Interview: Suzy Bennett

Winner of the 2006 Funny Women award, in a contest which also featured Diane Morgan, Susan Calman and Holly Walsh, Suzy Bennett’s been one of our favourite comedians for a long time now ever since we first saw her at Sajeela Kershi’s superb Comedy Cottage comedy night. CTW Editor Alex Finch described her Dancing On Thin Ice show elsewhere as “One of the funniest, and warmest, hours of comedy I’ve seen in a long time”, and here we discuss how she got in to comedy, supporting Jimmy Carr and Russell Kane, her favourite comedy, and how she’d like to star in a movie with Jack Black.

Comedy To Watch: What inspired you to get in to comedy?

Suzy: It happened gradually, I used to do impressions as a child and make my family laugh. Then when I was older I listened to Victoria Wood tapes a lot and watch French and Saunders and wanted to be like Dawn. I did performing arts at college and amateur theatre but always wanted to do funny stuff instead of serious acting. I worked at Butlins as a Redcoat and as an entertainer overseas and loved being on the mic and making people laugh so took the plunge and signed up to a stand-up evening class.

CTW: How was your first ever gig?

Suzy: My first ever gig was as a finalist in Jimmy Carr’s Comedy Idol competition at The Comedy Store! It was nerve wracking but brilliant, being introduced onto stage by Jimmy in a famous club. It went down well and I kept the nerves at bay but I didn’t win the audience vote. It is on the bonus features of his 2005 ‘Stand Up’ dvd.

CTW: And how do you feel you’ve evolved since that night?

Suzy: I have learned a lot since then and that has come with practice. I think my stage persona hasn’t changed but I have become more confident, natural and less ‘apologetic’ about my material.

CTW: Early on in your career you supported Jimmy Carr on tour, what are you memories of that time?

Suzy: Jimmy was very supportive of us newbies during Comedy Idol and invited me as a guest on his ‘Gag Reflex’ tour in Plymouth the following year. He introduced me at the beginning of the second half so I was not his warm-up but a ‘bonus act’ if you like. He told me to do five minutes ‘all killer no filler’ in front of 2500 people and it went brilliantly and was such a buzz! He said nice things about me too :0)

CTW: We loved your Dancing On Thin Ice show when we saw it at the Leicester Square Theatre, and two years later your followed it up with the superb Gumption, do you have plans for another full length solo show?

Suzy: At the moment I have no plans for a solo show but never say never! Thanks for attending and enjoying my two previous efforts, they were both so different in many ways and my headspace and life at the times of both were polar opposites and I know I’d need to really want to do it and at the moment I am happy just gigging.

CTW: And how do you put together shows like that, and decide which order to do the material in?

Suzy: Hour long shows usually have a ‘narrative arc’ and a story so I simply would put the material in order of the timeline of events and if subjects blend into another they flow well so make sense. For my first show I had a powerpoint which helped with the order and my second I was telling a story of changes that happened in my life.

CTW: What was the best gig you ever did, and why?

Suzy: Opening for Russell Kane in Bristol a few years ago was scary but brilliant. You can feel worried that the audience won’t be interested as they have come to see the main act but they welcomed me and I had so many lovely Tweets afterwards but I’d have to say going on before Jo Brand very early on (not long after I won the Funny Women Award) and her watching from the wings and complimenting me stands out as a highlight!

CTW: And conversely, what was the worst gig you did, and why?

Suzy: Badly paid corporate in front of sponsors of a football team having a golf day. They did not know they were getting a comic after dinner and before their presentations and they were ‘warned’ by the host saying ‘there’s a female comedian coming on in a minute, apparently she’s quite good’ and they just looked at each other looking very unimpressed.

Ugh.

Undermined before I even opened my mouth and I literally ‘spoke at’ an indifferent crowd, most of whom had arms folded and backs turned for 20 minutes. Awful feeling after but I went on Facebook and lots of comics told me their stories about similar experiences and it made me feel better!

CTW: Apart from stand up is there anything else you’d like to do in the comedy world?

Suzy: I wish I had the focus and imagination to write a book. Most comedians would like a sitcom but not sure about my acting, although I am putting the feelers out for panto! My dream Theatre job would be the part of Rosie in Mamma Mia the musical :0)

CTW: What would you like to see change about the current comedy scene?

Suzy: There is a lot of competition on the circuit and it can be toxic, like any job really, so I tend to stick with my friends and concentrate on what we are doing. Some of the online forums are full of bitching but I stay away from all that. I like to see nice people do well but some people step over others and are unpleasant, so less of that

CTW: This site is all about celebrating the best comedy around – So what other comics would you recommend?

Suzy: I am loving being part of the Westcountry circuit where we are a little community who support each other loads. When I moved down here I was really pleased to be invited to join the Comedy Avengers, a group of South West comics who travel around the UK gigging and are great company without the ‘London’ egos! So here are some of my fellow ‘Farmers’ who make me laugh: Anna Keirle, David Arnold, Alf, Tom Glover, Luke Honnoraty, Sandi Smith, Noel Brodie, Louis Burgess, Kernow King, Wil Hodgson, Marcus Gill, Jack Campbell, Richard James, Regan Mcneil.

CTW: And what tv or film comedy are you passionate about?

Suzy: I watch Frasier almost daily. I am trying to get people to watch 80’s sitcom Dear John too, but it is rare to find ( I have it on video and can quote almost the whole script!). I have also watched Bridesmaids, Dumb & Dumber and School of Rock a ridiculous amount!

CTW: If money were no object, what would you like to create?

Suzy: I’d finance a Theatre tour compilation show of my fave Westcountry people and we’d stay in luxury hotels. Or I’d pay Richard Curtis and Nancy Meyers to write a movie with myself and Jack Black as the Leads :0)

CTW: If you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?

Suzy: Why don’t you try harder?

CTW: And finally, can you tell us what your plans are for the future?

Suzy: I really don’t know at the moment! I was working for a holiday company and meant to be away until November but I quit early so I am currently gigging when I can and quietly pondering what to do next. I’d like to get into panto and put myself ‘out there’ a bit more after a couple years in the wilderness. Maybe I will reinvent myself like Madonna ( topical as she turned 60 today!) The only real plan I have is what I am having for my tea in a minute, but I have a lovely note written by Dawn French from when I wrote to her years ago which simply says ‘Don’t Give Up!’ so I cannot disobey her…

Related Links:
Suzy’s Showreel on Youtube.
Suzy at the Backyard Comedy Club.

Alex Finch.
https://twitter.com/comedytowatch

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