Earlier in the week, I saw a Romanian act at Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Becky Fury’s always-interesting Democratik Republik of Kabaret gig in London.
She recommended I come and see him.
The aforementioned Romanian performs as ‘Titus’ because he thinks his real name – Dragoş Moştenescu – is a tad too complicated for us. He might have a point. I dunno. ‘Dragos’ is OK.
It is not often you stumble on a fairly-fluent English-speaking Romanian stand-up with a humdinger of a musical act. And one gigging most nights. So, obviously, I asked: “How long have you been in the UK?”
“Four weeks,” he replied. “I intend to develop a little bit my career here. It is difficult but, although I am not very young, I think I can do it, because I think I can rely on my combination between music and comedy. I must not be one of the millions of comedians who does only comedy. This mixture between comedy and music could be more interesting than the average.”
“Indeed,” I said. “Is there much of a comedy scene in Romania?”
“For the moment, not much. But I did one of the most important sitcoms in Romania – La Bloc. That means a block of flats. It ran over seven years with 500 episodes. I wrote and acted in it.”
“For the whole seven years?” I asked.
“Yes. I have been in comedy for twenty years. I had Issue of The Day first. It started in 1997. It was a 7-10 minute sketch of the day. We broadcast daily. Then I was in the sitcom for seven years. And now, since it ended, it is re-run over and over again because it still works so well.”
“Do you get residual payments for the re-runs?” I asked.
“Yes, but very, very low. In Romania, there are many hands involved when it comes to money.”
In fact, oddly, Dragoş rather under-sells himself. He is credited on-screen as co-creator of La Bloc. There was a movie of the series. He also created, wrote and performed in sitcom Nimeni nu-i perfect (Nobody’s Perfect); created, wrote and performed in the comedy drama Taxes, Pictures and Donuts and directed/performed in the stage play Portret La Minut (Minute Portrait). He even created and, for two years, starred as a superhero character in TV and print ads for the Profi food chain (400 shops in Romania).
And, in 2015, he was involved in an award-winning 3-episode documentary called 13 Shades of Romanian…
“So now here you are in Britain,” I said. “You seem to have hit the ground running – gigs every night.”
“I had a contact with BBC last year.,” he told me. They said they were looking for new talent to put on a stage show with the music of Gary Barlow and Take That – Let It Shine – and I was called for casting and I think the performance was pretty good but they said my age was not very suitable because they were looking for someone aged 25, maximum 30.
“I asked Why didn’t you say so from the beginning? and they said Don’t worry. Although you haven’t been selected for the moment, maybe… And that gave me a little boost.
“So I came here to the UK again in March this year. I got my National Insurance number, so I can be proper with documents and everything.”
Dragoş is extraordinarily well-researched on the UK comedy scene – and focussed.
He showed me an Elton John tribute he performed seven years ago (most things linked to Dragoş involve seven-year spans).
“Is it on YouTube?” I asked.
“Yes. I have my own YouTube channel,” he said.
He is Big in Romania but has the guts to re-start in the UK. Working every night though currently mostly on free gigs.
“I will keep on going to these open mic gigs,” he told me, “because I meet people, I see how my material works here and I can change things.”
When I saw him at the Democratik Republik of Kabaret, he was doing the Beatles’ Let It Be in a dizzying variety of different styles… and a song about Dracula.
“And I have non-verbal songs,” he told me. “I have Three Minutes of Classic Music. I begin to play classic music – Beethoven – but there is a mosquito bothering me and it’s a kind of pantomime, about me trying to get rid of the mosquito with some actions on the piano.”
There are several episodes of La Bloc on YouTube.