From domestic disasters to not understanding how Brits can eat scraps, we chatted to Glaswegian comic Susie McCabe these and much more ahead of her upcoming appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe.
1. You’re going over to Edinburgh again in July. What are you most excited about?
“It’s a really good venue, I’m in a really good at a really good time so I’m excited to see how it’s going to be this time. I’ve done the show, I’ve toured the show at Perth and Adelaide Fringes and it was recieved well and I’m looking to see how it measures up in the big league. I’ve been playing in Scottish Football and now I’m in the Champions League! It’s that thing of how it might do well in Perth and it might do well in Adelaide and it might be seen as a new kind of thing because you’re an international artist and it’s done well on tour around Scotland at local theatres but how does it fair at Edinburgh?”
2. How important for a stand-up comic is it to have a successful Edinburgh Festival?
“Well, here’s the thing. I’ve done Edinburgh a couple of times, I did reasonably well, I wasn’t in the mix or the big clubs where everything was going on but I did well. It had absolutely no effect whatsoever on my career one way or the other. What I did find is that it gave me really good experience. You realise.. firstly, everything is going to be a football analogy with me.. you realise become really match fit. It also gave me the experience of really reading a room on a Tuesday night with twenty people in. I’m not saying you don’t give the full performance but you give a slightly different performance. Even the other night I did a few gigs and the last gig was predomenantly over fifties and there was about maybe forty or fifty of them. The two gigs I’d done prior to that the same evening were absolutely rockin’ but suddenly you go out and think “Oh, right! I need to sit in fourth gear and need to make this conversational and their very own special gig and that’s what the Fringe gives you. It gives you that experience of international audiences and learning to read a room and judge what gear you need to go in.”
3. You’ve done some high level shows with the likes of Jason Manford and Stewart Francis. What have you learned from watching those guys perform?
“You watch those guys. You listen go those guys and you see how long it takes in this game and how much they’re still learning and these are guys that are at the top of their game. They still work incredibly hard at their comedy. Seeing them gives you that work ethic that, if you ever get to any kind of level like that, you don’t stop, you’re still in training every day.”
4. From your own point, what do you get out of standing in front of a room full of people and talking about your life?
“I like to look at life and look at the nuances of life and make them funny. I think there is nothing funnier than you’re family. There is nothing as queer as folk. When you point these things about I love seeing it in the room. I love seeing the daughter look at the mother or the son look at the father. I love the wife saying to the Dad “that’s you, you do that”. It means that you’ve hit the sweet spot. Okay, the joke might not be the greatest joke ever but people are able to relate to it and hopefully with this show, people will leave thinking. That’s what I’ve tried to do with this show, I’ve tried to be a bit different instead of just talking about my family. This time I’m talking about society as well and I want people to leave the room and try and amend their behaviour or just think about things.”
5. British people can relate to British subjects so I guess when you cross the Border the humour is appreciated easier. How is it taken when you go to somewhere like Australia?
“The thing is, if you’re doing a gig somewhere, it always pays to get a bit of local knowledge or observation about the country or the place. It hooks people in because it shows that you’ve paid attention to their life. Don’t insult them though. Be self-depracating. It was good because it makes you look at your material and work out what is a British thing that people might not get. I talk about sexism and homophobia in the show. I talk about being on a building site and not experiencing any sexism or homophobia but how I got religious bigotry because I am from part of a world where that is rife. So, it’s funny how I can work on a building site with all these men who have no problem with the LGBTQI stuff but weren’t too sure about whether I was Catholic. That’s a very funny concept. So, that initial joke would work and then I would do a bolt-on short story about religious intolerance to back up the story and show how ridiculous it is. So you kind of end up tweaking it to people who may be don’t know about that or the West Coast of Scotland.”
“Working internationally makes you look at your material because you can’t just change a word. You can’t always just go “oh they don’t have a word for that, I’ll use something else…”. It’s alright if you’re using references like a British department store and you can use their equivalent like say Target. With regards to your material and your jokes you have to make sure that it really is glaringly obvious what the joke is. You can’t just be British or Scottish about it.”
6. You obviously love getting out and touring and playing in front of an audience. What are your likes and dislikes about touring ?
“I love the challenge of it. I actually love seeing different places. I drove from Elgin to Dundee last year and I took the Whiskey Trail. It was a beautiful Autumn day and didn’t see another car for two and a half hours, the window was down, the air was clear and it was like therapy. That was a great day. I love meeting new people and engaging with the local audience. I love getting to know the local area. I read the local paper to see what’s going on. I try and reference it at the start of the show. I love all that. But. Being away from home can be a bit of a bind sometimes where say you’re away in London for four days then Cardiff for three days then you’re home then away again for two days in Birmingham. For anybody that would be annoying but, if that’s the only downside to this job then it’s not a bad downside.”
“We’re pretty fortunate now as well. I grew up with my Dad working away from home for most of my childhood so, for me, going away for work is just something you have to do. Obviously you miss your partner, your mates, you miss the birthday parties, the wedding receptions because you’re not there. Fortunately, whereas you couldn’t rely on Dad to find a working phone box, I can just pull up Facetime and it makes it better. When I’m in Australia and I can Facetime my girlfriend and my neice and nephews and they can’t believe it. I’ve got a bit in my new show about Facetiming my Gran in Heaven. On the plus side you get to meet amazing people and do amazing things like doing a wine tour in the Adelaide Hills or do a gig in the oldest gay bar in the southern Hemisphere – that’s amazing! So, there’s a couple of downsides but it’s still the greatest job in the world.”
7. Going onto the Scottish Comedy scene. Given that Kevin Bridges has really got stratospheric, what about the up and coming acts?
“We are absolutely thriving. We have got three comedy clubs in Glasgow and three comedy clubs in Edinburgh which are The Stand, The Glee and Rotunda in Glasgow and The Stand, the Guilded Balloons, Roe Street Theatre and Monkey Barrel. Stephen Buchanan won BBC Comedy Awards last year, Stephen was out in Australia as well and he’s a great comic. I came through with a bunch of lads who are all coming through like Mark Jennings, Roscoe Mclelland, Christopher Mcarthur-Boyd, guys who are hugely likeable and have got their heads down and worked. They’re the kind of people you’ll have a laugh with if you’re in a Green Room and they’ve just got a great work ethic.”
8. Your biog has you admitting you’re completely useless at anything domestic. What’s the one thing you really hate and what has been your biggest domestic disaster?
“The one thing I really hate is changing a bed. It’s genuinely the most soul-destroying thing in the world. I’m only five feet two and I can’t really play snooker, I’ve got short arms and short legs so changing a bed was not meant for someone like me. It’s like I don’t know how people can do it and they can do it quickly whereas for me it’s almost an hour and a half. I have to have a cigarette half way through as I’m exhausted.”
“As for my biggest disaster. There’s been a few. Probably coming in drunk and nearly setting my Mum and Dad’s house on fire because I’d decided I was going to be healthy and not have a pizza on the way home at 3.30 in the morning so I’d have chicken nuggets instead. My mum came in to find me sleeping at the table with smoke bellowing from the oven. I nearly wiped out myself and my family so, as disasters go, that’s up there with the best.”
9. Scotland is well known for its fried Mars Bars. Is there any food you would like to see fried that hasn’t already been done ?
“Here’s the thing. I live in the East End of Glasgow which is one of the unhealthiest parts of Europe. I can tell you that I do not know one Chip Shop that deep fries a Mars Bar. It was an east coast thing that started in Edinburgh. I remember one night being in Stonehaven which is a very middle class fishing village near Aberdeen. I went into a chip shop one night and they were selling, for one pound fifty, a deep-friend Tunnock’s tea cake. No, Aberdeen, no! I was in Grangemouth as well once and I went into a chip shop and they were selling Chicken Pakora but what they were doing was double-dipping it in fish shop batter so it was getting fried then getting fried again! Maybe it’s a Glasgow thing but I have never seen anybody go into a chip shop and order a deep fried Mars Bar. I’ll tell you what is perculiar though! I come down South to England and people go into Chip Shops and order scraps! You literally eat fried peices of batter – it’s like how can you give us a reputation when you lot eat fried batter!”
10. Susie, it’s been amazing talking to you. Just to finish what are your plans for the rest of the year ?
“I then go on holiday with my partner because I spent nine weeks in Australia then I came back and I’m all over the UK and she needs a bit of time which is only fair. She’s not asked for that time so chances are she’ll be absolutely fuming! Then I go on tour with a new show and that will take in eleven dates around Scotland with the show culminating at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow next March on the last weekend of the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Exciting times! ”
For more information on all of Susie’s upcoming shows visit her Official Website.