King of Comedy

America had the Rat Pack: Frank, Dean, Sammy, they were friends and confidants of Mafioso and Presidents. They are the Platonic ideal of the all-round entertainer. In Britain we’ve got Bruce Forsyth, not so dangerous perhaps but perfectly able to pull off a song, a dance, some passable acting and arrange to have you wake up to a cranial equine bedfellow.

But Bruce is fading, there will soon be a vacuum at the heart of light entertainment. There’s hope that Paddy McGuinness could learn to dance, or that Michael McIntyre might be granted the powers of acting, dance, organised crime and comedy but we need look no further. The Crown Prince of Variety is here, and he’s going to keep the pound shop open as a sideline.

Angelos Epithemiou is about to embark on another nationwide tour, promising that Angelos Epithemiou and Friends will contain “three jokes, two impressions and one dance, some magic and a big quiz.” There’s no doubt that this will be your last chance to see him in such intimate venues. Judging by the attention his earthily handsome frame drew from Hollywood starlet Thandie Newton on BBC Two’s Shooting Stars we may even lose him to Tinseltown sooner than we think. It’s something Angelos himself has noticed but he’s keen to downplay the rumours: “she’ll have to get in line that one” he says, undistracted from the bigger prize.

Women want him, men want him. It must be a trial for Epithemiou, who admits to no more than “one or two” dalliances with groupies on the current tour “I never reveal me secrets”, “I’m an handsome man” he says in his rich London tones “I could turn a man’s head. I could turn it with me hand”.

“They fling themselves at me, which is right, ‘cos look at me—I’m a looker, so the ladies love me… Last week, y’know now I’m in showbiz, someone asked me to open a supermarket, which was very good. Until they sort of flung the keys at me and said: ‘can you open it up at four o’clock in the morning and let the bakers in ‘cos I’m going on holiday’.”

Scenes reminiscent of A Hard Day’s Night—Epithemioumaina if you will—are following him up and down the country: “Birmingham was the place where I turned up three hours before-hand and there’s five people stood outside in the freezing cold saying ‘can we have your autograph Angelos?’. I thought ‘I like this’…I could start just signing things and slinging them on eBay, make a few quid on the side.”

“It’s ridiculous, I just want to be at home watching me Crimewatch videos.”, but fame “is inevitables.” he says in a reflective moment, perhaps conscious of the bigger stardom to come. “Yeah I’m ready for it, whatever they throw at me I’ll take it. Rip as many people off as I can and then clear off to the Bahamas.”

Attention hasn’t yet driven the performer’s ego over the top, Epithemiou is level-headed even about the traditional touring excess “They’ve got me in the good hotels, and quite right ‘cos I’m a superstar. I’ve been trashing ’em, sometimes I leave the bed unmade, leave the kettle on”. His entourage, or his “carers” as he touchingly refers to them, must have had worse times despite a true star’s insistence on everything being just so. Take his backstage rider: “tea, milk, coffee an egg…it has to be fried, I’m not mucking about with poached or scrambled, orange juice. A breakfast really, just at six o’clock in the evening. Sometimes they’re funny about it”.

It’s a troubled Angelos that is watching his career take off so fast, maybe even out of his control: “I’ve got to do more blinking TV, I’ve got to do more of that ‘Shooting Stars’ with those two chancers, the lucky club members, but after that we’ll see happens I don’t know.” It’s obvious that his heart is in his art: “the quicker I can get back to me pound shop the better as far as I’m concerned. I’ve bought all these wet suits…suits that have been in a flood. Everything is a pound, apart from the stuff which is a tenner. Most of it’s a pound. Apart from the stuff that’s like two pound or three pound or 4 pound. Get out of the touring and back into the pound shop that’s what I need to do.”

Art and commerce, the complete entertainer, the new Sinatra with the humility of Forsyth, Angelos Epithemiou is probably a genius and his career is about to blow up as big as his burger van. Only this time it won’t be by “mysterious forces.”

Originally published in Area Magazine.

Author: Jon Bounds

14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands 2008, subsequently not placed. His new book about visiting every seaside pier in England and Wales — Pier Review — has been described as “On the Road meets On the Buses”, it's out now. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama to be performed on Twitter and founded the famous blog Birmingham: It's Not Shit.

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