In the lead up to our big Standard Issue Stands Up For Comic Relief gig at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue on Monday 11… wait, it’s to-fucking-night! Sweet fancy Moses, we’re excited. We asked each of our line-up a few questions. Today, it’s smart and silly Scottish standup and topical show favourite Susan Calman.
We’ve been merrily banging on about our brilliant forthcoming gig for Comic Relief (Monday 11 May, The Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue, ON SALE NOW). And yes we’re biased, but it is one hell of a bill: Jo Brand, Katherine Ryan, Sara Pascoe, Jessica Fostekew, Jo Caulfield, Zoe Lyons, Holly Walsh and our very own Sarah Millican. Susan Calman is compere beyond compare for the night.
An absolute firecracker of a comedian, Calman has been a circuit favourite for donkey’s. She’s regularly found on Radio 4 shows, including The News Quiz; and her own series Calman is Convicted; and has written some doozies for Standard Issue, including this convincing argument about why she should be the next Doctor Who.
What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?
I was at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and I’d performed about 12 gigs in one day. My last gig was a late night/early morning show that I was headlining. I was so tired and so full of words that, apparently, I just repeated the same story for 15 minutes. The audience laughed more than at any other gig that day because I clearly had no idea what I was doing. Laughter from failure is a beautiful feeling.
Where do you get your inspiration for material?
I write about things that happen to me. I’m not the kind of comic who writes one-liners or the like – I tell stories of incidents or arguments I’ve had. My wife provides a great deal of my material, something that she hates. I’ll catch her sometimes with a defeated look on her face as she realises she’s just provided me with another 20 minutes of jokes.
When did you realise you were a feminist?
I don’t remember any particular moment where I thought, “Blimey, I’m a feminist now.” I do remember watching Benny Hill when I was younger and thinking, “Why aren’t those women allowed to wear more clothes? Surely they must be cold?” So that’s probably it. I was worried about the health of women dressed as nurses running round a park.
Which women have inspired you and how?
While I was at university I was lucky enough to meet, and work with, Sister Helen Prejean. She’s a nun and inspired the Hollywood film Dead Man Walking starring Susan Sarandon. I travelled to North Carolina to work with prisoners on Death Row and she spoke to us about why the work was important and what it meant in the larger scale of human rights. She was so gentle and calm yet utterly powerful and compelling, and I’ve always treasured the brief time I spent with her.
“My wife provides a great deal of my material, something that she hates. I’ll catch her sometimes with a defeated look on her face as she realises she’s just provided me with another 20 minutes of jokes.”
If you could befriend anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Judy Garland: I suspect she’d have some rather amazing stories to tell.
What were you like as a kid?
Blonde. Which often surprises people. I looked like an angel. I wasn’t.
What brings you joy?
Family, cats and friends. I need nothing more in my life.
Please could you share the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given.
My Dad is a great one for quoting the phrase “what’s for you won’t go by you”. He even gave me a mug with it printed on so I can drink my coffee in the morning and have a good think about life. It’s an excellent motto as, especially in comedy, you’ll often be passed over for work for no apparent reason. When that happens, I remember my Dad’s advice and know that the thing I’m meant to do will be just around the corner. Or not. It’s a nice mug anyway.
I have a cupboard in my hall that I can’t even look in. It’s full of all manner of stuff, and if I don’t know what to do with something I just dump it in there. Sometimes I think I should just deal with it but I always find something far more interesting to do. In truth, I know now I’ll never move house because if I did I’d need to clear it out. And I’m frightened.
Most people are well aware of the vital work Comic Relief does at home and overseas, but might not be as aware of the work it does with women. All the money raised by Standard Issue Stands Up for Comic Relief will be used to help vulnerable and disadvantaged women and girls here in the UK and across Africa.
From tackling violence against women, raising awareness and educating communities about the harm caused by female genital mutilation to ensuring that the number of women dying in childbirth across sub-Saharan Africa continues to fall, the cash raised will help to make a big difference to women and girls living incredibly tough lives.
Standard Issue Stands Up for Comic Relief is on Monday 11 May at The Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, 7:30pm.
Visit nimaxtheatres.com/lyric-theatre/standard_issue_stands_up_for_comic_relief for more information.
All profits from this event will be donated to Comic Relief.
Read more about the work funded by Comic Relief in Jess Fostekew’s piece about her visit to New Horizon: http://standardissuemagazine.com/voices/new-horizons-for-young-women-in-need2482 Views