Cariad Lloyd is an actress, a comedian, a writer and an improviser. If you watch comedy on TV, chances are you will have seen her. Whether it was her appearance in Peep Show, Murder in Successville or maybe on Have I Got News For You, you most likely are aware of her comedic talents. Cariad Lloyd was nominate for Best Newcomer at the Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Awards. She has also won the Three Weeks Editors award for Fringe excellence. When Cariad is not performing, she can found teaching improv, having performed in Canada, Europe and in New York. I was extremely excited to have the chance to talk books with one of my favourite comedy performers, Cariad Lloyd…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
Awkwardly. I do lot of different things but saying I’m an actor, writer, improviser and comedian makes you sound like a twat. So I normally say performer, and then we go from there.
I am devouring The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, the fourth book in the Neapolitan novel series. I read the second and third in a day, they are the most wonderful, beautiful books and I urge anyone to read them. But especially women, as I think she depicts the deep hurt and joy of female friendships better than I’ve ever read before.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
Oh that’s a tough question – can I spilt the years? Childhood is a long time! Early years we’re talking the Each Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, big fan of that peach and that plum. Then Roald Dahl, anything by Roald Dahl, I still think he’s so wonderful, his scandi-horror take on the world made me feel more human. Tove Jansson, Astrid Lindgren (my mum was big on Scandinavia). I was also obsessed with the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, anything fantastic and magical. And weirdly I was very into Jeffrey Archer aged 10. I read his entire back catalogue – by 11 I decided I had grown out of it, which I think is the perfect reading age for Archer’s novels.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Initially Madonna. But then an actor, but I thought that meant you had to read Shakespeare and be in a velvet dress. I honestly didn’t know that being a comedian/improviser was a job.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
Um, I think she would be shocked. I didn’t have much faith in myself as a teenager, so I’m still very happy and surprised that I get to be silly for a living.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
Anything by Iris Murdoch, my favourite is The Sea, The Sea. I think she’s a wonderful reminder of how unknowable other humans are and the perils of ignoring that fact.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
No, I go through bouts of non-stop reading then I’ll have 6 months of only picking up Stylist. I have to grieve a book, if it was wonderful I can’t start a new one straight away, I find it hard to let go (in all things). I mainly read before bed, as that’s what I’ve always done, or on trains. Trains are the best place to read.
Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far?
Undoubtedly The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It made me write my first Edinburgh show, made me change my life, made me work out why I wouldn’t allow myself to be happy or creative. I am a bit of a hippy though, so it is too much for some, but for me it was magic.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron! People get fed up of me telling them to read it, and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel just because I loved reading that book so much. I try not to force recommendations too much though, some books have to find you.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I like both, it’s lovely to dip into non-fiction for a break, but I suppose my heart prefers living in stories.
Do you think reading is important?
Hugely. I regret that I read less than I used to. The internet, my phone, social media, so much of my time is spent looking at other snippets of life rather than losing myself in fiction like I used to. Reading is genuinely one of my favourite things to do and yet I often put it off.
For fiction, it would have to be The Neapolitan Series by Elena Ferrante, starting with My Brilliant Friend and the subsequent novels. I also highly recommend trying with them again if you didn’t get into them the first time. I put down My Brilliant Friend a year ago but couldn’t get started for some reason. I picked it back up a month ago and have nearly finished the lot. And for non fiction – The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink – it’s a brilliantly honest account of grief, loss and guilt. She writes very truthfully and in a way that is at times crushingly sad, but I think the more we talk about the grief the easier it is to prepare for it. Some people have no idea of it’s pain and I think that makes it harder when it does happen.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
Real. I don’t have a kindle, I can’t get past that screen. I like having a book in my bag, paper heavy and waiting for me.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. If nothing else it’s an incredible piece of writing and will make you a better person.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
Probably the ones I’ve said already.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart is a beautiful piece of writing that isn’t that well known, but worth a look.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Whatever falls my way, sometimes it’s good to let books find you and not chase them.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Carry On Cariad? No wait that’d be awful. I genuinely thing that Shane Richies’ ‘Rags to Richie’ is the greatest autobiography title of all, and sadly will never be beaten or equalled.