Tag Archives: Jakarta

Comedian Lynn Ruth Miller in Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi and Jakarta

In yesterday’s blog, she was in Cambodia.

But comedienne Lynn Ruth Miller didn’t stop there.

Here she continues in Part 2 of a 4-part blog…

Lynn Ruth in Hanoi


My next stop was Bangkok.

This was the third time I had been there so I knew the comedians and bookers.  

The show I was doing was with a man named Delfin Solomon whom I absolutely love: a charming man, a would-be film maker and also a comedian of sorts.  

This time the show was co-produced by Matthew Wharf whom I love, but I can never understand a word he says. He thinks it is my hearing (which is admittedly horrid) but that is not the problem. He is from Australia with an accent so broad he says words I simply cannot decipher.  

The last time I was in Bangkok, he introduced me to a beginning comedian whose name I thought was Wine. It turned out his name was Wayne and we have been in touch ever since.

I am beginning to know the streets and how to navigate Bangkok but it is an unbelievably crowded city filled with cars, motorbikes, tourists and vendors. The air is fetid and very pungent. The buildings are very tall and modern and have very little charm. The city is not clean but it has an energy and an excitement about it.

The hotel I stayed in was alright but not as user-friendly as the pretty little place in Phnom Penh. The air conditioner was right above the bed so it blew cold air on you as you slept and the sink faucet was locked into the cold setting. 

I performed at Jonathan Samson’s room in an old hotel off Khao San Road. This is the busiest section of town packed with students and tourists, backpackers and hostels. 

Afterwards, we all made potato pancakes for everyone hardy enough to stay awake to eat. Then, at two in the morning, Wayne and I wandered the neighborhood still filled with drinkers and partiers. He explained that nothing on the main streets of Bangkok closes until 0200am and many do not close at all. 

The next night was Lady Laughs. The lineup was all women and, of the four women in the lineup, one was a man. Who knew?  

“Of four women in the lineup, one was a man…”

The MC was Chrissy Inhulsen, originally from Georgia in the US. She spoke in a sweet Southern drawl that made her jokes even funnier. She told us all that she taught children of consenting age… and, in discussing why men do not pull out, she explained: “Gentlemen are SO forgetful.”  

And indeed they are.

Wayne took me to the airport the next day and I was on my way to Vietnam to apologize for what the Americans did to them.  

When I got to the arrival area in Saigon, I needed a photo and $25 American Dollars. Once through immigration, Quynh was there to meet me. She is the best thing about Saigon to me. I met her last time and could not wait to see her again. She is an artist and entrepreneur. She is also a delight. Last time, I was the feature for another comedian but this time I was to be the headliner. 

The MC was a prince from Sheffield (yes, they have them there) – Joe Zalias, a former cage fighter and fireman, now a full-time comedian and far funnier than I will ever be.  

Nick Ross, the man who organizes and books these shows was in town this time as well.  

I did my long show and it was a surprisingly strong hit. People all came up afterwards to tell me how much they loved the show. One man, Michael, told me that he had lost his grandfather not long ago and that he would have loved me. Then he told me a bit of his story. He is gay with a Vietnamese partner and they have a child with a surrogate mother who is also their best friend. She is about to give them another baby. 

I am struck with how determined gay people are to create family when I believe that priority is fading with heterosexual couples. 

Heterosexual people seem to be drifting away from marriage and children in alarming numbers. In fact, in England, marriage between men and women is at an all time low.  

I have a dear friend who commented: “I have no problem with gay marriage. If they want to ruin their lives….” 

This, I think, is a heterosexual view these days.  

How times change. The only thing I ever wanted in my life was marriage and children. Those dreams never came true though I have to say that, from this perspective, that is the best thing that ever happened to me.  

Nick, Quynh, Joe and I went out for drinks after the show and managed to get back to our hotel by 0300am. We had to get up by 0700 to get to the airport because we had a show in Hanoi that night.  

I managed to get us early boarding because I look like I am about to evaporate.  

Dan Dockery sent a driver to pick us up at the airport and he was there to meet us at our flat.

Dan Dockery, Lynn Ruth and Joe Zalias in Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is cooler than Saigon and, for me, that was a blessed relief.  

We went out for a late lunch of a rice noodle crepe filled with egg or duck or chicken (I was not sure which) and then home to get ready for the show that night. 

Stand Up Hanoi holds its shows upstairs at the Standing Bar, a perfect-sized room with a good stage and nice lighting. There is a veranda where you can sit and still see the show – and a balcony.  

We were all a success and we drank to our wonderful performance for a couple hours afterwards as comedians tend to do.   

The next morning, at an ungodly hour, Joe and I boarded the same plane. He went to Kuala Lumpur and I continued on to Jakarta.  

I love Jakarta because of Eamonn Sadler. He is the man who books the shows and when I am there I perform at The American Embassy. I am always a little put off by the strict security. They even inspect under the hood of the car to make sure there are no explosives. 

I did my show to anyone who was NOT celebrating Thanksgiving. Evidently that is a big cause for celebration in Jakarta and not just for Americans… any excuse to eat turkey. The show was a hit thank goodness and we all went out to drink to its success (again and again and again).  

The next day I was supposed to do a storytelling show but there were no takers so I spent the day repairing my brand new iPhone 8 and then going to a great movie The Good Liar with Helen Mirren who looks really good for her age.  REALLY good. I wanted to rush home and look up cheap Botox repairs.

The cinema was in a huge, elaborate shopping center abounding in every name brand I have ever heard about. I asked Ava, Eamonn’s partner, how these huge malls could survive in a country where there is so much poverty and she said it is the sheer number of people here that make it possible.

There are 270,630,000 people in Indonesia and all you need is a small percentage of that number to buy these items to make the brand a success. A friend of hers manufactures the tags for zippers and that family is a billionaire family because every zipper in the whole world uses that tag.  

And so it was I got a valuable lesson in world economics and merchandising before I left Jakarta.

…CONTINUED HERE
…IN SINGAPORE…

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Comedian Lynn Ruth Miller in Jakarta on lovely audiences and anti-Semitism

Lynn Ruth went on stage unusually “terrified” in Jakarta

In the last few months, London-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller (who recently turned 85) has been gigging in Prague, Dublin, Berlin, Paris, Edinburgh, San Francisco and Manila. Coming up are gigs in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Bangkok and, she says, “possibly somewhere in Cambodia”.

But last weekend, betwixt Manila and Shanghai, she writes…


I was in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was hot and wet. A characteristic I gave up when I hit sixty. I arrived at 11.00am their time and the first thing that struck me was how really lovely the airport was. It was amazing how easy it was to navigate compared to Manila, which was a nightmare.

Indonesians like old ladies and I was swept through Immigration so easily I thought I missed a window and someone would make me turn around and start all over again.  

David, the pastor for youth I met while waiting for the plane, was there at baggage collection to help me with my bag and used his phone to contact Eamonn Sadler, who books comedy at The American Club in Jakarta.  

I had had approximately two hours sleep on the plane and was not at my best as I staggered out of Immigration and tried to find Eamonn. But there he was towering above everyone else in that airport looking down at the top of my head.  

I just about reached his kneecap and I knew he was thinking: ”I hired a comedian, not a pygmy.”  

But he is British so he just nodded politely (at least I think he did. I couldn’t see that far up), asked me if I was all right (at least I think he did; my hearing aids were in my bag), took my case and I toddled after him taking fourteen steps to his one.  

As soon as we walked outside I was smacked in the face with hot, wet air.  

Lynn Ruth performed her show Not Dead Yet!

Even Manila is cool compared to Jakarta. But, indoors, the air conditioning is very efficient and for some reason you don’t feel that blast of cold air when you are inside.

The ride from Jakarta Airport took about two and a half hours. Obviously no-one in the place uses his or her feet and everyone has large, cumbersome, air-conditioned automobiles with which they enjoy trying to get as close to one another without actually denting a fender. Bicycles and motorbikes weave in and out between the cars making everyone hate them.  

The traffic department decided to build brick barriers in the middle of the street so no-one can make a right turn. So you have to do a U-turn at intersections if you can. But the roads are like parking lots and nothing moves.

When we pulled up to the entrance of the Liberta hotel, Eamonn stopped the car and I got out thinking we had arrived at our destination. But this was only for a routine inspection. There was a wave of terrorist attacks in Surabaya (Indonesia’s second largest city) last May and there is heightened security in Jakarta because of that and because they hosted the Asian Games. 

Foreigners are often targets, which is why most expats have a night watchman to guard their property and all public buildings conduct routine inspections on every car that enters their premises.  

By the time I got to my hotel room, I was in a coma of fatigue. I crawled into bed and slept until 7.00pm, when we drove to The American Club.

Since The American Club is part of the American Embassy complex in Jakarta, the security is even more intense there.

The thing I liked about the show, which had about seven acts, was that Eamonn established immediately that comedy is meant to be fun, not politically correct and everyone on the bill deserved to be listened to without interruption.

Even so, I was terrified that I would say something that offended someone or would go on for hours without that laugh all of us in this profession lap up like manna from heaven. Or that the local audience would not get the jokes. But they did. They laughed and they clapped and they all joined in the song that ended my set.

Another country; another cake. Lynn Ruth & Eamonn Sadler

At the end of my performance, Eamonn came on stage with… yes… ANOTHER BIRTHDAY CAKE and flowers. This birthday celebration of mine seems to go on and on and on.  If I keep getting all those cakes, I will probably explode before I am 86 or won’t fit into the coffin.

After the show, Naomi and Eric welcomed me on behalf of Jakarta’s Jewish community.

It turns out that there are about 20 Jewish families in Jakarta in this predominately Muslim country. It is estimated that there are about another 20,000 descendants of Jews who have assimilated and are part of greater Indonesia.

Indonesians must carry an identity card that states their religion and, since Judaism is not one of the seven they recognize, most Jews say they are Christian.  

Those who practice Judaism keep a very low profile. It is not easy to be Jewish in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and it is even harder this year, as anti-Semitic sentiment has grown since Donald Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a holy place to both Jews and Muslims as well as Christians. Every time there is a Palestinian/Israeli conflict, anti-Semitism flares up in Indonesia.

When I realized how dangerous it is to be Jewish in so many countries, I began to understand why the synagogues in Stamford Hill, London, where I now live, are so hidden that I have lived there for two years and only now have begun to discover where they are located. All of them are set far back from the street,  heavily gated and even more heavily guarded.  

In 2013, The Times of Israel reported that Indonesia’s last synagogue – the Beith Shalom synagogue in Surabaya, Java – had been destroyed to its foundations by unknown persons.

I personally have never encountered overt anti-Semitism and so I have never taken it very seriously but, when I met these lovely people in Jakarta who dare not openly practice their faith, I realized how deeply imbedded hatred of the Jews actually is, not just in Indonesia but worldwide.

The next afternoon, Joe and Rheysa took me to Jakarta’s version of an Italian restaurant: Mama Rosy’s.

It turned out that Rheysa once worked for L’Oreal and now she puts on a great deal of make up to look like she has no make up on at all. She explained the procedure for the ‘Natural Look’ that begins with ironing her hair and continues with darkeners and lighteners, blushers and intensifiers to make her look like the natural beauty she is in the first place.  

It occurred to me that I should follow her advice but iron my face instead of my hair. However, I gave up that idea before we got to our coffee. I have not so much as ironed a napkin in sixty years.

After lunch, we drove through the city and I was struck by how crowded the streets are, how dense the concentration of people and how little actual green space. The houses seem to be packed tightly next to one another and the streets are narrow, lined with tiny shops and street food vendors. It was a very different feel from Manila with its very tall streamlined buildings and wide highways. It reminded me a lot of Bangkok.

Jakarta – partly houses packed tightly together – partly not.

That night I had arranged to go to Naomi and Eric’s home for dinner to meet their three children and have dinner. When I got into Eric’s car, I entered a totally different world. He and Naomi have lived in Jakarta for 17 years.

His home is modern and spacious and they have seven servants, as do most of the well-to-do in Jakarta. They have drivers for the children, plus cooks, cleaners and gardeners. They are a part of an ex-pat community that does so well in this part of the world. Both are originally from the United States and after they married lived in Singapore for a while and loved it.

In fact, Naomi still works in Singapore several days a week and both of them do a great deal of travel. That is why they need so much domestic help.  

Yet they are trying to keep up the Jewish traditions we all learned growing up. I too observed those holidays and, of course, loved the special foods: the challah, the gefilte fish, the bagels and the chicken soup. Those things are as much part of being Jewish as observing the Sabbath.

China is next!!!! Not the dinnerware; the country.

But I got a message this morning from Andy Curtain who runs the Kung Fu Comedy Cub in Shanghai that the government had closed down the club.  

In China, there are all kinds of intricacies with licensing and permits that are only occasionally enforced. So it seems I am going to Shanghai with nothing much to do but explore the city…

… CONTINUED HERE

Lynn Ruth with the Jakarta show folk

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