One evening in Bethnal Green I witnessed a comedian not to be messed with. I knew then we at The Moshville Times had to ask her some questions. Susan Murray is the name, her job is to stand up and strike fear in the hearts of anyone on coke, or anyone who calls her a prog or jazz fan.
Sit back and feel the force of Susan Murray…
Watched loads of it on TV as a kid but it was The Young Ones that really sealed the deal. It blew my tiny 14 year old mind. Cut to; 12 years later working on an adult animated sitcom Crapston Villas (a Spitting Image production no less) as a camera assistant and the writer and director told me about a stand-up comedy course her sister had done with Hattie Hayridge (the blonde deadpan computer ‘Holly’ in Red Dwarf) in North London. I signed up and did it that year. The rest is a drunken blur.
Which comedian made you want to get into this profession?
It’s never just one. It’s a combination of Dave Allen, Billy Connolly and Rik Mayall – OMG, how hot would that hybrid man be?
What was your first stand up gig like?
I pissed it. Wasn’t nervous at all, and I did well. It was a course showcase. I played the guitar at it for the first and last time on stage, a song called “Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls”. Next gig I was shitting a square one despite it only being a tiny room above a pub. You get used to the nerves – fake it till you make it – and then they lessen, and you relax. It depends which gig it is, really. My nerves are a huge spectrum from “couldn’t give a shit” to petrified. Anything other than that would mean I was a sociopath.
How do you handle hecklers?
By always being smarter than them and rinsing those stupid c*nts who think they have the license to shout at me because they’re:
- A bloke
- On coke
- A bloke on coke
I swear that drug is ruining comedy. Why the fuck would you take coke at a comedy night? You wouldn’t take it at the cinema or the theatre. Idiots. Very, very occasionally you’ll get a great heckle that brings the whole room down and, in that situation, I shake their hand.
What’s the best heckle you’ve heard and did you manage a retort?
In response to a joke about sex, “That’s why you’re single!”
“No, I’m single cos I won’t go out with twats like you.” *cue applause*
You are a huge part behind the growth of Red Imp comedy club in Walthamstow. How did you get involved and what makes people go?
Well, I am the Red Imp comedy club. A friend of mine was doing a play at the venue and said it would be a good room for comedy. I had a meeting with the landlady and set it up from there really. I do the bookings, the website, the marketing, the listings, all admin, the hosting of the gigs, write the theme tune, sing the theme tune… it’s always a great night whether I’ve managed to book a famous comic or not. If any of your readers live in London they should visit my gig in Walthamstow, they won’t be disappointed.
You DJ at East London radio. How did that come about and what is your show all about?
Not anymore, my co-host packed it in and I don’t want to do it on my own. Too dull. Oh well, it was fun whilst it lasted.
What is your favourite venue to gig at and to watch a band live at?
Do they have to be the same one or are these two different questions? Semantics, dear boy!
Well, my favourite venue for gigging is my own, Red Imp at the Rose and Crown in Walthamstow (have I mentioned that enough?). We’ve had some spectacular nights there. My favourite moment was when Stewart Lee was talking about having gone to school with Napalm Death in Brum and got heckled with the name of one of the bands. He riffed about it for about 7 minutes then came back to the guy who’d shouted out and said, “Why did you shout out his name?” to which the bloke replied “He’s my Uncle” the room just fell apart. It was brilliant. Other non-mine gigs that I like are Komeda in Brighton and all The Stand rooms (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle). Oh, and The Glee are great too, but they rarely book me. Booooo.
To watch live bands, Rock City, obviously. And Brixton Academy, although when I saw the Pixies there the sound was dire, just a rumble. I could have done better myself, just guessing. I guess the Forum is OK, but I still insist on calling it the Town and Country Club, because I don’t like change.
What was the first live gig you went to? And the most recent?
U2, 1984, Birmingham NEC. There was a boy sat next to me wearing nail varnish. A boy. I was 15 and very shocked! And which was the most recent? New Model Army / Spear of Destiny / The Members / The Professionals at the very long-winded titled Great British Alternative Music Festival in Butlin’s in Skegness which was surprisingly posh. NMA are good mates now and donated their accommodation as they weren’t using it. I think I just took ligging to its highest level ever without having to resort to groupie-ism.
You’re a prog fan, which album would you recommend someone to check out to prove of their love of prog? Which song or album still sends shivers down your spine?
I am fucking not. How very dare you. And if you say I’m a jazz fan I’ll send the boys round, and have you kneecapped.
Oh… Whoops. Let’s move on quickly…
Bu my favourite album is The Crack by The Ruts.
I’ve seen you live and one thing you mentioned is your love of drummers! Could you name your top five drummers of all time?
Fuck me that’s a hard one, so many brilliant drummers to choose from.
- Michael Dean – NMA
- Rob Heaton – NMA (RIP, mate)
- Stephen Perkins – Jane’s Addiction
- Dave Ruffy – Ruts DC
- Rat Scabies – The Damned
You’re given full control of a festival. Which four comedians would you pick for the bill?
Rik Mayall, Bill Hicks, Greg Davies, Wanda Sykes.
Which three bands would you choose?
New Model Army, The Ruts (the ‘70s line up with Malcolm), The Damned (original line up) and Siouxsie and the Banshees (sorry, I need 4 bands).
What would your festival be called?
Red Imp Rocks (it basically describes me when I’m dancing).
Name one comedian and band you recommend our readers to check out.
Oh, man, that’s so hard cos I have no idea how comedy literate your readers are. So, Robin Ince who is a bit well known, his shows are never the same and his brain works at 1000 mph. I had him doing a preview at Red Imp and then I and all my staff went to see him again at another venue because we love him so much. Gina Yashere is well known and just so brilliant, she lives in America now but comes over to the UK so go see her. She’s just supported Whoopie Goldberg in London.
I’m gonna list a bunch of circuit “not off the telly” acts who wipe the floor with every new act on Live at the Apollo but they’ll never get on it because they’re all over the age of 45: Ian Stone, Jeff Innocent, Paul Thorne, Jen Brister (actually she has done Live at the Apollo so you can look her up dead easily), Mary Bourke, Roger Monkhouse, Raymond & Mr Timpkins Revue, Paul Tonkinson, Bridget Christie, Sean Meo, Mandy Knight, Jojo Smith, Jo Caulfield, Sallyanne Hayward… I could go on forever, to be honest.
Basically, go to an established club, put your hand in your pocket and pay decent money and you’ll see decent comics. Go to a cheap or free night (that isn’t at the Edinburgh festival, there’s loads of great free stuff there) and it’ll be shite.
We have a feature called Band of the Day. What question would you ask a band that is featured?
Well, my first question has to be….who is the band? Then I can formulate my question.
What are your plans for 2018 and the start of 2019?
Finish touring with Daliso Chaponda (who came 3rd in Britain’s Got Talent in 2017 and he’s brilliant) and every January starts with a huge Comedians Christmas Party that I organise. All comics are self-employed, so we don’t get a work do plus everyone is too busy gigging in December, so we have it on a boring Tuesday in January. It’s the highlight of everyone’s year. In the past we’ve had Al Murray, Mick Flanagan and Mark Steel turn up. I am the UK Comedy Circuit’s Social Secretary (self-appointed) mainly cos I’m an admin ninja and can organise a piss up in a brewery.