“A piece of pride in your pocket” is how Suzi Ruffell describes her hit podcast ‘Out’.
A show about coming out stories, stand-up comedian Ruffell expected it to last for one series; it is now on its fifth.
Having shone a spotlight on famous names from every corner of the LGBTQ+ world, ‘Out’ is a beacon of hope for those who aren’t in a position to come out themselves – Suzi says emails flow in from less-fortunate listeners who are grateful for the show.
“I wanted to remind people there is this big network of us and that we are all in it together,” says Ruffell.
“I’m trying to create that little bit of community on people’s phones and to cover as many stories as I can. But there’s always more that I want to do,” she continues.
How hard is it to do a podcast?
The podcast is a passion project for Ruffell, who thoroughly researches her subjects to ensure she’s asking unique questions. But how does a frank and open chat about guests’ sexuality compare to performing to a room full of people?
“With stand-up I try to be as much of myself on stage as possible, but the thing that’s hard is the nerves,” says Suzi.
“The first person I interviewed for ‘Out’ was screenwriter and director Dustin Lance Black. I love his film ‘Milk’ and think he’s such a brilliant voice within our community so it was imperative to me that I did his story justice.
“It wasn’t nerves as such, but there’s an apprehension about telling someone’s story properly. He was so charming and lovely but it’s important to me that when someone gives me their time, I use it and appreciate it.”
Suzi records several other podcasts, including ‘Like Minded Friends’, an unscripted natter with friend and fellow queer comedian Tom Allen which she describes as ‘a mess’.
“Our podcast is a moment of peace where you just hear chit-chat. And it’s important to us that it’s openly queer chit-chat,” Ruffell adds.
Have attitudes to LGBTQ+ comedians changed?
Ruffell has been in stand-up comedy for over a decade, with her profile rising after the launch of her Amazon Prime special in May 2022.
There is a strong tradition of gay men in British comedy, but the same can’t always be said for the rest of the queer community. Has Ruffell seen acceptance of queer acts change over her years of touring?
“There are more people from our community who do stand-up," she says.
“It’s become a lot less hostile in the clubs and on the ground doing shows. Places like Mach Fest and the Edinburgh Fringe have really encouraged that.”
Ruffell claims the internet has revolutionised how comedians find their audience, allowing podcast listeners and YouTube viewers to fill out her audiences in a way unimaginable 20 years ago.
She also claims that much of her audience are straight, even if her most dedicated fans are often queer.
“A misconception is that queer acts play to queer audiences,” says the comedian.
“When I’m on tour there’s always more straight people in the audience.
“Plenty of people from our community come to see me, and they’re often the ones that wait around at the end to get a photo.”
How does comedy affect the trans community?
This comes at a time when some comics are using their platforms to tell jokes about the trans community, a core letter on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.
“With every civil rights movement there are groups of people who’ll do offensive jokes about the movement,” says Suzi.
“I think it’s imperative there are voices out there to counteract that.”
Ruffell avoids dictating what people can and can’t say but makes it clear that she doesn’t want anyone to feel attacked at her shows.
“As a queer person you already know what it’s like to feel attacked or threatened.
“As a stand-up you can talk about anything on stage – absolutely anything – and deciding to talk about something that’s directly harmful to someone just isn’t something I want to do.
“There are plenty of people who do it and I can’t do anything about that. All I can do is create comedy that’s positive and inclusive. I want everyone to leave the show at the end feeling uplifted.”