EXCLUSIVE: Mary Coustas is stepping out from her “security blanket” Effie to reveal her life outside of the iconic character

''But I’ll never give Effie up.''
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Gathered around a table at the family-owned cafe Rowena Corner Store in Melbourne’s Richmond sit three generations of Greek Australian women – Mary Coustas, award-winning comedian, actress and writer, her mother Fani and her adorable daughter Jamie.

It’s evident through just one round of cards that comedy runs in their blood. “In a musical family people know how to play instruments, but in our family we’re very big on the jokes,” Mary, 57, tells Woman’s Day.

“My mum is so hilarious and such a funny contradiction of influences. My husband calls her Ron, as in Ron Barassi [AFL icon]. Others call her Al Pacino.

Mary with her mum and miracle daughter.

(Image: Phillip Castleton)

“And Jamie does an impression of an old Greek woman and if you can imagine the Marx Brothers, Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld all in one… that’s her,” she laughs.

Watching Mary, Fani, 83, and Jamie, eight, interact is like watching one of Mary’s stand-up routines as her iconic ’90s character Effie, larger than life and endlessly entertaining.

“We’re constantly laughing. Laughter has been a balm for me through my entire life so it’s always been important to us,” she says.

“And Jamie does an impression of an old Greek woman.”

(Image: Phillip Castleton)

“Mum and Jamie are the most hilarious when they’re together. Mum is always letting her cheat in cards and when I tell her that you don’t win by cheating, Mum yells, ‘I don’t want her to be good, I need her to be sharp!’ which I have to say I kind of love.”

In her new one-woman show This Is Personal, which begins at the Sydney Opera House later this month, Mary steps away from the “security blanket” of her eccentric, bouffant-haired alter-ego and reintroduces her fans to someone that she’s often sidestepped throughout her career – herself.

“But I’ll never give Effie up,” she assures. “She’s like the 12-step program I’m never going to take. She brought joy into what was a very difficult time for me in my life and she’s continuously done that. I feel so privileged with how many doors Effie has opened for me.”

“She’s always been so supportive of me.”

(Image: Getty)

In Effie’s absence, Mary introduces the audience to a multitude of muses who inspired her life and career, with one woman in particularly taking centre stage, her mum.

“She’s always been so supportive of me,” says Mary. She’s such a character. She’s so much fun, super strong, playful, open and not to mention hysterical!” she says.

“Just the other day, I was picking up Jamie from her house and she runs to the car and says, ‘Make sure you’re only talking about me,'” she laughs.

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