Candy Lawrence is a show pony. At least that’s what she insists repeatedly throughout her stand-up set at the Lyric Hyperion, yelling and trotting in circles around the perimeter of a rug like a deranged horse on amphetamines. Like many of her jokes, this one is physical and it originated from a drunken mistake.
“I used to cut my bangs really short, usually when I was drunk, and it was just kind of my thing,” she tells me on a recent Thursday night after Haunted, a monthly paranormal-themed comedy and storytelling show in which most of the jokes are actually just horror stories about men. “I felt like I looked like a pony.”
She’s worried she shouldn't do the joke anymore. For starters, her curly brunette bangs have started to grow out a little — and maybe more important, she stopped drinking about a year ago, which might explain why she also stopped impulse-cutting her locks.
“I used to get drunk a lot and do stand-up and I improvised a lot more, and I’m starting to learn to be sober,” she says. “So I’m learning stand-up in a whole new way where I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to drink, and lubricate myself’ — that sounded weird — in a way because I was just so loose and I never did [written] material.”
But that’s slowly starting to change. On this night, she estimates her set was only about a third improvised. Mostly it’s a direct response to her immediate surroundings: what she happens to be wearing that day, what show she’s performing in and who’s in the audience.
“I think that is my favorite part is improvising and connecting with the audience and being like, ‘Oh I just farted, so I’m going to do like ‘do-doo-do-do-doo’ for another hour,” she says, humming a fart noise that begins to sound like a song.
When she performed at the small black box stage in Silver Lake, she wore a seafoam green sweatshirt that looks like a relic of the 1990s, with its cartoon image of a jazzercising teddy bear, sweatband and all. The words “Are we having fun yet?” are embossed across the chest, and Lawrence borrowed the rhetorical question as a refrain throughout the set, repeating it in her best Midwestern-mom accent whenever she needed to take a beat between jokes.
It wasn't clear why exactly the refrain was funny, but each time Lawrence repeated it, it grew funnier, becoming an absurd kind of punch line until the audience realized that, yes, we were finally starting to have some fun. Lawrence propped her knee up at a right-degree angle — a pose she said is a dead giveaway that she's a lesbian — and applauded herself for having boldly worn this same teddy bear–stamped outfit to her job as a secretary earlier that day.
“I do have a day job, which is fine,” she tells me after the set. “I’d never talked about my job [onstage] before, and then someone from my work came and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m talking about my job in a bad way! Am I getting fired? Let’s hope.’”
Her set is riddled with obscure references to music and movies of the 1990s and early 2000s: the embarrassment of hearing the goth rock band Evanescence on the oldies channel, or the shame of Shazam-ing a song by 311. Either that, or having chipped a tooth on a strawberry daiquiri wine cooler at a rave once, was the definition of hitting rock bottom, she said onstage.
“I love making references,” she told me later. “If I can name, like, Burt Reynolds, Jenny Jones, if I can just sit there and name people and be like, ‘Do you remember that?’” it would be an ideal set, she said.
Lawrence moved from Chicago to Los Angeles two years ago, which has partly contributed to her decision to stop drinking. “It’s just like, that’s what you do [in Chicago]. Especially being a comic, you get free drink tickets, and most of your shows are at bars, so it’s a lot of drinking,” she says. “I feel like a lot of people that move here are like, ‘Oh my God, I’m drinking kale now instead of beer.”
But Lawrence isn’t sipping the kale-flavored Kool-Aid just yet, and she hasn't totally committed to sobriety, either. “I’ll do coke once in a while,” she says, giggling. “We laugh because it’s true. It’s a good Friday to Saturday night.”
Having quickly adjusted to the L.A. lifestyle, she’s also trying her hand at scriptwriting, in part because she says there are more opportunities to write than to perform in L.A. Besides, she’s working on other things. “You know, like love,” she gushes. “And a web series.”
That forthcoming web series is called Co-Dependent, “because we’re co-dependent,” Lawrence says, motioning to Chelsea Morgan, her girlfriend of a year and a half. “That and weed,” she says. “A lot of weed.”
The funny thing about the L.A. comedy scene is that it's not so easy to crack. That's why each week, we pick a show and sit down with a funny person after their set (or podcast taping or whatever), because we think it's time you got to know your local comedian. If you've got a show you'd like us to know about, email the author.