A few years ago, UK comedian Suzy Bennett posted on Twitter that a spare ticket has been made available for the Alice in Chains gig at Alexandra Palace. I took that ticket. That night I saw with my own eyes that Suzy is a ‘grunger’. Three years later, I’ve managed to get a few questions answered by the lady herself.
How did you get into comedy? Who are your influences in this walk of life?
I used to love watching Kenny Everett, The Two Ronnies and Hi-De-Hi when I was little and I would do impressions of the characters and repeat the sketches I had seen to entertain my family. I have always adored Dawn French.
The first stand-up I really loved was Victoria Wood. I used to watch her videos over and over and listen to my audio cassettes of her shows on my Walkman (showing my age!) Even though, as a child some of the subject matter was a bit mature for me, she had a unique ability to capture the lives of everyday people of all ages and classes and I found I could relate to her warm and lovable characters and tales. I used to perform her material for auditions and shows as I was growing up. When she passed away this year I wrote a tribute piece for funnywomen.com about how much she meant to me and her legacy in comedy and how thrilled I was to discover that my hero knew about me!
What made you realise that comedy is where you wanted to go with your life?
I used to be a bit of a show-off and worked as a Butlins Redcoat and an entertainer for a holiday company where I would always be ‘the funny one’. I sort of ‘fell ‘ into stand-up by talking on the microphone to holidaymakers and remembering the bits they laughed at and repeating them for the next shows, writing material as I went along. I didn’t actually perform my first ‘proper’ set as a comedian until I was 29. When it goes well, it is the best feeling in the world, but then again, I have yet to sky-dive naked attached to Jack Black!
Which comedian would you tell the readers to look out for in 2017?
Oooh, so many brilliant comics out there! The person that made me belly laugh the most in real life, on stage and online this year is Phil Lucas. He has a brilliant comedy mind. There is nobody like him on the circuit. He is a nice bloke too and I think the magic of him is he draws you into his ‘crazy’ world and there is no pretension of trying to be the ‘new Bill Hicks’ like a lot of new stand-ups. His humour is clever but silly, he makes you forget everything else that is going on in the world with his hilarious PowerPoint jokes and props. He works really hard and is always coming up with new stuff. Some of his online stuff has gone viral and he deserves a place on the Blankety Blank panel one day (‘cos he loves a retro TV reference). Follow him on Twitter @PhilLucas.
Now, a bit about music. I’m aware you’re a fan of the 90s-grunge era. What do you think it was about that explosion that captivated so many people?
I was about 14/15 when I moved slightly away from my Levellers/Stone Roses phase and discovered Nirvana and Alice in Chains etc. I used to go to a club that played indie/alt/rock music and my tastes were becoming heavier (much to the annoyance of my parents when I used to turn it up to volume 11). I was never really a rock fan (aside from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin) as I used to think there wasn’t much melody involved but Smells Like Teen Spirit blew me away! I loved Stone Temple Pilots, The Offspring and Soundgarden too. The albums Smash and In Utero were the soundtracks to my getting ready to go out when I was 18 in my first flat. Maybe at that age it felt exciting and glamorous to listen to American bands. They were sexy, edgier and cooler than say, Bon Jovi (much as I love a bit of “It’s My Life” as a guilty pleasure).
Did grunge kill rock? And if so, what sentence should it get?
Nah, I don’t think it did. It maybe taught the ‘rockers’ to sort their mullets out, haha. You only need to watch Metallica at Glastonbury last year to see that rock lives! I was always a bit disturbed by the headbanging technique with the thumbs gripping the belt loops. I saw Status Quo live a couple years back and loved it, mind… (blushing face)
Is there an album or band from those days that you believe has been overlooked?
I’d like to see Blind Melon remembered more. I love it when I am watching a movie and a song I had forgotten about comes on the soundtrack. “No Rain” (see below for those who also want to reminisce) was used on a trailer for a movie and it made me smile. I still listen to Elastica occasionally, and Suede.
Do you still rock-out the chequered shirts? What bit of clothing from those days do you love to pull out?
I totally still wear my AIC and Kurt Cobain tshirts! My mum rang me up recently and said ‘you left a vest here, it is a picture of a man smoking…’ I said ‘Mother, that is Kurt Cobain!’ I have a few Tenacious D ones too. A few years ago a friend and I were seeing Pearl Jam and we were going to wear checked shirts and jeans and, well, we were both a bit ‘chubby’ at the time and I said ‘We look like Roseanne and Dan!’ (because I love a retro TV ref too!)
Is there a record that’s your “go-to”?
Dirt by Alice in Chains, particularly “Down in a Hole”. My best friend has a ‘Suzy Playlist’ she puts on for when we have our ‘wine evenings’ (it used to be cider in my flat and actually going out but we are in our 40’s now so prefer the sofa) which is basically all our favourite grunge and I never tire of it.
If you could create a supergroup, alive or dead, who would be in it?
Sadly, they are mostly all dead now anyway :0( …
Cobain, Staley, Weiland, Starr ….. and Phil Collins on drums…??
Are you musical yourself? If so, in what way? If not, is there an instrument you’d like to master or a vocal style you wish you had?
I took guitar lessons as a teen and didn’t commit. I was distracted by cider and boys. If I could go back now I’d tell my younger self to sort it out! I’d love to be able to play piano, like Victoria Wood. I had a Casio keyboard back in the 80’s where you could cheat and follow the light telling you which keys to press. Genius. I was amazing at “Thriller”.
What track would be your walk out track when heading on stage, or if you decided to become a mixed martial artist which song would you have?
I love a bit of “Song 2” as walk on music, as long as the DJ doesn’t mess up the timing haha. I have been brought onstage to “I Touch Myself” before (thanks Peter Dennis). Or “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys or “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.
You’ve spent time doing the Edinburgh fringe. What’s it like to appear and bare your soul every night, for a month?
Horrific and also amazing.
What can we expect from you in 2017?
I shall probably be attempting to be hilarious on Facebook, attempt the odd Tweet to get 13 likes again (that was a GOOD day over at @funnysuzyb) and talk about Columbo a lot! 2017 sees me having a rest from festivals and long journeys on the Megabus. I am going abroad for the summer to get some sunshine and have new adventures. I will be making a grungy playlist for walks along the seafront and getting my ‘vest with smoking man on it’ ready for tanning my arms :0)
Happy New Year everyone!