Me by Susan Calman
Susan Calman (LLB 1996) was a lawyer before becoming a stand-up comedian in 2006. She’s now a regular on radio and TV panel shows and appeared on the popular TV programme 'Strictly Come Dancing' in 2017, making it to week 10 before triumphing on the 'Strictly Come Dancing Live!' tour. Avenue caught up with her just as her second book 'Sunny Side Up' comes out in paperback.
Tell us about 'Sunny Side Up'. Is there anywhere you’d like to see the book to help spread the message of kindness?
I started writing the book before 'Strictly' because I just wanted people to be kinder to each other. Then when I was dancing I realised how wonderful it was to let myself be happy for a while. So, it’s really my story of going from quite a dark place (which I write about in my first book, 'Cheer Up Love') to positivity. I’d like to see the book everywhere. And so would my publisher.
Is the 'Strictly' experience as great as everyone says?
It was absolutely as wonderful an experience as people say it is, although it wasn’t always an easy ride. It’s tiring and stressful and you have no idea before you say yes exactly how much public scrutiny you’ll be under. But the negatives are far outweighed by the positives. I wanted to learn how to dance and I did. I wanted to dance with Kevin Clifton and I did. We won the tour in 2018 and I performed in front of four sell-out crowds at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. I don’t think I will ever do that again. It was pure joy for me.
"When I started on 'Strictly' I asked that my opening film be set at the University because I’m so proud of being a graduate."
What three words do you think your Strictly partner Kevin would use to describe you?
Silly, determined and fearless.
How have people reacted to your "I love Grimsby" tattoo you got in honour of Kevin’s home town?
Many people don’t believe I had it done and demand to see it. My mother was surprisingly happy about it and I love it. Every morning I wake up and see it and it reminds me of one of the best times in my life. And Kevin had his “I love Glasgow” tattoo done so he can safely come back to my home city with his head held high.
You were recently on TV presenting 'Secret Scotland'. Where was your favourite place?
I loved Orkney, partly because I’d always wanted to go there but had never had a chance. My favourite place however is Arran, and in a second series I hope we get a chance to show the place off. It really is the most relaxing and gorgeous destination.
You’re the voice of the Caledonian Sleeper train, do you have any favourite announcements?
“Toilet door locked” was the most amusing. I’ll have to start saying that to myself in my own house. I liked saying “Welcome to Scotland”. That was a real treat.
Why did you choose to study at Glasgow?
My Dad had studied there and was a professor for a while, so I had a lot of memories of the place. I knew it had a good law faculty and I was seduced by the beauty of the place. And to be honest they let me in. That’s always a good reason to go somewhere.
Do you still feel part of the Glasgow family?
Of course! When I started on Strictly I asked that my opening film be set at the University because I’m so proud of being a graduate. And when I got my honorary doctorate last year it was truly a wonderful day.
What sort of student were you, head in the books or down the Students' Union?
Both. I spent almost all my time at the QMU and the library. We got a computer lab in my last year so we could use the new-fangled internet. Other than that, you had to actually read physical books. I was pretty studious I’d say. Apart from Historical Introduction to Scots Law. We didn’t really get on. That was more of a “guess the multiple-choice answer”.
Did you have a favourite lecturer?
Dr Pat Lucie, my lecturer in Public Law, was hugely influential in my time at the Uni. It was because of her that I went to America to work with prisoners on Death Row and she also brought Sister Helen Prejean to Glasgow. She was fun and passionate and brilliant, and I remember all of my lectures with her fondly.
Where was your favourite place to hang out on campus?
Jim’s Bar at the QMU. I had some great times on 50p vodka and orange.
"Never be ashamed of what brings you joy."
What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
Change into my pyjamas. Doesn’t matter what time of day it is. I want to be in my pyjamas and on the sofa.
What always lifts your mood?
Exercise. I go to the gym at least five times a week. For mental and physical health, it’s the best hobby I could have.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Mind reading. I’d love to know what people are thinking. I’d use my power for good of course. Most of the time.
Who makes you laugh, and why?
My wife says she’s very funny, so I’d probably say her. I could watch Billy Connolly and Victoria Wood all day every day. Also French and Saunders, Joyce Grenfell and Tina Fey. I’m quick to laugh.
How would you spend the perfect day?
Up early, gym for an hour, pancakes, walk in the park, nice lunch, home, fire on, nice dinner, good movie. All accompanied by my favourite people and cats.
Susan's currently writing her fifth Radio 4 stand-up series which will be broadcast in the autumn and she will be back on TV soon in a second series of 'Secret Scotland', uncovering the untold tales of Scotland’s iconic locations. Follow Susan on Twitter, Instagram and at susancalman.com.
This article was first published June 2019.