Tag Archives: Dublin

Lynn Ruth Miller in Dublin – on Irish comedy, Ryanair & middle-aged women

Lynn Ruth – Where will she turn up next?

Lynn Ruth Miller, itinerant American comic based in London, has blogged here about her gigging jaunts to exotic locations in the last few months. She spent last week gigging in Dublin. She writes…


I have been headlining at Anseo, this lovely small room on Camden Street, for at least four years. It is run by a prince of a man named Jonathan Hughes who has built the club up from nothing into a comedy staple on the Dublin scene.  

I did a 40-minute set for him and discovered that the Irish are still squeamish about some of the landmark decisions that have come down from their higher courts.  

I made a reference to the woman whose rapist was not convicted because she was wearing a lace thong. Either they didn’t get it or didn’t want to.  

But they did love the one about all the pipes leaking in Dublin’s ancient buildings. They also got the one about how my generation killed their roaches and now their young people smoke them.  

Thursday night was my first night at The International Comedy Club: the reason I return every six months to do comedy in Dublin. It is run by Aidan Bishop.

All comedians complain about the glass walls we need to break: the unsaid prejudice toward women, minorities, disabilities and age.  

Aidan gives everyone an opportunity at his club and, not only that, he always pays his comedians fairly. To make the experience even nicer, there is always a good audience at The International. That means everything to a performer. It is a lot easier to tell your jokes to 100 people than it is to 20, no matter how badly those 20 want to laugh.

Friday night was my big night. I was booked in three comedy clubs.

I left the International (it was packed with standing room only) to get to Anseo’s new Friday night where twenty people were waiting for me (the headliner) and then off to Comedy Gold, Emily O’Callaghan’s’ new room, where there were a dozen people remaining to see me, the late night headliner.  

The interesting thing about all these rooms is that I arrived ten minutes late to every one of them and I still had plenty of time to unwind before I went on stage. Evidently, Irish time is like Jewish time… very flexible. This rarely happens in London. You almost always go on very close to the time you are scheduled. The English pay attention to time.

The Irish comedy scene is growing and very solid yet everyone I talk to there wants to come to London where they think the action is. I certainly felt that way in San Francisco… but now that I am back home IN London I wonder whether wherever you are doing whatever you do, you always think the market is more open somewhere else.

One of the things that makes my Dublin trips so marvellous is that I stay with this magic family that reminds me of an episode of Leave it to Beaver: a happily married couple with three amazing sons and a tight, loving family unit with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents all intricately woven into their lives.  

When I am there, I am treated like another granny: fed, pampered and transported to my gigs.

This is an immense novelty for me as I have lived a very long time and usually make all my arrangements, get myself to wherever I am going and make sure I am properly fed.  

For these short periods in Dublin, I get all the rewards of being a grandparent in a large functional family without having done any of the groundwork.  

I never fool myself however.  

If I had had my own family, my children would have been so over-indulged, they would have become psychopaths and serial killers.

Judging by the caliber of the men I fall in love with, my husband would  have been a conscienceless misogynist with a whip and a gun in the closet to keep me in line and I would have spent my days scrubbing toilets and ironing shirts, never dreaming I could live a life without a dust mop and a sponge.

On Saturday night in Dublin, there are two shows at The International and both are always filled. This time there were two new comedians. One was Robbie Bonham, who is in his forties and has that wry Irish wit that always amazes me.  

I am convinced that a great deal of comedic ability cannot be learned.  

It was Bonham’s very Irish-ness that made his jokes even funnier.  

I know that being Jewish has always given me an edge – and black comedians usually have a dimension to their delivery that adds to every joke they tell.

As our world becomes more diverse and television and the internet reduce our differences, I suspect this will not always be so. The more we assimilate, the more we lose those special ethnic characteristics that add flavor to our jokes and our conversation.  

Much as I applaud universal acceptance of everyone everywhere, I think this loss of ethnic identity is a loss for us all in so many ways. I know we are all alike essentially, but there are attitudes and mannerisms that are handed down generation to generation that I hate to see homogenized.

This intense week in Dublin convinced me that I love the performing life. It does not tire me. Instead, each show I do inspires me to go further and do better.  

Is that what being professional is all about?  

Or is it the stuff of a nervous breakdown?

Sunday was my last performance at The International and it was wonderful.  

Sunday night is normally a slow night but this night it was very crowded.  

I was in the first section and David McSavage was the headliner because he is on TV and is very famous in Dublin. The interesting thing about this night was how diverse the audience was. We had a huge segment from France, so English was their second language… and a girl from Lithuania who had no idea what was going on. But we all managed to hit a responsive chord and the evening was a success despite the immense cultural diversity of the audience.

The Irish have a way of taking you into their hearts and the family I stay with make me feel very loved and important. However, I was brought back to reality sharply when I approached Ryanair on the flight back. Rules are rules and, by God, you are going to pay if you don’t follow them.

I saw a man who could barely speak English (and obviously did not understand the regulations), gulp down a huge bottle of tea as fast as he could. The poor fellow gurgled as he sloshed through the line and I couldn’t help thinking: How on earth would that container of tea with all the tea bags in it have endangered anyone but the poor guy who had to drink it so he wouldn’t have to pitch the container?

I have seen the personnel at Ryanair pat down a tiny baby and all I can say is I hope the kid had a giant poop as the inspector checked out his diaper.

The other interesting thing about this trip was the number of single women in their late forties and fifties who are feeling unfulfilled. They are at that “Is this all there is?” stage of their lives. 

Do men get that feeling? Or do they just put another porn film on the computer and wank off?

These women I met in Dublin were all earning good livings, but still feel they want more than coming home to an empty house with perhaps a dog or a cat to greet them.  

There is no way I can explain to them that these are normal clouds before the rainbow splashes gorgeous color on a grey sky. It is very much like what Winston Churchill said: “When you are in hell, keep going.”  

Middle aged femininity is not hell at all, but it often feels very bland.

For some reason, none of us realize that the best is yet to come.

But it is.

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Comic Lynn Ruth’s Irish adventure, from passport control to birth control

Just over a week ago, Lynn Ruth Miller, the 84-year-old currently-globetrotting stand-up comic, blogged here about her trip to Prague. She is off to Berlin on Monday and has just returned from Dublin. Here she goes again…


Young chicken about to go out on the town…

So. I was in Dublin again. My trip ended in a blast of sunshine and alcohol. If my liver survives all this travel, I just might live to see 85.

My Irish adventure always begins with passport control. The last time I arrived in Dublin, the officer in charge looked at my passport and said, “You don’t LOOK 84,” and I said, “I would if I took off my clothes.”

The man who admitted me this time said he agreed with that officer and there was a spring to what is left of my step as I waltzed through that green door with nothing to declare except that I was a young chicken about to go out on Dublin town.

When I am in Dublin, I stay with an amazing family filled with geniuses who are actually fun. So it is that when I am there I get an education in how to cope with cyberspace.

Zak is the eldest of their three amazing boys, each of whom are going to remodel the world and bring peace and happiness to all of us on earth.

After two days with them, I had already learned how to create my own video blogs and set up a conversation on Reddit where I answered 36 questions and had 5.7k views and an 81 point rating just because I said nothing shocks me anymore. I did not add that this is because I don’t hear anything.

The matriarch of this gorgeous family is Lisa, a woman who really is not shocked by anything. That is her secret to bringing up three boisterous boys with amazingly perceptive and active minds and training a husband who is such an angel that he has to wear a larger suit jacket to hide his wings.

“Luca is now as tall as my first husband and far fonder of my crotch”

Lisa picked me up at the airport and I hurried to her home to change clothes and look glamorous. This is called comforting self-deception. I nurture it by never looking in a mirror. As soon as I entered the house, I was accosted by the family’s new puppy, Luca, who is now as tall as my first husband and far fonder of my crotch.

Three of the family – Lisa, Zak and Ken (the angel, remember?) – came to the show at Anseo, the wonderful comedy club where I headline each time I come into town.

The delightful thing about this show was that Jim Elliott from Washington DC had ASKED to host so he could see me again.

I made the audience laugh for about 45 minutes, which is an accomplishment in Dublin’s fair city because usually, after about 5 minutes, the audience is so drunk they are asleep or singing loudly in an off-colour manner. A dog loved the show and I got three barks and a tail wag from her.

On Thursday I began my run at The International, THE comedy place in Dublin for the past 16 years.

The interesting thing about this particular Thursday night audience was that there were only two couples from Dublin. Everyone else was from somewhere else and there was a preponderance of Americans: four from Lake Tahoe in California, three from Dallas, plus a group from Sweden and another couple from Vancouver.

That makes the comedy I do more challenging because I could not use either my Dublin or my London references because no-one would know what I was talking about. The funniest gaff was when headliner Damo Clark talked about putting a dummy in a baby’s mouth and the Americans thought he was stuffing in a stupid person into its mouth instead of a pacifier. God only knows what the Swedes thought.

I have also now learned how the Irish say goodbye. Evidently they do not. They just walk out as unobtrusively as they can. Very different from the Jews who stay at least an hour after they say good-bye explaining why they are leaving. (Lynn Ruth is Jewish.)

Lynn Ruth Miller sought romance on TV’s First Date series

Walking down George Street on the way to The International a woman stopped me and said, ”I KNOW you! First Date! – The nicest thing about dating at my age is that you don’t have to meet their parents.

I was in the Irish papers for appearing in that TV show.

My final night in Dublin was spent at The Comedy Crunch where we get free ice cream at the interval and by this time the weather was so warm that they probably got the last ice cream bars left in Ireland for the show.

The big issue that everyone was joking about and happy about was the Irish Abortion Referendum. Its passing did more than simply make it easier for women to terminate a pregnancy. It gave women renewed status.

All over Dublin, women’s comedy shows are springing up. Emily O’Callaghan has one series at The Meltdown Café that has an all-woman line-up and she said she got a lot of grief about that. Irish women are very, very funny. I heard several this trip and every one of them was top notch. For way too many years women have been totally left out of comedy line-ups. Perhaps now our time has come?

Next week, I will be performing in Berlin. I am hoping NOT to run into any swastikas or Jeremy Corbyn fans.

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The man on the Dublin omnibus

As I have virtually no time to write a blog today, here is an extract from my diary on this day in 1999. I was working at television station RTÉ in Dublin. I have changed the names:

Siobhan started talking about how her 10-year-old son who, she says, is uncoordinated with absolutely no sense of direction. Then she got a tea and some toast on a plate and sat down on the settee in Reception; she put the plate on the arm of the settee but was unable to hold the cup without spilling tea, so had to stand up: co-ordinating a cup in her hand while sitting static on a couch was too much for her.

We went into the RTÉ canteen at around 1115 and it was full. Apparently everyone takes a 30-minute tea-break at 1100 and a 30-minute tea-break at 1530, as well as their one-hour lunch break.

Siobhan told me that, last night, she dreamt she had run away from RTÉ and from her family and become a freelance earning a lot of money. She met film star Tom Cruise (to whom she claimed she’d never particularly been attracted before this dream) and he was very interested in how much she earned.

Over lunch, Sean told a story about someone he knew who, when in a bus which stopped next to another at traffic lights would attract the attention of a passenger in the other bus, then motion as if he knew and wanted to contact the person sitting in front of the stranger. Invariably, the stranger would tap the shoulder of the person in front, who would turn round and Sean’s friend would turn his head to look directly forward as if he had never even noticed the other bus let alone encouraged one stranger to tap another’s shoulder.

Taking off from Dublin Airport late, at about 2140, I had a window seat and, over England, I could see all the towns and cities below me: electronic spiders’ web nerve centres spreading delicate orange fibres outwards into a sea of blue-grey black.

Arriving back home in Borehamwood, I found a postcard from David Jenkins. It showed: “Oil platforms and the Cromarty Firth at dusk”…. That’s what comes of being a Socialist like David. You think postcards of Albanian electricity sub-generating stations are glamorous.

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God and a joke told to me in Ireland

Back in the mists of thirteen years ago there was Tara TV...

Back in the mists of thirteen years ago there was Tara TV…

I see that the RTÉ Player is now downloadable from the Apple App Store, giving access in the UK to Irish TV shows.

Thirteen years ago, I was working in Dublin for a now-deceased TV station called Tara TV which broadcast Irish programmes to the UK.

Today, in 2000, there was a Tara TV staff outing to Shelbourne Park, the dog-racing track in Dublin.

Someone told me that, when you go greyhound racing, you should always bet on the black dogs. Sure enough, in the first five races, four had black dogs running. Three came 1st; one came 2nd.

I had not bet on them.

On that day thirteen years ago, someone also told me that God had been chatting to a chum (Yes, God has a chum) and explained that he was very happy with the balanced world he had created. There were dry bits and wet bits. There were hot bits and cold bits. There were nice bits and nasty bits. Everywhere there was light and shade equally balanced.

“I’m particularly keen on that green bit down there,” God explained to his chum. “That’s Ireland. Beautiful countryside. Nice people. Good sense of humour. Lovely music. Laid back and gentle. I’m very happy with them.”

“But,” his chum said, “I thought you said everything was balanced. How come everything is so idyllic in Ireland?”

“Ah well,” says God, “you should see the wankers I put on the island next to them.”

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Gay love hopes of two Celtic comics dashed at Israeli killer’s comedy gig

Daphna Baram providing killer last night

Daphna Baram – killer comic last night

I went to Miss D’s Silver Hammer last night – the weekly London comedy night run by Israeli comic Daphna Baram who tends to successfully deter any potential hecklers by pointing out in advance that she has diabetes and has been trained to kill by the IDF. Not, as I at first thought, the International Diabetes Federation but the Israeli Defence Forces.

Next Monday, she has an entirely Irish group of comedians performing her day-after-St-Patrick’s-Day show, but she did pretty well on the Celtic line-up last night too.

I was there to see Irish podcast supremo Christian Talbot perform and also because he and Daphna Baram had mightily pushed to me the talents of camp-ish Dubliner Al Porter.

Also performing were two Glaswegians – non-gay Gary Sansome (soon to de-camp to Australia) and extremely talented and gay-in-both-senses-of-the-word Larry Dean.

Al Porter - ooh yes, missus, t’be sure

Al Porter last night, ooh missus, t’be sure

Al Porter was, indeed, as good as Christian and Daphna had told me. Both reckon he will become very successful very soon and he well might do, though one can never tell.

Talent is usually never enough but sure Al has the gift of rapid patter in depth, great audience controlling charm and very good clothes sense (never something to underestimate with this sort of act).

He claimed on-stage that the only reason he had accepted the gig was to meet the afore-mentioned gay Glaswegian Larry Dean who tragically, between booking and performance, had become tied-up in a monogamous relationship, thus scuppering Al’s cherished hopes.

In other circumstances, I might have thought this was part of the act.

Sadly, I fear the wreckage of Al’s shattered dreams may have been a reality.

I had been told there was an element of Frankie Howerd in Al’s act. I could see very faint traces, but only because the idea had been planted in my mind. The delivery was so fast, so smooth and so overwhelming that the act was nothing like the blessed Frankie.

Oddly, what last night reminded me of was seeing an early-ish stage performance by Steve Coogan at Manchester University Students’ Union in what, I guess, must have been 1992.

There was something about the self-confidence of the delivery and movements, something about the sharpness of the costume and something of the ambitiousness behind the eyes which reminded me of that 1992 Steve Coogan both on and off stage.

Christian and Daphna may be right.

Al Porter may well be very successful very fast.

But, as I say, you can never tell.

Sometimes talent – and even sharp, driving ambition – are not enough.

On the other hand, if I were being superficial – “perish the thought” as my dead father used to say (before his death) – a flamboyantly gay, brightly dressed, highly-self-confident Irish comedian with strong audience empathy is a good starting point and a good selling point for English and American audiences.

I expect to see him on the David Letterman show within five years.

Or maybe Al will have his own chat show in Ireland or the UK.

But my comic expectations are often dashed.

And, as I oft quote: Nobody Knows Anything (Saying © William Goldman, 1983)

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Fear of flying for cult comedian Charlie Chuck?… Only ducks and pianos fly…

Charlie Chuck was feeling under the feather...

“Your mission, should you accept it” I said, “is to think up something for my blog tomorrow. I’m off out to get milk, eggs and baked beans.”

It was around midnight and Charlie Chuck was staying at my eternally-un-named friend’s flat behind Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich, which was founded by comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee.

The club, not Greenwich.

So I left Charlie Chuck and my eternally-un-named friend with my hand-held tape recorder, embarrassingly like the one occasionally used in I’m Alan Partridge.

When I got back from the Sainsbury all-night supermarket, I listened to what was on the tape recorder:

“Malcolm Hardee,” Charlie Chuck was saying, “used to book me to go over to play the Laughter Lounge in Dublin. I used to go over in the ferry with him. He used to come back by plane; I used to catch a boat. I wouldn’t get on a plane.”

“Have you never flown?” my eternally-un-named friend asked, slightly surprised.

“Once,” said Charlie Chuck. “In 2007. Canada. I went to see Notre Dame in Canada. It’s a replica of the one in Paris. When we went to Notre Dame in Paris, I were disappointed because it wasn’t as beautiful as the one in Canada.”

“You only went over to Canada to see Notre Dame Cathedral?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“No, to perform in a stage show,” he replied.

“Ah,” she said.

“If it hadn’t been for John,” said Charlie Chuck, “I wouldn’t have gone. He went to the airport with me. It were a big thing for me to fly. There were quite a bit of money involved – around £20,000 – and, if I hadn’t gone, they would’ve sued me. They wanted me out there for six months, but I were only there for three weeks.

“They offered to pay me to go to Canada on the QE2 liner; it would’ve cost ‘em £3,500. It would’ve taken about three weeks, but I looked up about the QE2 and it were in a hurricane once with 90 foot high waves and I thought I don’t want three weeks of this. So I flew out but I were terrified.

“On the plane going out there, people recognised me and they were saying Tell us a joke, but I were nearly crappin’ meself.

“I were out there to play the part of Jean Lapointe, a Canadian senator, eighty years old, who had done the Ed Sullivan Show and about 30 films. The routine I did were his routine when he were a younger man.

“The tour people told me that, on the show, I’d be on wires and I ‘d probably be 10 or 20 feet above the stage. But it ended up I was playin’ this piano that were lifted 30 feet high in the air and upside down. I were strapped to it. I were playin’ Moonlight Sonata and In The Mood and talking to the piano. It were a routine I did. I climbed across the piano but kept the arpeggio going. I sneezed and the sheet music went three-quarters of the way across the piano. It were a bit like an Andrew Lloyd Webber production.

“It were for Franco Dragone. He’s big. He does Cirque du Soleil and Las Vegas and makes elephants disappear like David Copperfield. He books acts from all over the world. It were a big thing.

“So, after I sneeze and the sheet music flies away, I start playing again and the piano turns over and the moon comes out. And the piano goes up and tips over upside down and back again and the big band kicks in. It were on hydraulics but you couldn’t see them; you only saw me and the piano.

“It were going to be filmed and be on national television in Canada. But, when the piano were upside down, there were technical problems,. It banged into me leg and nearly broke me ankle. It bruised all me leg and they had to take it away to sort it out and they called the whole routine off. I’d rehearsed for a week but they didn’t do it. It were too risky.

“Because they knew I played drums, they brought in a brand new £2,000 drum kit for me to wreck, because that’s what I do in me show. I talk to me drums and wreck the kit and bite me hands and all that. I used to do a forward somersault off me drums when I were younger.

“They’d have to get me a lot of money to get me on a plane again.”

“Why?” my un-named friend asked.

“I just think of Jim Reeves,” said Charlie Chuck. “He died in a plane crash. Otis Redding. Buddy Holly. They all went down in plane crashes.

“But I’m not bothered about going anywhere either. I’m not bothered… I’m just not bothered. Where’s John?”

“He’s gone to buy some milk,” my eternally-un-named friend said.

“Milk?” asked Charlie Chuck, “It’s past midnight.”

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Police corruption and the excessive use of four-letter swear words in Ireland

Last week, I was talking to someone about the Isle of Man and the subject of political corruption came up.

“I think maybe the Isle of Man is too small to be a country,” I said. “It’s like Ireland. Almost everyone in any position of power in Dublin seems to have gone to school or college or is very matey with everyone else in any position of power. The place is inherently corrupt because it is too small.”

And, indeed, I worry about an independent Scotland for the same reason.

This conversation came back to me when I saw the Irish movie The Guard yesterday, which has collected a fair amount of word-of-mouth enthusiasm. It has been called “subversive”, presumably because of its casual acceptance of corruption.

The phrase ‘The Guard’, by the way, is used as in someone who is a member of the Irish police force, the Garda

It is a very funny little film starring the always-good Brendan Gleeson as a village policeman in the West of Ireland. He uses prostitutes, has taken cocaine and ecstasy and swears casually. Which I found was part of the slight (but only slight) problem with the script.

What this film is… is a modest, easygoing Victoria Wood or Alan Bennett film set in Ireland, in the same genre as Brassed Off or Hear My Song or The Full Monty. It is quintessentially a small British (Isles) film. As I said in yesterday’s blog, let us not get into distinctions between British and Irish.

The Guard is written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, the brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh, who has said (obviously) he would be quite happy if his $6 million movie did the same amount of business at the box office as The King’s Speech (which has currently grossed around $386 million on a $15 million budget).

In fact, I think The Guard stood more chance as another Full Monty ($257 million gross on a $3.5 million budget) because it has neither the big historic story nor the middle-of-the-road appeal of The King’s Speech.

The plot of The Guard is spiced up with the arrival of FBI agent Don Cheadle, who is black, allowing for streams of non-PC  comment from the local cop – which we are never totally sure is real or tongue-in-cheek.

Which is fine.

The trouble is the swearing.

There is too much of it.

The first 20 minutes is full of “fucking” this and “fucking” that, as if the film is nervous it is too middle-of-the-road and is trying to establish itself as a movie not just for middle-aged lovers of Victoria Wood humour but for ‘the kids’ in ‘the Projects’. The trouble is that the excessive swearing is likely to alienate the audience that made The King’s Speech such a blockbuster and, as far as I can see, it is just plain unrealistic.

I just do not buy into the fact that the local policemen, whatever his foibles, and his mother and, it seems most of the population of rural Connemara/Galway are going around swearing like fucking troopers in fucking casual fucking conversation. It tails off after the first 20 minutes, but it remains distracting and unnecessary. It is as if North Dublin speech rhythms had been imported into a rural West of Ireland setting.

I also did not swallow the idea that three down-market scumbag heroin smugglers (and they are established as that) would be discussing Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and Dylan Thomas… nor that locals would be mentioning Dostoyevsky and Gogol in casual conversation.

Perhaps this is an attempt to ‘do a Tarantino’ with the script, but his characters tend to discuss Madonna lyrics and hamburgers.

It was, at the very least, distracting.

But I am being far too critical of The Guard. It is a very enjoyable small-scale film – and very funny – though I think it has been damaged by trying to make it more commercial.

But, then, who am I to tell anyone how to make a more commercial film?

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