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.