The PaperGirl Interview: Susan Cramm and Her Wonderful Laugh

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean 6
Ms. Cramm and her quilt. Make sure to read to the end of the post and you'll get more on the story of the quilt and Susan, too. Screenshot: Me.
Ms. Cramm and her quilt. Make sure to read to the end of the post and you’ll get more on the story of the quilt and Susan, too. Screenshot: Me.

My friend Susan asked me to go to The Moth with her on Tuesday night. It was an easy sell.

For one thing, I enjoy the popular storytelling event. (If you aren’t familiar with The Moth, you absolutely should be; make a note to google it when you go.) In addition to taking in some quality entertainment, by seeing The Moth I’d be doing research for the storytelling class I’m teaching in a couple weeks at the University of Chicago. But the best reason to say yes to hanging out with Susan is Susan and her wonderful laugh. So I said yes.

Susan is kind, smart, pretty. She’s brave and great at storytelling (she has won The Moth many times as a result.) She’s generous, she’s loyal — all that Good Person stuff. But it’s her laugh that wins. Suze’s laugh is one of the best things about her.

Do you know someone with an incredible laugh? A laugh that makes you laugh with pleasure? Susan’s got one of those. Her laugh is life-affirming. It is round, generous. Susan’s laughter bubbles up from her core then launches into space, fully-formed, in a sonic celebration of everything that is good in the world. Susan’s laugh calls to mind rose bushes and robins’ breasts: full, lusty things.

This is not normal. Most people just laugh. I decided, sitting next to Susan at The Moth the other night, clapping my hands with glee every time she found something to be funny, which is often, that I would have to further investigate. What follows is an email interview I did with the one and only Ms. Susan Cramm, who I am now dubbing, “The Queen of Mirth.”

PaperGirl: When did you become aware of the uniqueness of your laugh, Suze?

Susan Cramm: I think I’ve always been a full-out laugher.  I think it was finally commented upon in college.  I would go see friends and classmates in shows and they would say that they knew I was in the audience.  The first time I was called out by a performer was in 2003 while watching a Punch and Judy show at the Whiteside County fair.  The puppeteer had Mr. Punch say, “Hey lady in the back, will you come to all my shows?”

PG: What makes you laugh?

SC: Oh, most anything.  I’m easy.  Regular funny stuff, bad jokes, good jokes, puns, pet videos, everything. The absurdity of life.

PG: I have had the pleasure of sitting next to you at a number of performances. Sometimes I see you cover your mouth with both your hands to stifle your laugh. Have you been in situations where your laugh was not welcome?

SC: I do get looks every once in a while.  I’m loud and sometimes people don’t like that.

PG: You and I have a friend in common: Bilal Dardai. He is someone I would pay to be an audience member if I put on a show because he has the best laugh. Well, the two of you tie, anyhow. Would you be interested in hiring yourself out for audience stunt work? Have you ever been paid to laugh?

SC: I love Bilal!  I will gladly take a comp ticket.  I believe it would be considered a conflict of interest with my job if I were to be a paid audience member for a play. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you not love Suze for taking this question 100% seriously??]

PG: A mellifluous laugh like yours makes me wonder about your singing ability. Do you sing?

SC: I do not sing for other people to listen to me.  I sing at church with the congregation, along with the radio if it’s extra loud, and, like my mother, I sometimes sing what I’m doing — but I’m hopefully alone when that happens. I’ve been told I do hum a lot without realizing it. 

PG: Do people want to talk to you all the time about your laugh? Are you giving any other interviews?

SC: I do have people come up to me after shows — talent and audience members — to say thanks and that it “opened up the room” to laugh with me.  I’m not giving any other interviews about my laugh; PaperGirl has the exclusive on this story.

PG: Tell me anything else I need to know about your laugh and what it means to be you, Suze.

SC: I could not have as big a laugh as I do without also having had the experience of the body crumpling, snot inducing, wailing sob of an ugly cry.  Not everything is funny.  Also,  you are the only person allowed to call me Suze.

You can get a little taste of Suze’s (!) laugh because… She guested on a 2012 episode of Quilty! Dig that short hair on me and the really, really cool polyester quilt we celebrate together. Times like this, I really miss that lil’ show.


Anniversary Eve: Sonnets and Hotness

posted in: Art, Luv 0
This photo captures something about me and Yuri. It's hard to explain. Photo: Lloyd Wright; A Midsummer Night's Dream, Children's Shakespeare Festival, Folger Shakespeare Library.
This photo captures something about me and Yuri. It’s hard to explain. Photo: Lloyd Wright; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Children’s Shakespeare Festival, Folger Shakespeare Library.

One year ago Saturday, I met a fellow in Chicago by chance — or fate, if you like.

I had arranged to buy a bitcoin and he was the person who was to sell it to me. The first thought I had when I saw him that morning was, “He’s younger than I expected.” He was wearing a ball cap and cute glasses, sucking a strawberry smoothie through a straw, and he was about to go into his job at the Board of Trade. And he was smart enough about bitcoin to explain to me how I would actually buy one. My second thought was, “This guy is cooler than I will ever be, ever.”

We did the surprisingly uncomplicated transaction. I thanked him and walked away, proud owner of a bitcoin or two. About three minutes after we basically told each other — sincerely — to have a nice life, I get a text message. I look at the screen of my phone. It was the guy.

“Are you single?”

As I live and breathe, that is how it all began. “Are you single?” A year later, I’m sitting on a sofa in New York City, night air on my shoulders through the window of our apartment on St. Mark’s Place. There’s a homemade apple pie on the sill, still warm. I made a pot roast today, too, and when Yuri tried the first bite, his eyes rolled back in his head and he said, “God, I love you.” I asked him to tell me what he thought when he first met me, if he had any idea I’d be feeding him homemade pot roast within a year.

“What was I wearing that day we first met?” I asked him. “Do you remember?” I definitely do; I can remember what I was wearing at times in my life far better than I can recall dates, names, or how to spell “bureaucracy.”

“You were wearing a skirt,” he answered. “And high heels.” Correct.

“What did you think about me?”

“I thought you were really hot,” he said, still happy about this. “I was thinking, ‘This chick is into bitcoin. That’s crazy. That’s so cool.’ And I was really hoping you’d be hot.”


I’ll be out of town for our actual anniversary, so we’re going to celebrate Tuesday night. I’ve been feeling much better the past couple days, so we’re going to brave dinner at a farmy-tabley place in Brooklyn and then we’ll see a Rufus Wainwright/Robert Wilson creation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). These two artistic heroes of mine have joined forces on a selection of Shakespearean sonnets; music by Rufus, staging by Bob. (Google the show and look at the visuals — we’re in for a treat.)

And now, because Shakespeare is so good and I’m feeling tender as a pot roast toward my beau, Sonnet 19, which is all about how Time can and does destroy everything, but if my love exists in my poems, he will live forever. Take that, Time.

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet’st,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.