Five questions for Susan Calman
Glaswegian Fringe veteran and Radio 4 mainstay Susan Calman brings her new show, Lady Like, to Edinburgh in August with her unique brand of cheerful quick-wit in tow. Giggle Beats cross-examines the former lawyer to get the truth about her new show.
Hi Susan. Tell us about Lady Like.
Lady Like is my new show for the Edinburgh Fringe 2014. I don’t want to say too much about the content of the show because I don’t want people to have preconceptions about what it’s about! I know that’s a bit odd as usually before the Fringe comedians give a detailed breakdown of everything that their shows are about, but this year I want to keep it to myself.
What I can say is that it’s like many of my previous shows in that it’s very personal. It tells the story of the last couple of years of my life and some of the highs and lows that I’ve surfed. Without doubt I’m really looking forward to the Fringe this year, I’ve never worked harder on a show than this one and I just hope that audiences enjoy it!
Do you ever worry about being so open with your life and experiences on stage?
Not at all. It’s a personal decision I’ve made for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as an audience member I enjoy seeing comics who share some of their life with the audience. I like to think I’m getting to know them a bit more through their comedy and so it’s a style I feel very comfortable with.
Secondly I only share what I feel it’s safe to. Everything is in my control. My shows are the way of telling people what I’m really like and what I really think.
Ultimately I’m a storyteller and I’m sharing my experiences with an audience. There’s a lovely connection between the performer and the crowd when this type of show works. Of course when it doesn’t it’s worse because not only do they not like the jokes they don’t like you. But it’s certainly what I enjoy writing most of all.
What’s your lasting memory of the Edinburgh Fringe?
I find my memories of the Fringe are largely based around where I’m staying. So in my first year I stayed in a large shared flat at the Meadows when I was performing at a late night gig.
My memories of that year are mostly staggering back at 4am along the Royal Mile, trying to paste posters onto the lamp posts and knowing that by 5am they would be covered by other posters similarly sellotaped in place by even drunker comedians. I certainly don’t remember seeing a lot of daylight that year.
During my next Fringe I stayed in the New Town, so my abiding memory is a feeling of calm, because that side of town never gets as crazy as Bristo Square and the Pleasance Courtyard.
Probably my favourite place to stay was a flat I rented near the Meadow Bar. It was incredibly central and every day as I walked to my venue I strolled past the huge posters of famous comedians. I’d wave hello across the street to someone I knew, then stagger home was thankfully short. It felt like I was right in the middle of the most vibrant city in the world.
But my lasting memory of the Fringe is a constant feeling of nausea. As a performer, adrenaline courses through your veins every day before a show, after a show, the morning of the show wondering if anyone is coming to see the thing you’ve spent months crafting. The month of August is a month where I simply feel sick. All the time.
2014 is a big year for Scotland in many ways. Are you excited about the opportunities it may bring to allow Scotland’s creative talent to flourish?
Of course! I’m excited by anything that helps Scotland’s creative talents reach their maximum audience and assists all writers, actors, musicians, directors and artists to achieve our potential. I’ve made a decision to continue to live in Scotland despite the fact that the majority of my work is in London and hope I can continue to do so moving forward.
Growing up my comedy influences were mostly Scottish. Billy Connolly remains the best stand-up I’ve seen, John Byrne wrote my favourite piece of television in Tutti Frutti, and I continue to be influenced by Forbes Masson, Alan Cumming, Elaine C Smith, Kevin Bridges and many other newer creatives working in Scotland right now. The Fringe is a fantastic showcase for all of us.
I will always work as hard as I can to achieve the best that I can, and in doing so hopefully promote Scotland and all of its creative talent.
What’s next for you after the festival then?
Lots. I’m waiting for decisions on a number of projects, but in the meantime I’m on tour. England in the Autumn and Scotland, Wales and Ireland in the Spring of 2015. I’ve never toured before so I’m very excited but very nervous at the same time. The good thing is that I have five solo shows at the Fringe to draw material from so it’ll be a good show.
I’m also going on holiday straight after the Fringe. That’s probably the most important bit. After a month feeling sick it’s essential to help recover!
Susan Calman: Lady Like, Underbelly, Bristo Square, Edinburgh, 31 July – 24 August, 6.30pm, £13.50/£12.50 concessions, edfringe.com