It's the comedy economy, stupid! Elf Lyons on the true cost of standup

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After a Franglais Swan Lake, the comic explains economics with sex dolls in ChiffChaff. She talks about loving horror, how guinea pigs helped her through illness and standing up for comedians

Elf Lyons loves economics. Or rather, as she warbles to The Lion King’s They Live in You , “eco-eco-no-nomics”. In her show ChiffChaff, which is equal parts John Maynard Keynes and Lorelei Lee, Lyons breathily considers fiscal policy by asking the audience to blow up sex dolls, play plinky-plonk instruments and imagine inflation as spinach. “I’m what the Times called ‘an ordeal’,” she informs us during a vigorous bout of hula-hooping. That review was for her 2017 rendition of Swan Lake, delivered in Franglais while dressed as a parrot. It earned her an Edinburgh comedy award nomination but left some looking for le exit.

When we meet for coffee in Soho, Lyons says she wants audiences to share her passion and think of finance as fun rather than “George Osborne holding a briefcase”. Unusually, it was the economy – rather than comedy – that really excited her as a child. “I don’t have a good comedy knowledge,” she says. “I’ve never seen Blackadder. Never watched Fawlty Towers or The Young Ones.” Growing up, she travelled a lot with her father, City economist Gerard Lyons. In China, he would explain the financial booms that built the skyscrapers. They watched films like Blade Runner and The Man in the White Suit together then discussed how they depicted expansion and the free market. “It’s about loving something,” she says of the irresistibly silly ChiffChaff. “Economics is beautiful.”

I want to play a really nice Iago

On Fridays we’d all go to the bar. Everybody would swap partners and drink bottles of crap wine

Related: A new way to love: in praise of polyamory

Elf Lyons: ChiffChaff is at Omnibus theatre, London, 25-30 March.

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