Susie McCabe needed to have a strong word with herself as she set out on writing her new show, Born Believer. This rising star of the UK stand-up scene, who has supported the likes of Jason Manford, Zoe Lyons and Stewart Francis along the way and has been the fastest-selling act at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival for three years in succession, is not a natural optimist. But she was determined to prove that she could change her disposition from cynical to positive.
“It’s very difficult when you’ve spent 40 years living in the west coast of Scotland because optimism does not come naturally to us,” Susie insists. “I did a show before called There Is More To Life Than Happiness which asked whether happiness is over-rated; I think there is an element of that in the Scottish psyche. I’m going to try and be positive, though it’s going to be a struggle. The British in general are pretty miserable. I spent two months in Australia and they’re so happy. The world is upside down just now, but this show is about why I think that everything is going to be alright.”
While Susie has somehow managed to convince herself that ultimately things will turn out just fine, she still feels for a certain group of people who have been stuck with a mess that’s been landed in their laps. “We need to apologise to millennials because we made this mess and they’re our children. Maybe they’ll forgive us? But then I see their fashion and I think they probably can’t be trusted anyway.”
While Susie is reaching for as many positive aspects about modern life as she can, she has found it almost impossible to nail down anything good to say about the B word. “I’ve written a show’s worth of material about Brexit, about the silliness of it, about how we got to that point, and then the absolute shambles of it. But because it changes almost every day, I could no longer find a way of doing it. I try to avoid it now because you can’t pin it down and anything you do pin down is purely historic and so anything you’ve written is inconsequential.”
Susie McCabe has joined the ranks of those people who found themselves on an all-too safe and comfortable career path, but who had eventually realised that they needed to do something else with their life. That something else for many has been comedy, with the likes of Frank Skinner, John Bishop, Micky Flanagan and Jimmy Carr among those who became successful stand-ups later in life. For Susie, her decision to try comedy came about after a stark realisation.
“I only really did this for a dare,” she recalls. “My mate and I were sat at my house after a curry and a few drinks. I was 30 and one of our mates had just been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. We both agreed that you just don’t know how lucky you are or know what’s around the corner.” Susie’s pal suggested that they both do something to scare themselves and after insisting that she would not be jumping out of a plane, a stand-up comedy course was mentioned.
“It all spiralled from there. It was 18 months before I got my first ever gig at The Stand and I only got it because Janey Godley sent an email saying ‘would you please book this lassie?’ And from that I was getting on weekend bills which then grew to headlining nights.”
Now almost a decade on from that first life-changing discussion, Susie has no regrets having seen her career move ever upwards to the point where she has supported some top household names, played festivals in Australia, and is embarking on this new solo tour. She has seen the levels of fame attained by other comics and has a fairly solid idea of what she wants from comedy.
“My ultimate goal is to have a career where I can still walk down the street without wearing a baseball hat and a set of headphones. I’d like to play theatres. I supported Jason Manford at His Majesty’s in Aberdeen and supported Stewart Francis at many a gig and they were brilliant shows. I would like some TV to build up my profile, to tour the country and Europe, and have that nice life where you are still be able to walk your dog in the park.”
For now, Susie feels a strong responsibility towards her audience and knows her job description inside out. “People sit in the house five or six nights a week and they come out to have a good time. We’re just going to have a laugh.”
Susie McCabe’s Born Believer is in the King’s Theatre in Glasgow on 28th March, 2020