Susan Calman talks touring, new Radio 4 sitcom
She’s petite, Glaswegian, likes cats and – if she is to be believed – at one time collected thimbles. But such descriptions do little to describe the full power of Susan Calman who will be visiting Barnard Castle later this month.
The show, at The Witham on Saturday 29 November, is a chance to spend an hour with the woman known as ‘The Mad Cat Lady’ to her neighbours, and Calman promises to reassure you, make you feel better about your own life and let you find out what being lady-like really means.
“Lady Like is my first tour, and the good thing for people coming is, I’ve got five years of Edinburgh shows that I’ve never toured,” Susan tells me. “So the first half of it will be the best of five years of Edinburgh shows and then the second half will be the show that I’ve done in Edinburgh. So, it’s coming together well.
“What I always say is, if you think you might like me, you’ll probably like the show. If you don’t like me, you probably won’t like the show. You have to come with a certain amount of open-mindedness about this situation. I think it’s a heart-warming show.”
Since studying law at Glasgow University and going on to work in the field – including a stint working with death row inmates in the US – Calman turned to comedy and gained her first success by reaching the semi-finals of the BBC New Comedy Awards in 2005.
Since then she has appeared on QI, Would I Lie To You?, Rab C. Nesbitt, BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz, CBBC’s Extreme School and Channel 4’s Blowout, which won a Scottish BAFTA in 2007. She also won the Best MC Chortle Award 2012, and Best New Scottish Comedian at the Real Radio Scottish Variety Awards in 2009.
This summer saw Susan spend the month of August performing her show at the Edinburgh Festival and she also presented Don’t Drop The Baton, a BBC comedy broadcast during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July and August. Calman is also writing her first radio sitcom for BBC Radio 4.
“It’s based on my relationship with my sister because my sister can say things to me no one else can because we grew up together,” Susan says. “There’s no one like my sister, you know. And sisters can be very brutal to each other, but no one else is allowed to be brutal to us.
“She’s always got my back but – she calls me pig face and porchetta, and so she’ll text me with a picture of a pig. Now that’s fine, but if anyone else criticises me, she’ll have them. So, it’s about that close relationship you have with a sister.”
Despite her vast TV and radio commitments, Calman can’t wait to hit the road on her debut stand-up tour. She’s particularly excited about visiting Barnard Castle for the first time, and says she relishes performing in the North East.
“I love gigging around there because there’s an openness, I think, for comedy. I’m not the kind of comedian who wants to make you feel bad about yourself. I don’t tend to speak to the audience a huge amount, and if I do it’s simply to see how you are. I want people to leave feeling better than when they came in, that’s the ultimate goal in this.”
Calman says she sees a lot of similarities between the North East and her native Glasgow, and hopes comedy fans in Barnard Castle will show her the same love she gets back home in Scotland.
“I find people in the North East in the same way as Glasgow. Everybody is chatty, open, ready for a laugh. And that’s really all you need to do. Come and say, I’m coming to this to have a nice night and I will try my best. It’s a bargain.
“If you come thinking, this’ll probably be good, I’ll do as much as I can to fulfil that, contractually. As an ex-lawyer I will contractually attempt to fulfil that bargain.”