The Calman Before The Storm
The Calman Before The Storm
Image taken by Steve Ullathorne
There’s a storm coming to Keswick this June. Award-winning comedian Susan Calman is a little lady with a lot to say and she’s bringing her new show, ‘The Calman Before The Storm’ to Theatre by the Lake.
With a sell-out show, a name as one of Radio 4’s best loved comedians and a lengthy list of TV appearances in the bag, it’s hard to imagine that Scottish comedian Susan Calman hasn’t always been making people laugh. In 2007 she was part of the sell-out Fringe show ‘Ugly Kid’ which went on to become Channel 4’s ‘Blowout’ and whose cast was awarded a Scottish BAFTA that same year. Since then she has added numerous radio credits to her name, published a book, released a DVD, and appeared on every TV quiz show going, from QI to 8 Out of 10 Cats. And when she’s not doing that, she’s presenting on Children’s BBC.
2016 marked her 10th year as a comedian and she is now ready to rip through all preconceptions of her once and for all as she tours her latest show. She is here to set the record straight and challenge any assumptions about her political stance, her height, her nationality, her sexuality – you name it.
Susan said: “This is my 10th year as a comedian and I think a lot of people have certain expectations of me. This show is about making fun of those expectations that people might have.”
Growing up in Glasgow, it is no surprise to learn that Susan was inspired by the likes of Billy Connelly’s comedic genius, she admired Jo Brand and French and Saunders, and knew the words to all of Victoria Wood’s shows off by heart. Yet despite having loved comedy from a young age, when Susan left school, aged 19, taking that route herself was not an option. Instead she chose a career as a corporate lawyer.
She said: “I had always wanted to do it (comedy) but when I left school in 1992, it just wasn’t a thing, so I became a lawyer. After my 30th birthday I realised that if I didn’t do it now I would never do it.”
Susan’s former life, which had involved working on Death Row and at the United Nations in Geneva, could not have had less comic value. In 2006 she realised it was now or never and gave the law up when she reached the semi-finals of the BBC New Comedy and So You Think You’re Funny Awards. She may have come to the game relatively late, but Susan has no regrets about how she got here.
She said: “I think it was right that I had a job like I did, it makes me appreciate what I have now a bit more but I also appreciate the audience more and what they want. I know what it’s like to have just finished work and want that escapism.”
The personal touch is imperative to Susan’s comedy. Almost all of her material is drawn from personal observations, either her own experiences or that of her friends. Her shows revolve around complete disclosure and she does not shy away from subject matters that hit close to home.
In her 2012 show ‘This Lady’s Not For Turning Either’, Susan covered something close to her heart – equal marriage and the laws that prevented her from marrying the woman she loved. In 2016, her debut book was published, ‘Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate’, it is a candid account of her experience living with depression. Mental health is something Susan has also spoken about on stage and using it in her material has helped her overcome some of the challenges she faced.
She explained: “It was actually easier talking about it on stage than it was in my personal life, because it’s almost like it’s not real, you’re kind of pretending to be someone else on stage. I found it easier to talk about it on stage than I did with my wife; it was helpful in our relationship.”
It is this honesty and openness that has won Susan critical praise along with the hearts of many audiences. It is this that makes her that little bit different to other comedians.
She said: “I think it’s the personal aspect of the story. The audience will know a bit more about me by the end of the show and hopefully they’ll feel like they’ve had a conversation with a friend.”
Susan has that rare gift of being able to have her audience in stitches, while at the same time giving rise to a moment of realisation. She may only be small but she is not afraid to make a big point. The world could certainly do with a few more Susan Calmans.
Susan Calman ‘The Calm Before The Storm’ is at Theatre by the Lake on Sunday June 4. For tickets and more information visit https://www.theatrebythelake.com/