Scottish comedian Susan Calman said she never quite fit in the world of corporate law. She is gay, doesn’t like going to posh bars and felt like a square peg in a round hole.
So 11 years ago she packed it in to try her hand at comedy and these days is known for her stand-up and shows on Radio 4.
The 42-year-old will bring The Calman Before The Storm to Greenwich Theatre on Monday, June 26, dealing with expectations, homophobia and inequality.
We caught up with Susan to find out more.
What are you up to today?
I’m at the end of a three month building project at our house so it’s a rubbish removal day. I still live in Glasgow. I think I’ll always be here.
What inspired the show?
That’s a difficult question because I wrote it originally as a 55 minute show for the Fringe last year and things have moved on remarkably since then – Donald Trump wasn’t President and we were still in Europe.
It’s not a hugely political show as people need a break from that but I did rewrite it after the General Election.
How do you feel about the result?
I have been talking about issues for gay people for years so I already had in the show about homophobia and equality.
But in the re-write I say ‘Have you suddenly realised we now have the DUP who don’t like gay people?’
I knew about that for quite some time and I have always been disgusted that people in Northern Ireland don’t have equal marriage.
People will march against Donald Trump but not against people in the same country as them. It has been interesting watching the press coverage.
Did getting married change you?
It was important politically. I never thought growing up in Scotland it would happen so it was emotional in that regard.
It has made me feel more confident in who I am and society.
I’m proud to live in a country where discrimination is less than it used to be – apart from in Northern Ireland.
I can get married but other people who are part of this country can’t and that is not good.
Is there an overall theme to the show?
Standing up for what you, and I, believe in – equality and not putting up with homophobia, sexism, racism or misogyny. It is about expressing yourself.
Have you always felt confident about being so open?
When I started I was just desperate to get five minutes with jokes that made people laugh.
I have been doing it 11 years now and it is something that develops over time – the ability to say what you want over two hours and still make people laugh.
There is a difference between a lecture and comedy show and it’s finding that balance.
When you start out you don’t really know what works and you have to find out who you are.
What prompted you to give up being a lawyer for comedy?
Partly logistics as there aren’t many gigs in Scotland so I had to give up my job in order to travel to Manchester and others places.
I didn’t want to live my life regretting anything. I had my 30th birthday and it seemed like the right time to go for it so off I popped. I suspect it was a very early mid-life crisis.
Do you ever miss anything about it?
Sometimes the security. It’s hard to get a mortgage when your bank manager is asking how much you will earn next year and you have no idea if you will earn anything.
It can be lonely on tour as well travelling around the country for six months on trains. And I miss the intellectual application because I enjoyed being a lawyer.
But being a comedian is definitely better.
What did you dislike about being a lawyer?
I didn’t fit in. It was a corporate environment and I was just a bit different.
I had a girlfriend and didn’t enjoy going to posh bars.
It is a traditional profession and I’m probably not a traditional human being.
Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?
I go to the toilet every 30 seconds. The fear of needing it two minutes after you walk on stage is true and horrific. Afterwards I walk back to the hotel and stick on Netflix.
Are you competitive?
No, that way madness lies. We are all so different.
Have you performed or been to Greenwich before?
No. First time.
Is there a significance to the red hooded coat?
I wanted to look adorable and disarming.
And for those that remember the film Don’t Look Now they would know the coat contains something that isn’t adorable.
Are you what you seem?
The show is partly about expectations and what people think they know about me from listening to me on Radio 4.
What’s the biggest assumption people make about you?
Because of the radio show there is an expectation I will be high brow and intellectual. I’m not stupid at all but I also enjoy Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Storage Hunters.
I’m not a typical Radio 4 comedian – I didn’t go to Oxbridge or all that kind of malarkey. Popular culture is the way forward.
What is the worst insult someone could give you?
I don’t know. I try to live my life in positive way and focus on the good.
Are you an optimist?
No, very much a pessimist but I attempt optimism in my every day life to try and combat that.
Best compliment you could get?
That I have made them feel better. That they have come to my show and left feeling more empowered. If you make people feel something, anything, then that’s all you can ask for in life because it means you have changed them in some way.
Greenwich Theatre, Monday, June 26, 7.30pm, £21.
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