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Riddell me this

By Kyle Walker

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Susan Riddell.
Susan Riddell.

Have you heard the one about how “women just aren’t funny”?

Comedy’s most pervasive and ridiculous stereotype continues to be peddled in 2018, despite the plethora of talented women writing jokes, performing stand-up and otherwise enriching the world of humour.

For Susan Riddell – the Glasgow writer, stand-up, Funny Women 2018 runner-up and Best Newcomer nominee at this year’s Scottish Comedy Awards – the attitude change needs to start from the top.

“I only started doing stand up a couple of years ago and I think I’m lucky in that attitudes are changing,” she said. “I’ve heard some horror stories from women who have been doing it for longer.

“When that baldy guy from Have I got News for You – I can’t remember his name – said that women weren’t on the show because they were too modest, Lynne Parker who runs Funny Women tweeted that she’s never been approached by the producers about linking up talent.

“It’s not just that, I think it goes a lot deeper. A recent linguistical study showed that male listeners were more likely to view a female speaker who interrupted as ruder, less friendly and less intelligent than if the interrupter were male.

“That’s innate so I’m not sure how you’d go about fixing that. I mean, as a woman you can feel that so it’s good to know you’re not being paranoid.”

Susan is up in the Highlands to headline and compere a special evening of comedy in Caithness that’s looking to push back against that idea.

As part of their From Wifey to Wifie exhibition, Lyth Arts Centre are looking to highlight female-led laughs, teaming up with the Teuchters Comedy Club for an all-woman bill of comedy.

And while it marks Susan’s first visit to the region – “it’s shocking the amount of places I’ve not been in Scotland!” – her’s is a name quickly growing in Scottish comedy.

Susan Riddell.
Susan Riddell.

On top of her stand-up placement in Funny Women and an appearance on comedy Scot Squad, the last few years have seen Susan gain successes in writing. Gaining a place on BBC Writer’s Room, Susan has written several sketches for the web; and also penned a weekly column with the Daily Record for two years.

“I was always interested in writing and loved watching sitcoms,” Susan said. “I’d just hoover up loads of sitcoms – Friends, Father Ted, Alan Partridge, 30 Rock, Kath and Kim, Summer Heights High, Curb your Enthusiasm...there’s too many to mention.

“I was never really influenced by stand up at all. Even now, I don’t really enjoy watching it – that’s terrible to say!”

And while she’s now performing stand-up as much as she is writing, the approach hasn’t changed. “There’s a lot of crossover and you can tweak ideas to fit into whatever medium you are doing at the time.

“I liked writing the column to begin with but I got really uncomfortable with that in the end. It felt like I was churning stuff out for the sake of it. I mean it was mostly lighthearted stuff but I don’t like having my opinions set in stone like that.

“I actually don’t have strong stances on a lot of stuff, I’m always just looking for the funny aspect of things which could be at odds with how I really feel about the matter.”

Susan is bringing that voice to bear in a lot of ways. Future plans include developing a couple of scripts with the idea of creating a female led Scottish comedy. “Although things are getting better it’s pretty shocking that there have been no Scottish female led sitcoms or sketch shows on our screens apart from Karen Dunbar. I think this is the biggest thing that needs addressed.”

Until then, there’s the small matter of Saturday night’s gig. Susan will be joined on the bill by some of Teuchters’ fresh-faced talent from its ever-developing open mic nights – Jenny Johnston, Hazel Urquhart, Rebekka Dabolina, Brooke Bourgouis and Jacqui Barclay.

So what advice does Susan have for today’s developing comedians? “Have fun. That’s it!”

Susan Riddell headlines and comperes the Teuchters Comedy Club’s Women in Comedy special at Lyth Arts Centre, near Wick, on Saturday night. Things kick off at 8pm and tickets cost £10.

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