Short haired and quirky, 34 year old Portsmouth born and raised, Suzi Ruffell, climbed up the comedy ranks gaining the infamous Chortle Best Breakthrough award in 2017. She has featured on Live at The Apollo and a selection of well known panel shows, quick witted and impressive.
There are few too taboo topics for Suzi and she has an excellent and eloquent way of discussing her childhood, her schooling, her dyslexia and her sexuality which captures each audience member. She most recently won the best club comic at the 2019 Chortle Awards and having seen her 2019 Edinburgh show, Dance Like Everyone Is Watching, it really is no surprise.
As a big fan, getting the chance to chat to Suzi was exciting to say the least, and I wanted to hear her views on all things industry and entertainment, her family and her sexuality; things so often touched upon in her comedy. When her shows can so easily make you feel incredibly proud, in that rainbow banner way, and feel ready to look at the world with a little more glee, I wanted to hear some of her thoughts.
The comedy industry has often felt to many, inaccessible and male dominated. Once you are in, it is a lifetime of touring and unpredictable surges and declines in popularity. Suzi, however seems unphased by this:
“I think any industry can be wild and unpredictable, people lose what we would think of as ‘safe’ jobs all the time. I have always enjoyed making people laugh and entertaining people, for a long time that was just in my friendship group. But once I had tried stand up there was no other options for me, I knew immediately that was what I wanted to do with my life and 11 years later I am still here.”
And in that 11 year comedy career, Suzi has seen and experienced A LOT. With tours, Fringe shows and TV experiences from the last 11 years grinding to a halt due to Covid-19, it must be difficult to feel optimistic about the state of the industry. On this and the effects on her life, Suzi said:
“It’s been massively changed, before this I was gigging 5 nights a week, I was touring all over the country and I had various TV jobs in, across spring and summer. It’s been really hard for a lot of people within creative industries, to be honest it’s been gutting. I have been very lucky that I have a lovely home and an amazing partner and she and I have laughed a lot. She has a very important job where she is on conference calls all day and has to speak to people all over the world. One day she had back to back calls in the lounge and was speaking to people across the globe whilst I was working out if I could roller-skate and film on my iPhone for a TV clip show. Very different lives. It really made us laugh.”
Suzi’s comedy seems to thrive on issues which may be seen as challenging, or difficult, be that her dyslexia, coming out or even a global pandemic. Being a gay comedian, I was interested to know how Suzi’s comedy is influenced by her being gay.
“I talk about my lived experience so being gay certainly comes up but I think often when you are a queer person if I am talking about my relationship someone could say that was ‘gay material’ but if a male comic talks about his wife its never seen as ‘straight material’. I think I have always used comedy as a defence mechanism, if I say something funny about myself someone else can’t bully or heckle me. I think finding the funny in harder life stuff is really therapeutic and freeing.”
Lived experiences certainly are at the very heart of her stand up, and her family are a huge part of her comedy, because they formed such a huge part of her upbringing, and the support of such a wild, but attainable dream: stand up comedy! Many comedians discuss their families in their sets, they discuss what may be seen as flaws and quirks, and about this Suzi said:
“I use my family a lot and they are great about it, they sort of love it. I am so very lucky to come from a family that totally support what I do. I mentioned one of my uncles in a routine I did on Live At The Apollo and he rang me after it aired saying ‘I cant believe I was on Live At The Apollo’, its was really funny and sweet. I always check that they are ok with my material so theres no surprises when they come to the tour. My most recent show features my mum heavily, she came up to the Fringe and saw it last year… She loved it, loads of people after were chatting to her in the courtyard asking if bits were true (they were), she had a blast.”
The support of her family, her partner and those around her seems really important to Suzi, and going into an industry like this, particularly as a womxn, can be so challenging. Advice from Ruffell about entering this industry is vital, and she says:
“Write, fail, write, fail. Gig loads (when you can). Make friends and support other women. Ask more experienced comedians for advice. Always plan were you are staying and how you are getting home. Work to be the funniest person in the room. Enjoy the journey and don’t be too focused on the end goal, it’ll probably change 100 times.”
Excellent advice from a comedian I am sure we will see much more of in the future!