British comic Elf Lyons makes economics a laughing matter

Comedian Elf Lyons waits backstage before her performance in "ChiffChaff" at the Pleasance Dome at the Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain August 17, 2018. Picture taken August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

EDINBURGH (Reuters) – You could say British comic Elf Lyons is one half of a double-act – the other half is her father Gerard Lyons, a prominent economist and former advisor to politician Boris Johnson.

They have long been each other’s audience: Elf telling her father when his articles were boring, and Gerard attending her shows and loving them.

After her one-woman version of Swan Lake, in which she dressed as a parrot, was nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award last year, she is back at the Fringe festival, eking out the funny side of otherwise dry and impenetrable economic theories.

Trained by French clown master Philippe Gaulier in Paris, Elf uses physical comedy, the persona of Liza Minnelli and a baby-girl American accent to address such subjects as the differences between Milton Friedman’s monetarism and John Maynard Keynes’ preference for government expenditure to stimulate the economy.

British Prime Minister Theresa May features in Elf’s fictional nightmares dressed in a clown outfit and huddled down a drain with her government.

Elf, who goes by a teenage nickname that stuck, says if the show, “ChiffChaff”, has a serious approach to economics, it is to give the audience “a new relationship to that word”.

As soon as she recovers from her August run in the Scottish capital, the plan is to finish a book she is writing with her father, which will be “a comical analysis” of economics.

“A lot of people see economics as to do with maths and the stock exchange,” she told Reuters between shows.

“I’m interested in behavioural economics and the relationship with people … Economics is to do with everything that we do in our day-to-day life.”

One thing the book will not touch is Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, a subject her pro-Brexit father covered in another book. Like him – and unlike most of the hundreds of comics at the Fringe – Elf is a Brexiteer.

“I always stand by why I voted leave. I think that the European Union isn’t representative of Europe. I think that it’s a private boys’ club and I don’t think it actually protects and looks after all its members,” she said.

In her show, Brexit is an elephant in the room – literally – a toy animal lurking silently at the back of the stage.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy