapters in his life. “My material is based on real life,” he said. “I like to turn tragedy into comedy. I’m a creative writer, I see comedy in everything.”

“The secret to my life today is that I know what I don’t want,” he said. “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives. I like to laugh with life, not at life.”