Irrepressible and unfathomably energetic 85-year-old London-based American comedian and occasional burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller has been off on her travels again.
She has just returned from six days performing in Dublin.
She did not get a warm initial welcome.
The occasional Colonial trans-Atlantic spellings are hers.
Every time I go to Dublin, the weather is wet, windy and cold. It is utter hell to be walking the streets of this city with the rain turning umbrellas inside out and making puddles so deep you can swim in them.
This time I decided I would visit when I KNEW the weather would be gorgeous.
I arrived at the airport in the middle of a sudden rainstorm where the temperature plunged to mock winter and I shivered through my comedy gigs all week.
Summer in Dublin is only a concept, not a temperature.
But the comedy scene there is growing by leaps and bounds.
Each time I go, there are more clubs and all of them attract good audiences who love to laugh and love to drink even more. For me, THE club is always The International, run by Aidan Bishop. It is the one club that never sees color, sex, age or disability. Aidan gives everyone a chance to perform and pays them for doing a show for him.
It is a small room above The International Bar with no sound system and it has a casual feel to it. It feels like we are all together in someone’s living room telling jokes.
Doing comedy at The International teaches you how to project your voice so everyone can hear you. If you swallow your punch lines you might as well be talking to your mirror. People have to HEAR you to laugh with you.
I started doing my comedy in Dublin at the International almost ten years ago and that first time I performed there was an older barman who stood behind the bar at the back of the club. His name was John Francis Smith. I was told he had been working there for forty years. He was amazing at his work. He managed to serve everyone in the ten-minute intervals and still find time to race through the room to pick up empty bottles and glasses.
That first time I saw him, he said: “You were really funny….” And, after that, he always made an effort to stop whatever he was doing and listen to my set whenever I performed.
I used to worry each time I took to the stage that I wasn’t giving him any new jokes, but he didn’t seem to care. He always made an effort to say hello and tell me it was good to see me.
This year John Francis Smith was not there.
He died suddenly on March 8th and for me it was a huge loss.
I always loved being on stage and seeing him standing there at the back listening to every word I said. It made me feel noticed and very important.
In Dublin, I always stay with an amazing family who take care of me as if I were royalty. There are three boys in the family and they all love to cook.
I come from the generation where men went to the office and women stayed home to cook and clean house. I still remember the first time I saw a man actually do the dishes. It was back in 2003. I reacted as if he had just ripped off his clothes and started dancing in my kitchen.
The daddy of my Dublin family keeps kosher but he has adjusted the fact that two of his boys are vegan. He also cooks. He baked kichel (Jewish biscotti) and yummy cauliflower soup that everyone could have eaten if he hadn’t added crème fraîche to it. He loves chicken soup with K’naidles (Jewish dumplings) but, in deference to his sons, he has it in vegan chicken soup.
While he was creating his dinner, one son was busy making vegan daal and chapatti while the other was dining on ramen with corn, seaweed and mushrooms. There is always someone cooking something in his house. It is like living in the midst of a revolving smorgasbord.
As well as my gigs at the International, the centerpiece of this trip for me was a weekend gig at The Laughter Lounge. So I found myself doing two gigs on Thursday and Sunday and three on Friday and Saturday. It involved a lot of walking back and forth but, since everyone in this town operates on Irish time, I was never late for my sets.
I figure I made more than 2,000 people laugh during this six-day stay and that isn’t bad for an old lady.
My first gig in Dublin is always the Wednesday show at Jonny Hughes’ Anseo and performing there feels like a homecoming for me. I have been performing at this small but beautiful space for at least six years. It was created by Aidan Killian who still books me for HIS clubs in the Bangkok and Singapore, but Jon took it over the place almost immediately because Aidan has always done so much traveling.
Sundays in Dublin are always wonderful because I drop in at Danny O’Brien’s’ Comedy Crunch where the audience gets in for nothing and gets free ice cream at the break. Although why anyone in their right mind would want ice cream when the temperature in Dublin feels like it is below zero with wind and rain is beyond me.
From there I go to the International for my final performance. The Irish like their whiskey and begin greasing up at four in the afternoon at the very least. Most of the shows begin at nine p.m. and, by that time, the less hearty are three sheets to the wind and the tougher natives are just beginning to feel the alcohol they have been filtering into their system for the past five hours.
My last night in Dublin was Monday at Cherry Comedy in Whelan’s doing jokes for a relatively sober group a bit more settled and older than the weekend crowds. Then the Woolshed Baa, which was originally Al Porter’s venue until he disgraced himself.
The comedy club continued and it is always well attended and a good finale to my Monday series of comedy gigs.
One of the perks of returning time and time again to a city is that I have accumulated a lot of people who know me and make an effort to see me and spend time with me. I am beginning to feel like I have an Irish family just as I have one in Berlin and one in Bangkok, Jakarta and Singapore, not to mention those I left in San Francisco.
At the rate I am going I will most likely have an international crowd at my funeral.
Though I am not at all sure that is reassuring.
Next is Stockholm, where it probably will be balmy compared to Dublin.
My God it was cold there…