Thursday, November 23

Interview: Susan Calman

- February 13, 2017


Star of BBC Radio 4, QI and stand-up joy, Susan Calman was to bring her new show to Hove this week – now moved to October. Victoria Nangle talked to her before the new date was announced.

I very much like the idea of The Calman Before The Storm – challenging assumptions about you. You were very clear on Radio 4 not to be drawn out on your stance on the Scottish referendum in the run up to it. Why talk about your politics now?
I’m not talking about my politics as such, more about a holistic sense of what I want the world to be like. Negative rhetoric seems to be the norm just now and I’m a woman who wants kindness and understanding to come to the fore again. The show isn’t a personal manifesto about a particular party or policy.
I’m reading your book at the moment. Thank you for it. Why do you think there has been a rise in awareness of mental health and self-care in more recent times?
I think that the internet allows people to post their thoughts and feelings about mental health in an accessible way. I would also like to believe that, in general, society is slightly more open to listening to people’s stories and perhaps having some empathy with them.

You mention that you feel you have collected many labels – lesbian, Scottish, female, BBC Radio 4, mental health comedian – some of which clearly tessellate. Could it be that in trying to pigeon-hole you your describers have left you with the broadest description – covering so many things?
It’s not unusual to collect a number of labels. It’s a way for people to find you if nothing else! It’s no different to people listening to a half hour comedy show on the radio and thinking that they know what my stand-up will be like. I don’t have a problem with being labelled as one thing or another, but I enjoy playing with expectations that audiences might have. 

Is there any extra description that you would like to add to your list of labels that has previously been left off?
Dancer. I’m a great dancer. I’m not really but I’d like to be. I’m starting a campaign to get me on Strictly next year. Then I can learn to dance.

Negative rhetoric seems to be the norm just now and I’m a woman who wants kindness and understanding

What are the most frequent incorrect assumptions people make about you?
People think I’m more confident than I actually am because of the job that I do. I’m actually quite a shy person and people can be surprised after a show if I’m standing at the bar that I’m quite nervous about meeting people. I am confident on stage. Off stage is a bit different. 

What are the most frequent incorrect assumptions you find that you make about other people?
I genuinely try not to judge people, but if I meet someone who genuinely thinks Donald Trump is the right man to be President of the United States I would struggle to enjoy their company.  

What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Touring until June, writing and recording another solo series for Radio 4, my sitcom will be on the wireless in the spring, hopefully writing another book, pitching TV projects, being on News Quiz and other shows. Lots. 

If you had the month off, an unlimited budget for that entire month, and a super power – just for the month – what would you do? (You get to choose the superpower).
I’d like the power of teleportation then I’d visit all of the places in the world I’ve never been.

What present would you most like to give to your wife and why?
We’ve just moved house so I’d like to give her the gift of half a house. Which is what I’ve got her. I hope she likes it. She’d better. Financially we are now tied together until death. 

What’s your favourite memory/story of Brighton?
I spent an evening in a bar with my friend Gavin. It was mostly full of burly men doing karaoke. They were very nice to me. 

Susan Calman – The Calman Before The Storm, The Old Market,
Monday 13 October 2017, 8pm

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