2016 is probably going to go down as the year a lot of our favourite famous people kicked the bucket. Which is a shame because… death but also it’s a shame because 2016 is shaping up to be the year a lot of great autobiographies have been published and Susan Calman’s memoir/guide to depression, Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate ought to be on this list.
When you work in female comedy, and I do, one of the things you hear most is ‘is this show just for women then?’ No, just as all male line ups are not for male only audiences, women comedians can appeal to anyone with a sense of humour. When you work in female comedy, and I do, the percentage of gay and bisexual women you work with increases. Which means I also often hear ‘that woman talked about being a lesbian a lot’ though never do I hear people complain ‘that white, middle class, straight comedian talked a lot about his cock’.
Why am I saying this? I assure you this is a review about Susan Calman’s book and not my experiences in comedy. But they are relevant, thanks to the content of this book. Plus I really enjoy talking about myself once in a while, so whenever the chance to shoehorn a bit of me in arises, I bloody go for it. And yes, when you go to a gay woman comic’s show there is a higher likelihood of hearing jokes about being gay, or uteruses. Why? Because that’s her life and she won’t notice the exact same thing as a boy in a t-shirt. I am saying this because Susan Calman, as well as being a darling of BBC Radio 4, is a gay woman and this book is about that and her experiences with depression. Does this mean this book is only for depressed but occasionally witty lesbians? No. Onwards.
This is a book that, like a female stereotype, multitasks. For those who suffer from bouts of depression and mental illness it provides solace, understanding and advice. For those living with or close to people suffering from depression, it gives you insight into why some of your well meant but unhelpful or even damaging suggestions seem to fall on deaf ears. If you picked it up purely to find out what makes Susan Calman tick, where she comes from and incidents that shaped the comedian and writer here today, there’s that too!
Comedy does not exist in a vacuum. If we don’t have tragedy then it’s hard to see the funny. However it takes skill to tell stories of self harm, sectioning and homophobia before segwaying onto lighter anecdotes, ponderings and quips, all of which Susan manages to do with finesse.
Susan’s book Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate is out now!