In recent blogs, sharp-tongued, globe-trotting 84-year-old American comedian and belated burlesque star Lynn Ruth Miller, now based in London, has shared her experiences while doing gigs in Prague, Dublin, Berlin, Paris and Edinburgh.
She is currently gigging back in the USA for three weeks and this is the first in a series of her thoughts about being back ‘home’…
The flight landed in San Francisco an hour late and I was greeted by cool wet California fog as I exited the airport to wait for my beloved dog sitter to collect me in his Ford pickup truck.
When he did, he informed me that the mist was not fog, but smoke from the California fires that are sweeping the northern part of the state.
I first met Leo the Dog Sitter when I was in my late 50s and he was a young buck of 48. He came to fix my toilet and fell in love with my dogs. And that was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted almost thirty years.
It has been four years since I have been in the Bay Area and, in that time, I have diminished from 5’2” to 4’10” and Leo has contracted diabetes, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, replaced knees and hearing that is worse than mine. We scream at one another when we both think we are whispering.
I am staying in his Burlingame home and, after four years in London flats, I am struck with how large this house is for two people. The bedroom I am in is as large as my living room, kitchen and bathroom in London and the kitchen-sitting room area here is larger than my entire flat in London.
Everything is on one floor. I have not climbed so much as a stair since I arrived. I am certain my leg muscles have atrophied.
On the drive home, we spoke about the homeless problem here in the Bay Area and the increasing amounts of theft. The problem is that no-one can afford to live in this area but they are so strapped for cash they cannot afford to move either. And so they struggle on. It amazes me how many people pay astronomical rents but eat food reduced for quick sale to reduce the huge credit card debt that is the elephant in everyone’s room here.
There is no middle class here. You are either rich or poor.
To make matters worse, San Francisco is a ‘sanctuary city‘ which, on the surface, seems marvellous. But what it has done is encourage homeless people to remain homeless because they are paid a substantial sum to live on the street. And the city – instead of encouraging decent sanitation habits – has employed a huge cleaning force to hose the streets of human waste each morning. Toilets are evidently passé in the city by the bay.
Tonight I was in a show called The Dinosaurs of Comedy, at The Punchline, the place where I got my real start as a professional comedian. It is not part of their regular programming.
The Dinosaurs of Comedy was started by Michael Meehan – comedian, artist, filmmaker and general creative human being – because The Punchline refused to book him and all men his age as they were considered to old to attract an audience.
The theory was that, if they were not TV stars or had not gained national recognition by the time they were approaching 50 or older, they were has-beens.
The comedians tonight were Johnny Steele who is one of the cleverest, most original comedians I have seen on both sides of the ocean, Larry ‘Bubbles’ Brown who has been on David Letterman’s TV show, (but not as a regular) and, of course, Michael Meehan who is a comic genius.
I was the MC which, in the US, is the bottom of the pecking order in a line-up. However, I was unbelievably honored to be in this sharp and very clever show filled with talented yet unrecognized men who should be top of their field.
It was far better and far more fun than I dared dream it could be.
For me, one joy was that so many people recognized me.
After all, I have been gone for four years.
The best part though, of course, was that I opened which is the hardest job any comedian faces.
And they laughed at every joke.
Or did they just laugh at me?
Who knew? Who cares?
But home I went filled with the adrenalin of success and with money in my pocket.
The man who drove me home is a would-be comedian who has wanted to take to the stage ever since I met him at least eight years ago. He has still not absorbed the cruelty and lack of integrity of the profession here in California and he said: ”Do you think they didn’t give me a chance to go on stage at Cobbs Comedy Club because I am funnier than the MC?”
I assured him that that was not so.
He asked another comedian to help him write jokes and is convinced that the reason that helper has not been available is because he is afraid my friend will steal HIS jokes.
I assured him this was not so.
He told me he needs help writing his jokes but is afraid someone might take his ideas.
I assured him this was not so.
His ideas, sadly enough, are just not funny.
… CONTINUED HERE …