Coming soon to a train station near you, providing it's close to a theatre, is the blessed Susan Calman, fresh from winning a Comedy.co.uk Award for her tough-topic-tackling radio vehicle Susan Calman is Convicted.
The increasingly popular Glaswegian has hit a mighty groove by ploughing her own furrow, pooh-poohing the accepted methods for making it big and instead getting deeply personal, even if it might be a bit off-putting for prime-time. Indeed, if you haven't yet, do listen to her wonderfully candid interview on Stuart Goldsmith's ever-insightful Comedian's Comedian podcast.
Calman is on a pre-tour tour at the moment, a work-in-progress effort in preparation for her proper one later in the year, and a return to the Edinburgh Fringe. Due to that hectic schedule we ended up doing this interview via email (hence 'Calman Composed' - see what we did there?), but she's refreshingly revealing all the same. Speaking of schedules, you really should also follow Calman on Twitter for some tremendous train-delay updates, and cats dressed as superheroes.
But let's kick off, in the manner of every classic old Rank film, with that gong.
Susan, congratulations on the award - did you have a celebratory glass of champagne/gin/tea afterwards? Or are you generally an award-shunner?
Thanks very much! Before we start can I just say this is a bit odd. I'm writing my answers to you but I've never met you. Kind of like corresponding with a serial killer in prison. I'm not saying you're a serial killer of course. You might be I suppose. Are you? You wouldn't tell me if you were would you? You'd be a rubbish serial killer if you just told people when you first met them. Let's not meet up in case.
Anyway it's always nice when people enjoy something I've written. When I found out I'd won I think I had a nice cup of tea and a Ferrero Rocher to celebrate rather than anything alcoholic. I only tend to drink alcohol when things aren't going well, a little lesson in mental self-preservation I learned in my first year at the Fringe.
In general I don't mind awards but then I haven't been to any of those fancy TV ceremonies. Ask me again if I'm ever invited to one of them. Actually, now you've put it into my head I think I'd quite like to go to one of them. I'd traverse down the red carpet doing the dance from the Prince Charming video by Adam Ant.
Your podcast with Stu Goldsmith was wonderfully honest, and I can certainly relate to the actively pessimistic outlook you admitted to. Have you had much feedback from that chat?
I recorded the podcast with Stu during the Fringe in 2013 and it was quite an odd experience. Stu is a comedian and so has an automatic insight into the process of writing and performing, the result being that the conversation was a lot more in-depth than I'm used to in a normal press chat, for example. Or a chat with a serial killer. Stu's also a damn good interviewer so I gave away more than I might normally have.
I'm aware of the fact that my pessimism comes through quite strongly in the podcast but it is, sadly, the truth. My negativity is a constant source of annoyance to my wife, and I can understand why she hates it. When she met me I was a lawyer with a proper job and a pension and prospects. Now I'm a comedian with paranoia and an inferiority complex. Yay!
The feedback from people who listened to the Podcast has been amazing. It's a bit nerve wracking letting people into your head but at the same time I make no apologies for being a depressive, negative, pessimistic person. It's what makes me the smashing little bundle of joy that I am.
How's the work in progress tour going so far? Can you give us a hint what sort of topics you're covering?
It's going well. The highest number of previews I've done before the Fringe in previous years is four, so doing twenty-three is quite a leap. But I've found over time that I write and formulate shows best when I work on them as I perform them live, so this year I thought a tour might be a good idea. The content is evolving as I go, and the first one I did in Leeds will probably be nothing like the one I end up doing in August.
In terms of the content of the new show it is, like all of my shows, very personal. I don't want to give away too much though. I hate reading spoilers on the Internet. Suffice to say it contains all of the right funny words, just not necessarily in the right order. Yet.
Some unlikely towns on your schedule there - do you ever wonder how your stuff will go down in these random places?
That's the best thing about this tour: I haven't visited most of the towns on the list, never mind gigged there. As a comedian I think it's important to force yourself outside your comfort zone and see if your writing works with an audience that may not know a lot about you. And there's no real substitute for working a show hard. That makes it sound a bit sexier than it actually is to be fair. Like I'm standing, sweating, beating myself on the arse with a table tennis bat, working my show hard while listening to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. Because I am the hottest bitch in the place.
Oh, and most importantly I get to stay in almost every Premier Inn in the country. Which is brilliant. I'm not sponsored by them or anything. Happy to consider offers though.
It was interesting hearing on the podcast about the '10 minute routines for telly' you tried during one Edinburgh show. Did it pay off at all, even if that show wasn't your favourite?
It didn't pay off. At all. But that was a show I did four years ago and I wasn't a confident enough comic to know what I wanted to say. Now I know who I am. Now, if someone asked me to do one of those shows, I know exactly what I'd do: My Meryl Streep impersonation for ten minutes.
Sadly I haven't been asked to do one of those shows yet. Fingers crossed.
How do you feel about TV work now? Would you be happy becoming a full-blown household name?
I love doing TV stuff. It's a very different discipline to radio shows, not least because you have to have your hair done. But I didn't get into comedy to become 'famous', I did it because I'd always wanted to be a comedian. Being recognised can be horrifically embarrassing on the rare occasions that it does happen.
For example, during the Fringe last year I was chatting to some nice News Quiz listeners. Unfortunately for me, the day before, my VAT bill came out of the wrong bank account which resulted in the lady serving me saying, rather loudly "Sorry, your card has been declined." Thanks again to the News Quiz listeners who lent me two pounds that day.
I was also once in Heat magazine's 'Spotted' column during a time when I was performing at the Soho Theatre in London. It said "Spotted! Susan Calman on Oxford Street." I just had to hope it wasn't when I was drunk and throwing chips at pigeons. I should say I'm not normally violent towards pigeons; they were approaching me in an aggressive manner.
The worst situation I've found myself in was in the toilets of the Underbelly at the Fringe. I was in a cubicle doing what comes naturally, when I glanced down to the bottom of the door and saw a hand, holding a camera. The worst thing is that when I saw the camera I automatically smiled. Idiot.
Do you pitch much TV stuff? I can see the Convicted format working nicely in that Stewart Lee Comedy Vehicle slot...
I do pitch for TV shows. Sitcoms, documentaries, dramas. I pitch anything. Even a reality show called Susan! Which is essentially just Big Brother but everyone is called Susan. I want to get that show made because kids aren't called Susan any more. It was a popular name in the 1970's but it's fallen out of fashion. I want to bring it back. Make it street again.
In general though I very much hold with the theory that if you're working on a lot of pitches, eventually, after a very long time, one of them will come off. It's tough though. Pitching to commissioners is like trying to catch an oiled pig called Trevor at a foam party which is attended only by pigs that have been cloned from Trevor's DNA so look exactly like the pig you need to catch but aren't the original Trevor. It's tiring, slippery, and the rules are very difficult to discern.
I do enjoy your train-trauma tweets. Is that a fertile place for writing (providing the train ever turns up)?
I spend my life on trains. It's part of the payback I get for deciding to continue living in Glasgow. I don't tend to tweet about the people on the trains in case they follow me on Twitter. Little could be more awkward than staring across a table at someone who's just tweeted about you.
I do find it a good environment to write in though. Four and a half hours Glasgow to London, no distractions. Being truthful, I watch a lot of box sets as well. That's why I'm such a TV nerd.
You've done most of the big panel shows over the years - do you enjoy the format? Any particularly successful - or particularly disastrous - ones along the way?
Panel shows are fun. I loved QI, HIGNFY, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and WILTY. My experiences have been almost universally positive with them but perhaps I've been lucky in that the people I've been on the show with have all been lovely.
I'd love to have a story of horrific behaviour but I don't. Sorry. I feel bad now. Like I should have a story about having my head flushed down the toilets in the dressing rooms or something. Next time I'm on one I'll marginalise myself so I have something to tell you about next time we chat.
Any other interesting projects on the go?
I recently filmed a game show for STV which will be on in the Spring. That was fun. A proper shiny floor quiz show. I had a stylist who was the most patient women I've ever met. I'm always trying to get my own scripts made and, of course, the reality show Susan!
Apart from that I'll be back at the Fringe this year and embarking on a full bells and whistles UK and Ireland tour in the autumn of 2014. More Premier Inn's. Hurrah!
Hope you get your release date soon.
For details of Susan Calman's work in progress tour, and the proper one, visit www.susancalman.com