THERE isn’t a stand-up comedian who hasn’t, at some stage in their career, had to compete with something going on offstage, whether it’s a noisy act in a next-door venue at the Edinburgh Fringe, loud stag and hen groups breaching etiquette in comedy clubs or some geezer trying to find out what time the meat raffle starts.
But Suzi Ruffell has some quite breathtaking competition ahead of her next set: panoramic views of London. Over the next three Saturdays she’ll be performing on the roof of The O2, London, as part of a new series called Stand Up At The O2. Audience members will get a chance to climb to the top of the building and enjoy a drink and a short, exclusive set from the rising star, before climbing back down to base camp.
‘I think it’ll be mad,’ says Suzi, whose last few Edinburgh shows have sold out thanks to her easy, relatable manner. She’s been on everything from Live At The Apollo and The Last Leg to The Jonathan Ross Show, but adds: ‘I’ve never performed anywhere like it. I don’t think I’ll ever perform anywhere like it again. I’ve done rooftop gigs and gigs in all sorts of places across the Edinburgh Festival, but never anything like this.’
Suzi jokes that it’ll be a challenge to be funnier than the view is fascinating, but she does enjoy a challenge. ‘I think the novelty of it is really cool. It’s a funny story I’ll probably be telling for years: “When we couldn’t perform in theatres, I did shows on top of a stadium.” The O2 is known for stand-up, and big names do their arena shows there, so I’m really pleased they’re trying something different.’
Like a lot of successful comics, Suzi found the sudden professional halt caused by lockdown a shock.
‘I didn’t realise I was so defined by stand-up, but I am,’ she says. ‘Over the past 12 years I’ve done four-to-six shows a week, every week, except for brief breaks. We gig constantly. We’re always all over the country, working up new shows, sometimes doing two or three gigs a night. I really didn’t know what I did when I wasn’t on tour, which is weird. I missed that energy of being on stage — the rush you get.’
She did, of course, carry on with her podcasts — she does Like Minded Friends with her buddy Tom Allen, as well as Out With Suzi Ruffell, which is all about the inspiring lives of LGBT people — and performed a few Zoom gigs. And she did eventually manage to get the hang of chilling out, catching up on boxsets and says she appreciated having time together with her partner.
Where did she get her lockdown laughs from? She thought Katherine Ryan’s Netflix comedy-drama, The Duchess, was hilarious, she loved Raven Smith’s book, Trivial Pursuits, and re-watched stand-up specials from one of her favourite comedians, Wanda Sykes.
When the restrictions were eased, she visited her parents, whom she clearly adores, and who live by the seaside. ‘I never craved going to the beach quite so much,’ she recalls. ‘It was fabulous to be with them and put my feet in the sea. I appreciated them in a way I haven’t and probably always should have.’
Now that television production is heating up again, Suzi has got quite a few projects coming up. She’ll be a series regular on ITV’s Stand Up Sketch Show, while there are a string of other TV projects she’s not allowed to talk about yet. She also has a sitcom in development and wants more.
‘I’d like to host a chat show, I’d like to write a book. There are so many things I want to try,’ she says.
Given her talent and drive, there’s a good chance it won’t be long.
■ Suzi performs Stand Up At The O2, London, tomorrow, Sep 26 and Oct 3, tickets.aegeurope.com