Suzi Ruffell is 32, she lives in East London with her daughter – Thelma – a cat, “She runs the show, that cat”.
She’s been on the comedy circuit since she was 22, “I did two years of open mic-ing which is shit scary, you’re basically just learning how to be funny.” Suzi honed her skills all over the country, supporting friends Josh Widdicombe, Romesh Ranganathan and her stand-up icon Alan Carr.
“When I was younger I thought, wow, imagine being able to make a living from doing this and now I’m doing it, it’s been 8-years that this has been my actual job. I know how lucky I am.” She’s just got back from Australia, three weeks touring with the Melbourne comedy roadshow, “…I had such a brilliant time. Alot of places I went to were off the beaten track, small mining towns, the kind of places that would have voted no for same-sex marriages and some of the people I met hadn’t ever met a gay woman before. If meeting me was their first time meeting a gay person, well, that’s interesting.”
There’s not really a typical day or week for Suzi right now. When we catch up she’d just performed some early morning stand-up for a charity fundraiser. “I don’t know where I am or even who I am these days. Who am I?”
Growing up Suzi was always performing, “I acted and was always cast in the funny roles which felt quite natural. I was a performer who learned to become funnier with my writing. Some people are writers who learn to perform.”
Suzi’s stand-up gigs give you a hilarious peek at Suzi’s life, tales of growing up in a “very” working class family in Portsmouth, social ineptitude and being a “massive gay” has seen her lauded as ‘a real stand up gem’
(The Guardian). She celebrates her
working-class roots with a sideways look at the world, complete in her “lezzer shoes”.
Last year Suzi toured the country with her Common gig, which saw her and her BFF Tom Allen doing back to back stand-up. They also started a podcast Like Minded Friends, for fun, but it’s had more than 1-million downloads. This year for the first time, Suzi toured the country on her first ever solo tour Keeping It Classy, it was a sellout and wrapped up with a stint at the Soho Theatre. “There’s nothing like seeing a room full of people who have paid good money to come to see you. It’s thrilling, these were the best gigs of my life.”
Everything Suzi talks about comes from personal experience. “Last year I broke up from my girlfriend of four years. Everyone has that one break-up that is just devastating and that was mine.”
“I went straight out on stage and spoke about it. Relaying real-life experiences through comedy is a real leveler, it connects people.”
“I think my latest tour reflects me becoming more of a political person. It’s an interesting time politically and I feel like I want to take action and be involved.”
“Just being a woman on stage and then being a gay woman on stage is almost a political act in itself.”
“There are so few young gay role models – so I get a lot of women and men who reach out to me, 15-year olds will contact me saying ‘I am not out yet and you’re the only person I’ve told, thanks for talking about your experiences, I don’t feel so alone anymore…’ which really is something.”
“Being gay is still illegal in 72 countries, 7 of those are punishable by death. We are all physically on this planet at the same time. If I can be relatable to someone, if I can do that and make people laugh, then that’s good, right?”
Having grown up in Portsmouth, “Pompey can be a bit rough around the edges but I love it.” Suzi describes her parents as ‘a proper geezer’ who borrowed a Rolls Royce to drive his baby daughter home from the hospital to their council flat, and “a Pompey bird” in clashing animal prints.
“My dad and my uncle are really funny blokes, I learned that being funny was a sort of currency, if you make everyone laugh they’re genuinely pleased to see you when you show up at the pub. I’m not naturally academic. But I could always make people laugh. If I was the funny person I wouldn’t be the gay or dyslexic one.”
“I was about 14 when I realised I was gay. But I didn’t come out until I was 21. It was a long period of self-loathing and confusion. First I came out to one of my best friends. Then another and then I told my parents. They were absolutely fine. Completely. My nan was 90 and she said she still loved me the same as she had done yesterday. It was easy and I felt like I could breathe again. I had been holding my breath for so long.”
“If you are a young queer person. Don’t ever feel alone, if you feel like you haven’t found your tribe yet you definitely WILL, there are loads of us and there is a huge network out there. Listen to my podcast Like Minded Friends. Check out Stonewall, they’re a brilliant charity have a youth section and they get people involved in different festivals. If you feel like you’re the only gay in the village don’t worry, you’re not. I feel well connected with a huge community now.”
Suzi will be celebrating Pride this weekend with her best friends, in her Help Refugee t.shirt.
“I will be dancing with my friends, my girlfriend and my ex – because gays do that. It’s such a great day. It’s so inclusive and fun.”
Suzi will be performing at the Henley Regatta next Thursday 12th July
Suzi’s London survival
Where’s your favourite spot in London?
I live in Hoxton and I love walking through London Fields, getting a coffee, sitting in the park and just taking it all in.
What’s your perfect night out in the city?
Union Chapel or Up the Creek on a Sunday for comedy. If you’ve never been to stand up do yourself a favour and get a ticket. My parents had never been before I started and it’s like I’ve opened a whole new worked to them. Watching people is also so inspiring for me and the UK comedy scene has never been better, it’s so diverse, it’s a great time to be a woman in comedy. Dinner with my girlfriend, somewhere like Balans and then a cheesy dance at G-A-Y.
How do you unwind?
I love running.
I really don’t like the running part but I love the feeling I get after.
I like listening to Leon Bridges. Check him out!
And I like Netflix and boxsets. Four hours of Gray’s anatomy and I feel like I’m actually a nurse.
I also just read ‘Why I am no longer talking to people about Race’, everybody should read it. It teaches you how to have harder conversations for the greater good.
A place in London not many people know about but you love…
I’m not telling you. Everyone will go.
Where do you shop?
On stage I always wear men’s Topman suits. I have no boobs or bum so they fit really well. I basically look like a 15-year old boy. Great.
What’s in your bag?
Notebook, makeup, a Benefit blusher, Lancome mascara, always an eyeliner, Lucas Papaw. Pens, chewing gum. Hopefully my house keys. And there always seem to be Smint’s just squashed into the corners.