For four years Wynne Evans has been annoying viewers with his opera singing character from the car insurance adverts. But what’s he really like? I sat down with the guy once dubbed the most irritating man in Britain.
“Go Compare! Go Compare”, rings out in the streets of Cardiff as I’m walking along with Wynne Evens, otherwise known as Gio Compario – the Go Compare Man. “I get that a lot,” he says, smiling and pointing at the group of lads shouting the tune as we walk by.
“The most embarrassing thing I get is when parents are out with their kids and they recognise me but the kid doesn’t. So the parents ask me to sing it to them and I won’t ever do it.”
Upon my arrival at Cardiff Central Station I’m met by Evans waiting to give me a lift to the bay. I climb into his sparkling new 4×4, bought after the success of the Go Compare car insurance commercials.
“It’s alright isn’t it,” Evans says as he stops at a green traffic light for no reason. I instantly wonder what he’s like as a driver himself.
Not good on first impressions.
I ask if he gets free car insurance and he can’t help but laugh, “No I don’t! I’m with Go Compare but I just use the website like everybody else. I should have had that written in to my contract shouldn’t I?” In fact, Evans clams to have been a loyal customer to the company BEFORE landing the role as Gio Compario. He doesn’t expect me to believe that.
Once voted the most annoying man in Britain, Evans couldn’t be further from it. He’s polite, charming and overly apologetic for being just a few minutes late. “Sorry I was a little behind schedule, I’ve been on the school run this afternoon” he says.
“I actually thought I was coming down to London to meet you until yesterday. You should have said if it was a problem getting here, I’d have come down instead.”
Of course, me hopping the a train was no problem at all but Evans is used to travelling back and forth between London and Cardiff for filming and presenting his radio shows on BBC Radio Wales and Classic FM. Both jobs he secured on the back of his TV fame.
As we sit down we chat about when the Go Compare adverts first went on out and how comments on social networks such like Twitter and Facebook instantly began to affect him. “It was the biggest advertising campaign in the new age of social networking which I found really hard to cope with.”
Not hard to believe when hate groups aimed at the Go Compare man on Facebook attracted over 250,000 members. “I remember I was on holiday in the South of France and someone wrote to me saying how lovely that I had a fan site on Facebook. But disappointingly, there was also a hate site for me which fifty times more Likes”, Evans says with a smile.
He’s able to laugh about it now but he admits he found comments online particularly hurtful in the beginning, “It’s incredibly hard reading horrible things, I found it really tough. What I found hard to believe was that people got so wound up by the adverts that I had more people joining a hate group against me on Facebook than Nick Griffin. I couldn’t get my head around that.”
As the insults continued Evans found that he would often here the same negative comments and the more he heard, the less he cared, “Once you’ve heard names enough you get over it, you know. I’ve started having a bit of banter to people now on Twitter and stuff. They’re happier when I reply in fact.”
Thankfully, the abuse and negative comments were only online and not in the street. In fact, Gio Compario has developed quite the fan base. During our interview Evans reaches for his phone and plays a video from a little girl’s birthday party he attended who was obsessed with the Go Compare man.
So impressed with the girls’ dedication (she has a Gio Compario cake and all her party guests have homemade curly moustaches on) that Evans gave the birthday girl the one and only Gio Compario toy figure which appears in the latest commercial.
In the time I’ve spent with Evans, despite not wearing his trademark curly moustache and wig, he’s been recognised several times and shakes hands with people passing by. We stop outside the Welsh National Opera House to pose for a few pictures.
As I’m stood next to Evans he asks me the one thing I was hoping to avoid. “You know the Go Compare tune don’t you? Go on give it a go, it’s easy.” Now I understand what he means when he says he gets embarrassed when parents ask him to sing it.
As I hesitate, Evans urges me on some more, giving me some tips on my posture and how to project my voice. I suppose I should do it. So then on the count of three out it comes… GO COMPARE! If there was any doubt about who I was standing with before, there isn’t anymore. I’ve literally stopped people in the street with my pathetic singing attempt. Evans pats me on the back and with his huge Gio Compario grim says, “See I don’t know what you were so worried about.” After four years he’s used to people stopping by now. And he doesn’t care.
Evans got the job as Go Compare’s Gio Compario character through previous commercial work. “I did the voice for Gary Lineker in the Walkers crisps adverts and it was the same company that did the musical arrangements for the Go Compare adverts, years later. So I auditioned and as the writers saw me, heard me sing they didn’t bother seeing anyone else afterwards – I’d got the job!”
Since then he’s become a regular BBC Radio Wales and Classic FM presenter as well as signing a six-album deal with Warner Records. But the record deal was no fluke. Evans has been an opera singer for nearly twenty years starting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the National Opera Studio, London. “I’d been singing opera for a very long time when I got my stroke of luck. So I’ve always felt that I’d done my apprenticeship and the hard work so I was able to run with it.”
Under no illusions, he admits that putting on that curly moustache opened the door for his bellowing voice to be heard, “I get recognised a lot more! Obviously, my life has changed in that way, I’m on Classic FM and BBC Radio Wales now so I must never lose sight of the fact that these opportunities wouldn’t have presented themselves if I hadn’t stuck that silly moustache and wig on. If I hadn’t done that I’d still be singing opera full time but now I’ve got a lot more variety.”
Donning the wig and Go Compare bowtie also helped secure his spot supporting Katherine Jenkins on tour. Someone who Evans quickly defends when asked if she’s been fully accepted into the opera singing circle, “There are people who say she can’t be an opera singer, but that isn’t what she’s trying to do. I think what people in the opera world get wound up about is that people in the record industry will show people like Katherine, Paul Potts and Russell Watson as opera singers, when they’re not, they’re different.”
When I ask if he has ever or would consider auditioning for the likes of Britain’s Got Talent or even X Factor which is met with a firm shake of the head, “I don’t want to sound like a musical snob but some of the people they put through are terrible and they’re sitting there telling them they can sing. Good luck to anybody that goes on to those shows because that could be their little bit of luck but it wouldn’t be for me.”
Refreshingly, when asked to plug his new album entitled ‘Wynne’, Evans gets embarrassed and almost refuses to talk about it. “Do I have to?” is the sheepish reply, “I hate doing this because I feel like a cheap second hand car salesman. When you plug an album everyone says it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. Speaking from the heart, this album has been made alongside Classic FM and it’s got all my favourite songs on since I was a kid. The album has all the songs on that I probably should have put on my first album. It’s got songs on there for everybody so all can enjoy it. There that’s enough of that, let’s talk about something else.”
Looking for a distraction, Evans checks my recording device to make sure I’ve switched it on before telling me of an unfortunate interview he did years ago. “The reporter was very young, bless her. I went to get us a glass of wine and when I came back she was in tears, she’d forgotten to press record. So, I went and got some more wine and we did then interview all over again. At least we got to have a few drinks.” There’s no alcohol flowing on my visit however. We’re sticking to cups of tea as Evans has two gigs to prepare for the next night.
As we sit laughing over tea at his stories stemming from his Gio Compario character, Evans remembers yet another awkward interview he did years ago. “It was when the first campaign started and the journalist asked me how long it took me to grow the moustache and I told them it wasn’t real, so the next thing they asked me was how long it took me to get into the fat suit. Unfortunately I had to tell them that bit of the outfit is real!”
Rarely does Wynne refuse to do any press, except for one time a monthly lads’ magazine asked for an interview. He politely refused after the same publication had previously labelled him ‘C*nt of the Month’ twice in a row.
Away from the commercials and fame (he refuses to call himself a celebrity) Evans thinks of himself as just a boring father-of-two. He knows his time as Gio Compario will one day come to an end but he’s prepared for the day when he’s no longer required to sing those famous words busying himself with his radio work. As well as working with The Elizabeth Evans Trust which is very close to his heart.
Evans vows to keep little to remind himself of his Go Compare days when it’s all said and done. In fact, since his wife was sick over his programme collection after a drunken night out many years ago, he hasn’t kept any mementos from his career from that moment on, “I’ve never kept anything as my collection would never be complete after that. I probably shouldn’t have told you that, my wife will kill me!”
Evans does however have a few of the curly moustaches at home, which is hardly surprising as they cost £1,000 each to produce. Like with most of my questions, Evans again answers with a humorous anecdote. He recalls back in the early days of filming, when there was only one ‘tache in existence, and how he nearly lost it forever. “I asked my kids if they’d seen it and it turned out they’d taken it to school for show-and-tell! All the other kids in their class had been taking the moustache home to show their parents too. Then my daughter kept it on her desk in a crisp packet!”
As we wrap up, I ask if he’s happy to pose for a few pictures stood next to his car but of course he goes one better. Evans opens his sun roof and stands, arms-outstretched in his familiar Gio Compario pose and shouts down to me, “I can think of worse ways to make a living!”