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I TALK TO Suzi Ruffell

After a critically acclaimed sellout run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, Suzi Ruffell has had an incredible 12 months. She's fronted her own BBC stand-up special and made her debut on Mock The Week, and that was just last week. Thankfully Suzi is returning to the Fringe this year with her fifth hour, Nocturnal.

Let's begin with the last 12 months, because it's safe to say that last year's Fringe went really well for you...

It's been really fun, I've had a lovely time. It was really lovely to have such a fun run up there and I sold out which was great and meant that every night was busy.

Then as soon as I got back from Edinburgh I started doing some telly bits. So I did Roast Battle with Tom Allen and a few more things since then, the biggest one being Live from the BBC which I shot a few months ago and it came it out last week as did my debut on Mock The Week!

And both of those aired in the same week. What's the reaction been like?

Oh my God, amazing! Everyone has just been lovely, I've got loads of new Twitter followers and loads of people have been in touch to say that they've not heard about me before but they really liked the special or liked me on Mock.

Loads of people seem to have gone to Australia this year. What was that like?

It's been great. I've actually just got back from touring Australia for five weeks. I didn't do the festival, I did the roadshow, which is part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival but they take you on the road for 5 weeks so I travelled a lot of the country, Melbourne, Sydney, Alice Springs, Perth and loads of little tiny places in between which was amazing.

I got to work with lots of different comics who I didn't know because I was the only Brit on the line-up. Which highlighted a lot of anxieties I have about making friends, but it's OK, it'll all make it into the show! (Laughs)

Because last year went so well, do you feel added pressure this year to deliver a great show?

Definitely. I'm so excited that I'm developing an audience up there now and I really don't want to let anyone down. I want people who loved my last show to come along again this year.

I want to take a step forward with my stand-up and talk about some bigger topics, with it still being personal to me.

I'm bored of talking about class, so that's done. "We get it Suze, you're in between two classes. Move on!" OK cool, I will.

What's your show about this year then and why did you call it Nocturnal?

Well... mainly because you have to name it in February and it sounded like a good word. The show has changed and grown from the blurb as it does every year, but it's still about what keeps me up at night. The different worries, my catalogue of fears.

Last year in my show I touched on certain anxieties and this year I've doubled down on that and gone deeper on the different things that worry me and why that might be.

I guess that covers a little bit about why I like standing on stage and talking about it and why I like to have control about when people laugh with me. I always talk about really personal stuff on stage because that's the sort of stand-up I like.

Do you find writing personal material therapeutic in a way?

Oh totally! It's way way cheaper than therapy. I get paid for it for a start! I really found that with last year's show, talking about having an awful break-up and then the awful heartbreak of my nan dying.

A lot of people came up and spoke to me afterwards, more so than any other show I've done before. Especially on tour where they'd come up to me and go "I've had that break-up" or "I remember feeling like I would never feel like me again" and to have that sort of dialogue with people was really nice.

That's the thing I really love about stand-up, it really unites people. I remember when I first started loving stand-up and I'd been to see Bridget Christie, A Bic for Her, and I remember just being like "Oh my God she's talking to me!" I didn't know Bridget at that point but I just felt so connected to her.

Not to say that I'm anywhere near as good as Bridget, but I've always tried to create stand-up that unites people, not in a political way like Bridget. I like talking about very human stuff which is hopefully a lot of stuff people can relate to and get involved in.

I really found that from the special. I've had gay people, straight people, young people, old people get in touch with me and I had a message from a guy who is in his sixties and going through an awful divorce and said to me "Your special came along at the right time. I've been really miserable." - and what was great was that I was able to connect with a 60 year-old guy who lives in the midlands, who's straight and heartbreak is the same for me and him.

When did you begin to write this year's show?

I had one routine for it that actually made it into the BBC special that wasn't in the Edinburgh show last year. So there's that one tiny bit of crossover. I had a few bits and bobs before Christmas, but routines more than ideas for shows. Just bits and pieces that I was thinking about or talking about and then I guess I really get my head down in February.

But it was different this year because I was on tour and I was getting the BBC stuff ready so I've had a different writing experience where I've had a lot more pressure and a lot less time. But, it's getting there and I really like the show.

Is it also quite difficult to come up with new material whilst still remembering and performing your old show?

Yes, it is quite a challenge. But I've spoken to a lot of my comedy pals about it like Romesh and Tom Allen and everyone's just said "That's sort of what happens." You learn to write, not quicker necessarily, but you have less time to do it. So if I have three hours spare I have to sit down and write. It's a lot more disciplined than anything else.

I arrived back from Australia, shot Mock The Week, tomorrow I'm shooting something for ITV2 and then one of the routines I've already shot for a different show for Comedy Central which comes out in the autumn. So I feel like I'm always building something which is great.

I'm really not complaining, there were years when all I was doing was Edinburgh and tour support so I'm absolutely delighted that it's worked out like this.

And that's why you go to Edinburgh isn't it?

Yeah it is. And just to develop as well. That's the thing I'm trying to do more than anything. Obviously I want people to like my stand-up and be interested in what I've got to say but I just want to develop every year and go up with a routine that's just that bit tighter. I always like doing my little act outs so it's about making those bigger and funnier.

Every year I want people to come and enjoy me just as much or a little bit more. I want people to leave and go "I'm definitely buying a ticket next year" and if I can do that every year, that's success to me.

Last year it felt as though it took your fourth Edinburgh hour for you to really find your voice...

For me, I had two shows which were me doing an impression of what I thought a comedian was. I was really influenced by a lot of other comics and I didn't really know a, what to talk about and b, what I was good at talking about.

Some people know who they are really young, I'm 32 and I've got a better understanding of who I am than when I did my first show when I was 26/27. So I feel a bit more settled in the world. I really want people to like me and I really want people to enjoy my show, but I have got to the stage a little bit now where I know that not every comedian can be for everyone.

And I think there's a real sense of relief when you realise that in order to be some people's favourite, you had to be other people's not favourite.

When I first started doing stand-up I hadn't been out for very long, I wasn't particularly comfortable in my new gay persona. Now the fact that I'm gay, it happened.

This year I talk a little bit about gay rights. I went to a country where homosexuality is yet to be decriminalised and that's because of colonial rule. That brought up some really interesting feelings and made me feel like I had something that I was able to discuss on stage without me feeling like I was banging on about it again.

How have the previews been going?

They're always a learning curve and there'll always be one or two that are absolute horrors where you go "Fucking hell! What am I gonna do?!" So far I've done four previews which is not very many for this time of year. Usually I would have done a lot more than that but I've got 10 left so I'm doing one most nights now until the Fringe.

I did a preview last night with Ed Gamble and we had a really nice busy room and people seemed to really get it. It's not quite finished, but I think it's going to be ready.

I put all my material on post-it notes and then I move the post-it notes around and try them in different orders. They're all colour coded for story and routine so currently I'm at the stage where I've got loads of post-it notes in orange and yellow on my table and I move them slightly every day until it clicks.

You're back in the same room and at the same time this year. Are you pleased with that?

I am! I was thinking about moving up to a bigger room but then I like that room so much and feel so at home in there so when they offered me the same time and the same place I thought "If it ain't broke. Don't fix it."

What are your hopes for this year's show?

I want the audience to get to know me a little bit better. A lot of the time I've been looking inwards at myself and this year I'm looking a little more outwards and digging deeper which hopefully the audience will enjoy.

More than anything I want them to laugh. I like to have a little bit of story in my show. I like to have some stuff from my point-of-view that maybe people can take away with them but more than anything I want it to be funny.

My job is to make people laugh. If I can make people think a little bit, that's great. But if they don't think and they laugh, that's still totally fine.

What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh this year?

I'm really excited that my tickets are already selling quite well. My first couple of Edinburghs were a bit tricky when it came to selling tickets, but as I said earlier I wasn't as confident as I am now. It's really exciting going up knowing that a couple of the dates are already close to selling out.

Can you ever see a year where you don't perform at the Fringe?

I don't know... maybe. It all depends on work that comes up. This year I made time to write a show but I wouldn't want to ever spread myself too thinly and not take up a show that I wasn't proud of.

Obviously I'd love to get nice reviews and get on those Best Shows of the Fringe lists, but I really want my audience to come and have a brilliant time. As long as I have years where there's enough time to write a show that I think people will really enjoy, then I'll always go up to the Fringe. But who knows?!

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?

Oh so many! There are so many new acts that are going up this year especially women. Heidi Regan who I love, Rosie Jones who I think is brilliant, Jen Brister, Zoe Lyons. Ed Gamble's always funny. Ivo Graham he's always brilliant. Jake Lambert he's really good. There's just always so many people to see which is the great thing about the Fringe.

When people ask me for recommendations I always say, go and see someone that you know off the telly, go and see someone who's emerging who might have done a few telly bits and then go and see someone who you've not heard of but the blurb has grabbed you. Go, be a lovely audience member, sit in the front row, smile.

I'm living with one of my very good mates Felicity Ward and she's DJ'ing on a Sunday night during the Fringe at Gilded Balloon which I'm looking forward to because I don't mind telling you... I bloody love a dance! I also think her show is going to be excellent!

Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?

Tom Allen and I are always doing stuff together. At the moment we're developing our podcast, Like Minded Friends into something for television. But we're not entirely sure what that is yet but we've got some production companies interested.

I've got a sitcom in development with Jenny Bede who is my housemate, which is at a really exciting stage. We're just about to pitch it to channel which we're really excited about.

I've got a couple of telly bits after Edinburgh and then I'll be going out on tour in the Spring.

I've still got my cat... That's still very important. This year I've really learnt how to make a good pie so that's another thing. I like to have a lot going on with work but I like being in the kitchen as well. Oh and I'm going to Spain with my mum which will definitely give me some material!

Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?

Anxiety is hopefully very funny.

Suzi Ruffell: Nocturnal runs from 1st - 26th August (Not 13th) at 9:45pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Below). Book tickets here.


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