From acting to comedy via Chichester
Stand-up comic Suzi Ruffell started out intending to be an actress, taking a theatre course at Chichester College before going on to the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, ALRA.
“The teaching was great in Chichester and I loved it, and I loved it at ALRA.
“But I was always interested in the comic roles, and it was only a couple of years after I left drama school that I realised that what I really wanted to do was comedy.”
And inevitably it was the comedy which took over – and which brings her back to the area.
“Growing up my heroes were people like French & Saunders and Victoria Wood, and they were actors and comics, of course, but what they were first and foremost were comics. And then I did my first-ever open spot as a stand-up. People say you catch the bug, and I can 100 per cent confirm it. I caught the bug. I would say that in every comic there has to be an element of misplaced confidence. That’s for sure.
“But there is just something so fantastic about it. The other day I was writing in my kitchen, and I came up with an idea which I thought I would put into the show that night, and I did, in front of a group of people that I would never see again, that would never be together again – and they were all laughing.
“That’s the fantastic thing: you can have an idea at your kitchen table and four hours later, everyone is laughing. That’s what I love about it.
“You find out whether it is funny or not. You find out straight away. You write an article and you might not get a response at all.
“But with comedy, you know immediately.”
And what if you find out that it wasn’t funny?
“Sometimes you just aren’t funny. Sometimes the things you think are funny just don’t make other people laugh.
“You learn to deal with that as well. That’s all part of the game. When you first start out, sometimes you can do a terrible gig, and it can harm you for a few days. You think it is so terrible it is embarrassing, but then after a few days, you just think it’s fine and you move on.”
“You do have to be thick-skinned in some ways, but in other ways, I am not at all. I am a big softie!
“I think you just have to get used to is. But it is the adrenaline that keeps you doing it.”
Suzi goes out on tour this autumn as a double header with friend and fellow comic Tom Allen.
They will come out together at the top of the show and toss a coin to see who does the first half and who does the second.
Again, for Suzi, that’s all part of the thrill of it all.
“My show is called Common. It’s about being from Portsmouth, being from a working-class family. I grew up with an awful lot of loving, but we never had trust funds.
“None of us had been to university. It feels like we are all run by Etonians or people from Oxbridge.
“I wanted to give a voice to young, working-class people.
“The story is about me growing up in Pompey and I suppose I have gone from being a working-class girl in a working-class family in Portsmouth to being a middle-class person working in the arts.
“But also I am gay, and the show deals with different aspects of homophobia I have come across.
“Sometimes people assume that working-class people are bigoted and not massively open-minded, but I wanted to show that I haven’t found that to be the case at all.”
Suzi and Tom are at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal on Saturday, September 17.
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