Voice Actor Candi Milo on Her New Autobiography, Surviving the Odd

Today marks the release of Surviving the Odd, a new autobiography by comedian and voice actor Candi Milo. Best known to fans for her roles in shows like Tiny Toon Adventures and Dexter's Laboratory, Milo's isn't the typical show business memoir. Instead, it focuses almost exclusively on the truly bizarre situation she grew up in, with her father, stand-up comedian Tony Milo, operating a kind of makeshift halfway house for homeless people displaced by Reagan-era policies that closed hospitals throughout California. As a child, Milo dealt not only with the pressures of a famous parent...but with the reality that there were strangers, some of whom were not entirely stable, living at the "Milo Arms."

Oh -- and Tony forgot to get his family a separate place to stay. It's a compelling, sometimes harrowing, and often funny memoir that offers insight into a truly remarkable and strange upbringing.

Milo joined ComicBook.com for a short Q&A about the book, which you can get here.

When you started writing this, how much did you struggle about exactly how to depict your childhood? A lot of people in your position would have blunted more of the edges down.

I struggled. Let me repeat that, I struggled. I wanted to write my truth but I also knew it had to be palatable. Surviving The Odd is not a YA book or a children's tale – but it isn't a downer either. It's the mind of a Bronx-born comic's daughter telling you that despite ALL the frickin' odds – I managed to live past childhood. HAHA! It's grown-up funny. 

I wanted readers to feel some of what I felt growing up; confusion, anger, worry, disappointment, embarrassment and shame – but to grow with me and let it go along with me. Striking a balance was very hard. Other writers I read wrote hard-but-funny things. David Sedaris and Carrie Fisher come to mind. But I am not only a comic's daughter – I am a comic...so of course, I have a sharper tongue than Carrie or David did.

Every time I was advised to tone it down or rewrite certain passages, I felt a part of me was a little crushed. Compromise was difficult, but I feel like I really got it right. Also: Sobbing while writing helps.  

Given your long career, how did you balance writing about the "fun" stuff that people would expect when they heard you were writing a book, versus these very intense formative experiences?

I swear I just stuck to the truth. When I first wrote this a decade-plus ago, my first draft was 500 pages long. Hilarious stories. Funny jokes. Stories about voice acting sessions. Really dishy stuff. I was dancing away from the truth as far as I could. 

I worked with a writing coach, Erik Odom, who helped me bring it home every single time, with warmth and humor and charm. His favorite saying was, "Girl, the reader is ten steps ahead of you on this...dial back in to you. Also this is cut and this is cut and this is cut..."

How could I not include the scene where I came home from the Righteous Brothers Concert and was back-handed by my Dad? It was shocking and violent. Was it who he was at heart? Was the betrayal by my Mom not discussing it who she was? Or was this just alcohol use and regret coming to an ugly head? I'll let the reader decide.

The book is dedicated to your father, and in spite of obviously being deeply impacted by some of his choices, it seems like you really empathize with him. How hard is it reckoning with that in a forum where you're going to have thousands of people reading along with you?

Fear. I feel desperate, palpable fear in people reading along with me. It's a child's fear. What if they don't like me or believe me? But I hope, in telling people my truth, they realize that while my Dad was no golly-gee hero, he was in fact a BIG hero to whoever we served, and an incredibly talented man who felt cheated out of fame and fortune, despite being promised just that. And he tried to make the most of life with what he had left in him. His indomitable spirit, that foul mouth, that sense of humor, that sense of duty to the "other". 

My compassion for him stems from the fact that I have been performing for 45 years, starting way back at Marriott's Great America theme park in Santa Clara, CA in 1977. After all these years I know what it's like to hit and miss, get passed over, or told no thanks, for whatever the reason. I think I never became embittered because I don't take things personally. I know a successful career is usually 50% persistence, 30% management and 20% chutzpah. 

There is so much more at play in a showbiz career than talent. Fairness is a fairytale. I do have this cool audiotape of him singing at his 60th birthday party and he sounds the same as he did when he was 30. It had to kill him to give up the road to provide for his family. I understand that. On a very deep level. I was a single parent for 15 years until my kid went off to college. I did whatever I could do to be able to provide for her and still do what I loved. 

Honestly, my Dad is not a saint. He drank. He swore. He pulled crap. Seeing that firsthand, I learned from him and so I choose to have all my big battles in my car. Alone. Shouting into my windshield.

You became an activist and a voice for people with developmental disabilities and homeless folks. Do you think that surprises people? The TV version of this could easily make you averse to reliving some of these experiences.

I think people don't know where that passion for the marginalized came from. Because they don't know where I came from, what I saw or how I felt when faced with hard, adult truths as a very little girl. But I hope the way I tell it will lessen the shock of what I experienced and what I have to say. 

After all, it is happening all over again today. People living on the streets. Only this time it is not mental hospitals and institutions closing down. This time it is astronomical rents, prescription oxycodone use, and lack of facilities/services to deal with serious mental health issues pushing people back out onto the streets. And folks are still looking the other way, blaming the injured for their injuries. 

If I did this as a TV show, and I'm writing it now, I would veer very far from a Mel Brooks take on our residents. My life is not character-funny or line-funny. It is situational-funny. And what I hope people will laugh about is this insane Milo family with 5 feral kids, a put-down comic Dad, a sweet good-natured Mom and pop them in a home watching over 12 people waiting for a lunch bell to ring. The residents are not the comedy. The Milos are the comedy. (Why do I get a sense of why I have been single for so long...LOL!) Think M*A*S*H or even Derry Girls. Real time tragedy set in a comedy. 

So you're heading out on the road with this. How do you think that's going to be different from your other speaking engagements?

I think what's different about speaking about my book, rather than doing stand up or a motivational speech, is that there is no script. No hopeful applause. I'm not even going to be speaking as an activist or advocate. I will be speaking from my heart as a daughter, who lived with my very extended family, who all took meds, and thought I was their sister. I will be talking about Milo Arms Board and Care Home at 268 South 11th Street in downtown San Jose – and how I lived there. (And then I lived next door.) 

Some fabulous events are coming up: I have a Q&A/signing at Barnes & Noble at The Grove in LA on October 15th at 2pm. The fabulous Yvette Nicole Brown will be moderating our discussion. This fun event you can enter via Eventbrite and the cost gets you a signed copy of my book. I will also have some animation stills that I'll sign for folks for free, which is a rare treat, usually reserved for comic cons. 

[Editor's note: you can get tickets here]

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I am also going to do a Barnes & Noble signing in my hometown of San Jose, on Stevens Creek Blvd. on October 8th at 1pm. Looking forward to seeing family and friends at this event. Many people in San Jose knew about our home, which was known around the San Jose State Campus as "The Joint Where The Jesuses Live" (which sadly always left out our Elvis, Mother Mary and Santa Claus) and I hope that learning this about my childhood will make people understand "others" better. Hey! I think a Barnes & Noble World Domination Tour might be right for me. It sounds fabulous; A group of people discussing cartoons and writing, doing some signing, laughing, maybe reading from my book. Heavenly. 

So, all in all, I am ok. I am truly ok with what transpired. How it all went down. Yup, the Summer of Love was different for me than it was for others. Yup, I experienced the music, the politics, the fashion, differently than others did. I am OK with that. As a matter of fact I celebrate that and want to share it with everyone in a little book called Surviving the Odd