Great LezBritain: Bent Double

 
 

SUSAN "THE CALAMANATOR" CALMAN (GLASGOW)
AE: How did you become a comedian?
Susan Calman: I have always enjoyed making people laugh, and it would be fair to say I was the “class clown.” But I didn’t have the guts to get on stage until eventually my friends got sick of me talking about it and made me go for it. My first gig was in January 2005. Then I waited 6 months to do it again and gave up my job in law in July 2006 to be a full time comic.

AE: Was it hard leaving the security of a nice proper job?
SC:
Some would call it a typical mid life crisis, I wouldn’t. That makes it sound like it was a stupid decision, which actually, many thought it was. I had always dreamt about being a comedian, and when I got to the age of 30, I realised that if I didn’t make the change then I would never do it.

So after only a year of gigging I thought “just go for it." It was frightening and difficult but it was ultimately the best decision I have ever made. Being a lawyer gave me some lovely things like money, health insurance and a pension. But it didn’t make me happy.

Susan Calman

AE: If you were in the audience at your first gig, would you give a thumbs up or thumbs down?
SC:
Let me put it like this. I looked like I was going to be sick on my shoes, my material was immature and rubbish, I spoke at 700 miles an hour and I was a faint green colour. Apart from that it was cracking!

AE: Have you had any interesting heckling moments? How did you respond?
SC: I don’t tend to get many heckles. It’s mainly men who heckle and I think I scare them. Occasionally someone shouts “show us your breasts” or something witty like that. Last time a bloke did that to me I responded with “shouting at me won’t make your penis grow.” He didn’t shout again.

AE: You reference your lesbitarian ways often in your routine sometimes even trying to pick up audience members so how much do you actually think your sexuality influences your routine?
SC: This is a really interesting question. One of the reasons I gave up my job was because I felt extremely censored in the way I could express myself when I was a lawyer. Perhaps now I have freedom, I am louder than I should be about who I am — but I think it is important to be honest with an audience.

Sometimes, perversely, when I am in front of what might be initially considered a tough crowd full of drunken men, I enjoy it more. It is pleasurable to challenge their preconceptions of who they think lesbians are. Chatting up their wives is fun, especially when the women seem happier to be talking to me than being with their husbands.

Also I like flirting with women, I wouldn’t do it off stage as my girlfriend would kill me, but I can get away with it when I am being “funny.” My sexuality isn’t all I talk about but it is a hugely important part of what I do.

AE: There are not many out lesbian comedians in the UK. There is a stereotype that lesbians are just not that funny but what reasons would you give for so few of them getting into comedy?
SC:
I don’t know. Perhaps they are afraid of the reaction of crowds? I don’t think lesbians aren’t funny, frightening sometimes, but funny nonetheless. Female comics can sometimes get a harder time and maybe lesbians are afraid to put themselves out there for potential abuse. I love it.

AE: You run a monthly night called "Wicked Wenches" (The Stand, Glasgow on the first Wednesday of every month) showcasing the best female comedians in the UK, what motivates you to do this?
SC: I don’t believe in moaning about why female comics don’t do as well as men, but I do want to be involved in encouraging more women to get into comedy. The "Wicked Wenches" night tries to do just that by showcasing the best female comics in the UK and from around the world. By putting on a really good night of comedy it will hopefully change a few people’s opinions about women in comedy.

AE: How did the "Green Goblin" come about, it really is quite special.
SC:
It was a joy to do that sketch. Myself and four other comics were filming a Channel 4 pilot called Blowout. One of the sketches was the "Green Goblin" and I initially understood that it would be executed with me in a green leotard. Then the director suggested that we go the whole hog and I should be naked. I was against this, as I have a body like the Pillsbury doughboy, but he assured me that it was that kind of commitment which would make sure the show was commissioned.

So I went for it. Two women painted me (with their hands) and it took over an hour to get full coverage. I asked for a closed set when we were filming it (I had seen on TV that that’s what people ask for) but there were still about 30 people in the room. It was frightening to do but it is an amazing sketch and always gets people talking. Of course the series wasn’t commissioned but my naked body is still on the Internet for all to see. Lovely. My parents are so proud.

AE: What is the best way for our readers to keep up to date with the Calmanator’s movements?
SC:
I facebook and Twitter a lot. So ask to be my friend on Facebook (I will say yes), or follow me on Twitter. I also blog a lot and you can find all of that at susancalman.com.

AE:Where can they be propositioned by you next?
SC: I’m all over the place (literally). I’m at the Glasgow Comedy Festival doing a new show on February 27 then in London in March at the Soho Theatre on March 5 and 6, in New Zealand in April and then at the Edinburgh Festival in August. And of course I would love to go to the USA to gig. Perhaps next year?

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