Suzi Ruffell is Snappy!
Suzi Ruffell is a comedian in a hurry. After we chatted about her new live show she had to go and film an exciting new secret project in East London. From there she had to get to Soho for a tour warm-up gig. It was a tight schedule so a motorbike took her. She posted a picture of herself riding pillion on Instagram: “I looked like such a cool dude!”
The fun never stops for the 36-year-old from Portsmouth. As soon as she finished touring her last Covid-delayed show she immediately started thinking about a new one. Appearing onstage is what it’s all about: “Don’t get me wrong. If TV opportunities come along I would jump at them. But for me, it’s always about the stand up. I’m always really thrilled that people have come out and spent their money to see me.”
The new show is called Snappy and as we speak in late August she is just putting the finishing touches to it. “I’ve got all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. I don’t need to make any new jigsaw. I’ve got all the corners. It’s just that chunky bit in the middle of that I have to get in order.”
Snappy is the latest bulletin about a life that is constantly changing. In her Amazon Prime Video special she talked about marrying her partner. Now she talks about becoming a parent. They have a girl. “My life has changed quite dramatically,” she says with classic understatement.
She loves the process of putting a new show together. “I did my last show for such a long time, I was so ready to write something new and it seemed to flood out of me. I had so many things I wanted to talk about, so much stuff with regards to becoming a parent and how we navigated the pandemic as new parents.”
The Live at the Apollo star talks, for example, about how parenting has changed since her childhood: “My parents loved me very, very much, but their parenting style was ‘crack the window open if you’re having a fag in the car’ rather than get the Montesorri toys out. I think it’s interesting the way things have changed and how we deal with that.”
Ruffell is famous for being frank onstage: “I can’t help but be unbelievably honest. I only really like talking about what’s genuinely going on. I might stretch the truth a bit, but only so much that the audience is sort of in on it. The thing that I love to do with my problems onstage is laugh at them. And I’ve been really heartened by people waiting around for me afterwards and saying ‘Oh, God, yeah, I feel exactly like that.’”
She has built up a wide and loyal fanbase over the years, through TV appearances, podcasts and previous shows: “When people come to see me they get to know the next phase of my life. And that’s what’s been really nice, people messaging me saying that they saw me do a show about a terrible breakup and then a show about falling in love.”
Fans include comedy obsessives and people who listen to her two podcasts, Like Minded Friends, which she co-hosts with Tom Allen and Out, about the inspiring lives of LGBTQIA+ people. “I see a lot of young, queer people who come to the show with their parents, which just gives me more joy than I can tell you. I feel so lucky that I get this sort of cross section that all want to come.”
Of course, parenting and touring don’t necessarily mix, but Ruffell is finding a way through it. “I’m never away for more than three days.” Touring is in her DNA: “I’m in a lovely place in my career now. I get to go on tour, which I think is an enormous privilege. I know stand-ups who hate touring but I love it.”
Yet despite all the positives in her life she is open enough to say she still suffers from anxiety: “The thing that I say onstage is that what you realise is, wherever you are, you’re still you.That’s something I found has been really resonating. If you’re on a beach, you’re still the person that you’re with. You can’t leave her at home.”
She emphasises though that despite some serious bits, the show will definitely be very funny. “There’s stuff about my family, funny little act outs and big physical set pieces, which is sort of my favourite thing. And funny faces. I will definitely do that for a free laugh. I want people to leave feeling uplifted.”
Ruffell, who recently relocated to Brighton so that their daughter will grow up by the sea like she did, will have been a stand-up for 13 years this November. “It took a while to find my voice. People used to say ‘she’s got something, but she hasn’t worked it out yet.’ I felt I was doing an impression of a stand-up at first.”
The turning point was homing in on her Portsmouth upbringing. “It was when I really started talking about myself and my family that people were like, ‘Oh, we believe you now.’ There are comics that look out and comics that look in. As soon as I started looking in I found an audience.”
There is certainly plenty of mileage to be had out of the Ruffell clan. As she jokes, she’s the odd, arty middle class one while her family are working class scaffolders. She paints a beautifully comic yet affectionate picture of them, with her blunt dad who just takes everything in his stride, while her mum runs everything…” Needless to say she is working on a sitcom based around them.
She is clearly grateful that her comedy is working out. Partly because she doesn’t know what she would be doing if it didn’t: “I say onstage ‘thank God you’re here.’ and I really mean it. I was bad at every other job. The only other job that I was good at was working on a donut van in Portsmouth and I had to give that up because it gave me severe acne. There’s no plan B. This is all I’ve got!”
Interviewed by Bruce Dessau