I have mentioned comedy act Candy Gigi a couple of times in earlier blogs. I saw her stuffing massive amounts of Corn Flakes into her mouth at Pull The Other One comedy club and I saw her attack people – including me – with some sort of green vegetation at Lost Cabaret.
When I talked to her this week, she was rather less manic in Soho.
“You studied musical theatre at Mountview Acting School,” I said to her. “So you wanted to be an actress?”
“I could have been doing musical theatre,” she told me. “But I didn’t want to be in a cast.”
“You don’t want to soil yourself with money?” I asked.
“Well, there’s probably more money in comedy than in musicals,” she told me. “A lot of my friends are in musicals and they make virtually nothing. My friend has a secondary part in The Book of Mormon in the West End and he doesn’t get a lot.”
“But odd, surreal acts are a difficult sell,” I said. “If you want to make money, why not just do straight stand-up?”
“My mind doesn’t work that way,” explained Candy Gigi. “I need to be physical. And I don’t actually want to change or tone down the act. I think if people like me, they’ll come to me; my audience will find me. If I just adapt and become like everybody else, then what was the point of doing this in the first place?”
“What WAS the point of doing it in the first place?” I asked.
“Hopefully,” she replied, “I’ll make a lot of money from it and become a huge star.”
“Any showbiz in your family?” I asked.
“My third cousin is Ron Moody who was Fagin in Oliver! and my dad was an impersonator. He’s a lawyer now and he really misses the… He would have loved to have done what I’m doing. He’s a lawyer, but he hates it and wishes he could have done comedy.”
“When did he stop?” I asked.
“When he went to university, because his parents wanted him to be a lawyer. My parents are very supportive about what I do. When my mum comes to my shows, she loves them.”
“But why the Corn Flakes in the face?” I asked.
“I really don’t know; they just work.”
“I do have a script for everything I do.”
“When I saw you at Lost Cabaret,” I said, “in the interval you went on stage while people were off getting drinks, turned your back to the room and you were rehearsing.”
“Yeah. People think I just come on and go mental, but there’s thought behind it.”
“What’s the thought?”
“I can’t explain it. You can’t just act mad, though sometimes I’m aware most of the time it’s just crazy. What I’m trying to find is the up-and-down, the light-and-shade. I think, once I find that, I’ll be more suitable for mainstream audiences because there will be more colour and it won’t be just crazy. I’ve only been doing comedy for a year-and-a-half.
“I think what people tend to find shocking about my act is that I’m quite… not feminine, not girly… but maybe I seem like a stereotypical girl, into fashion and so on and then I go on stage and I’m quite grotesque. I really ugly it up.”
“When you were a kid,” I asked, “did you like grotesques?”
“I always liked Jim Carrey and Mr Bean.”
“Jim Carrey because he is….”
“Facially grotesque and visual,” replied Candy Gigi.
“You like to be grotesque on stage,” I said. “Is that some sort of defence mechanism?”
“Probably,” said Candy Gigi. “I like looking ugly. I like the part where it’s a bit unsettling. I like that.”
“You like controlling the audience?”
“Yeah. I like giving them that sort of feeling of discomfort. Also, most people have got that level of insanity within them – that twisted, warped darkness.”
“Maybe only performers?” I suggested.
“I know a lot of people who are mentally… Well, maybe…” admitted Candy Gigi. “Predominantly performers, possibly… I think my personality is bizarre. I’m just being me and that just so happens to be bizarre.”
“How are you bizarre?” I asked.
“I’ve probably got a bit of a personality disorder. “
“No, but I’ve probably got something. I’m very up-and-down.”
“I don’t think I’ve actually got it, but I’ve possibly got a few elements of that.”
“Like being Stephen Fry but without the buggery?” I suggested.
“I love him,” said Candy Gigi. “How could anyone not?”
“Your dad is a frustrated performer?” I asked.
“My dad is…” said Candy Gigi, “He’s… Imagine Basil Fawlty… He is just like Basil Fawlty, but possibly more irate and frustrated and hysterical – like the episode where he’s beating up a car with a tree. He’s the shouty Basil Fawlty where he gets irate and crazy over nothing; on the brink of a heart attack. He’s good at his job, he works really hard, he’s a really good dad, but he’s crazy. My elder brother’s quite straight but me and my little brother are just completely gone with the eccentricity.”
“Is your mother eccentric?”
“She’s a little Jewish crazy lady.”
“Anarchy and chicken soup?” I asked.
“She’s wonderful and lovely and kind,” said Candy Gigi.
“Does she work?” I asked.
“She looks after old people with Alzheimer’s. They come round our house. We were brought up around a lot of odd people and a lot of my family are… a few mental illnesses.
“I once had something written about me saying my act was taking the mickey out of people with mental health problems, totally tearing into me… And it’s just not true.
“I really am very familiar with mental health problems and I don’t know anyone who’s got a mental health condition who throws Crunchy Nuts in their face and scrawls red lipstick all over their face and behaves like I do on stage. How is that taking the mickey out of people who are mentally ill? That’s actually very offensive to people who do have bad mental health. They don’t behave like that.
“Even if that were the case – that I was taking the mickey – and it isn’t – I would still stand by it, because why do you have to tip-toe round Society and people’s problems? Why not laugh? Why NOT laugh?”
“To be a comedian,” I suggested, “you have to perform or view things abnormally, don’t you?”
“I’m very familiar with mental health problems,” replied Candy Gigi. “I’ve got it within my family and I think I’ve got it within me, otherwise how would I have thought of my act? Where does it come from? Your act comes from you. It’s just an extension of myself.”
“There is a showbiz tradition,” I said, “of grotesques and people doing mad, surreal things.”
“Yes,” said Candy Gigi. “Basil Fawlty – mad. Mr Bean – autistic. There’s loads of characters throughout the years who have been incredibly successful but have definitely got some form of mental ill-health. David Brent in The Office. There is something not right about THAT man.”
“So, you’re 24 now,” I said. “Where will you be when you’re 29?”
“Fucking successful,” said Candy Gigi. “I really want to be big in comedy. But, even if I become famous, I’ll still be a bloody mentalist. If anything, I’ll probably be even worse, because I think the fame will make me go meshugenah – I’ll turn to alcohol and food and I really will be throwing Crunchy Nut at my own face.”