DIVA caught up with the comic-turned-podcast-icon to chat all things series two and life after lockdown
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE BY AEMAN SUKKAR
Cast your mind all the way back to April and you might remember the start of Out With Suzi Ruffell – a solo podcast from the stand-up supremo herself along with some exciting guests along the way.
We loved series one and it came as no surprise to DIVA that Suzi would be returning with a second series of the podcast. Out With Suzi Ruffell is all about coming out, being out and finding one’s place in the world as a member of the LGBTQI community.
The likes of Sue Perkins, Alan Carr, Raven Smith, Denis O’Hare, Steph McGovern, Gok Wan, Mae Martin, Jen Brister and the Rev Richard Coles will be joining Suzi to celebrate individual journeys to becoming happy for series two. With each of these celebs having their own unique tales and experiences, there’ll be no doubt laughs and tears in equal measure. But mostly laughs. Suzi is hilarious, why would you expect anything different?
DIVA: How did Out With Suzi Ruffell come about initially?
SUZI RUFFELL: Over the initial lockdown I had a handful of interviews which I had already done – I recorded the first couple in February. I knew I wanted to do something with these and turn them into a podcast. I’ve always had an interest in people’s coming out stories and people’s stories of how they came to be happy and how they found their way. When lockdown hit I knew that I was looking for podcasts to listen to that weren’t about the pandemic, so it felt like to right time to put it out.
Why do you think it’s important that we keep hearing these kinds of stories from the LGBTQI community?
People think it’s fine for queer people now, but it’s just not. Just by the amount of emails I receive from people who still feel like they can’t come out I’ve realised we’ve still got a long way to go.
I’ve been watching Ratched – I’d be a terrible lesbian if I hadn’t – and that shows people getting shock therapy for being gay, and that was only in the 40s and 50s! In some respect it is so much better, but that homophobia and how the world sees us, that sticks around for a while.
I really needed someone to just say “don’t worry, you’ll have a normal life and people will like you” when I was younger. I was completely obsessed with Ellen Degeneres and that one episode of Sex And The City where Carrie kisses a girl. I remember it being totally mind-blowing. Those things are so loud in my memory because that’s all there was. I want this podcast to be about sharing happy stories and I want it to be what I wish existed when I was growing up.
How did you decide on the wonderful guests you’ve had on the podcast so far?
I just wanted to get a real cross section of everyone in our community. I wanted to make sure there was lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, non-binary people, trans people. I wanted to make sure there was representation in every way. I haven’t covered asexual yet and that’s definitely something that I’ll be doing in series three to make sure everyone feels like the podcast is for them.
I’ve been quite brazen trying to get people. I’ve been tweeting Leisha Hailey for a while but she has not responded. Make my 18 year old brain burst and come on my podcast, Leisha!
What have you learnt about the LGBTQI community that you didn’t know before from creating the podcast?
It has definitely shown me elements of the community that I haven’t seen before and I keep on learning. I already knew that all of these brilliant stories existed but they weren’t being shared. It’s shown me a lot about the resilience of the LGBTQI community and how wonderful and varied our stories are.
I’ve also been blown away by people’s generosity, like Dustin Lance Black who I’d never met before inviting me to his house to record the episode. I’ve also been blown away by people’s willingness to share – there’s a hopefulness and sense of community with everyone I’ve spoken to.
What’s the message you want people to take away from the podcast?
I thought there was always an element of tragedy to queer lives because that’s what I’d been told. I want to make people feel like that there’s so much positivity for people, even those who haven’t come out yet. There’s this massive family of people that you can be part of and you are a part of.
How does it feel going back out into the world and gigging again?
It’s been so nice. Mostly because I get to see my mates! It’s really important to me that when audiences come it feels safe for them. It’s not quite back to normal, but it feels exciting that it’s coming back.
When I got off stage after my first live gig back I almost burst into tears. I was worried I wasn’t going to be funny anymore. Whilst we were in lockdown it was so hard to imagine ever doing it again because you don’t want to do anything thing that feels unsafe. We were doing online gigs and they were fine but there’s nothing quite like the real thing.
What’s the weirdest gig you’ve done since coming out of lockdown?
I’ve been doing some mad old shit! I’ve been doing some gigs on top of the O2 which has been bonkers. It is totally different to normal, the audience are wearing masks so you can hear them laughing but you can’t see them laughing – and I’m on top of a building! It says something about my psyche and the lengths that I’m willing to go to to try and make people laugh.
I’ve got to praise all of the comedy promoters who are creating all of these different ways for us to work now though. It’s just brilliant and it feels like they’re bringing our industry back in the only way that we can.
Make sure you check out series two of Out With Suzi Ruffell – with new episodes released every Monday!