I first met Susan at her flat in Walthamstow around 10 years ago, when I was asked to help her with her insurance claim for dry rot. I remember at the time Susan telling me she was a comedian—as I’d never met one in the flesh before, so it really stuck with me. Perhaps not the most auspicious start.
Since then I’ve tried to keep up with Susan’s thriving career as a much in demand stand up comic. Not only does Susan gig all over the UK, but she also runs and is resident MC at Red Imp in Walthamstow, where she has brought many famous faces to E17, including Alan Carr, Stephen K Amos, Russell Kane, Phil Jupitus, Arthur Smith and many more.
I was just leaving to meet Susan for this recording when she asked if her good friend and multi lingual stand up comedian, Maureen Younger, could join us. Well, I thought, why not indeed. Two for the price of one.
I love this meandering, somewhat random off the wall chat and I hope it brightens your day as much as it did mine. Susan’s been described as a cross between Frankie Boyle and Julie Walters, so stand by your beds for a bit of a raucous ride.
“Obviously the more experienced you are, how good you are, you can work yourself out of situations—but they’ll be one gig at some point in the future where they will hate you—where you will die on your ass, and you just don’t know when that’s going to be.”
Dying on stage, every comic has it happen. It always happens right after you feel like you’ve been nailing your material. Susan and Maureen have both experienced this phenomenon—but they’re quick to note that it happens to every comic at some point. In fact, they feel a little better when they see someone big on stage fail to really get the crowd on their side. It goes to show that the struggle to perform live on stage is real, and there are a host of factors that go into a successful bout of stand up.[16:26]
Believe it or not – the physicality of a room affects a comic’s material and delivery. The difference in how a comedian performs while in a massive theatre vs an up-close café can make or break their set. Susan and Maureen note that large venues are often more difficult, because the gap between the comedian and audience is physically wider—eating up the comic’s energy if they are depending on their actions to help deliver their jokes.
Susan and Maureen share some horror story events, including a charity event with a ten minute speech beforehand about the organizers friend—while people were playing beer ping pong in the back.
“As a male comic—you’re given more rope to hang yourself.”[20:07]
Comics only have so much time to win a crowd over. Susan and Maureen agree that for a man this is usually around five minutes, but they note it is usually way shorter for female comics—especially if the crowd has never heard of them before. Men just seem to get more benefit of the doubt—however Maureen and Susan agree that there are many factors that go into a booking an act, and many bookings (included ones they run) are very pro female. Red Imp Comedy Club has a whole first season of female headlining comics, showing that women aren’t going anywhere in today’s comedy scene.
“I’ve never met a comic, irrelevant of how well their career is going, who is happy with their career. They always want more.”