In yesterday’s blog, Lynn Ruth Miller gave an insight into comedy industry life in Los Angeles. The blog finished with Lynn Ruth getting booked to appear in Scot Neary’s unique Boobie Trap variety show AND on Ron Lynch’s legendary midnight comedy club show AND NBC booking her for a spot on Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio‘s TV show 1st Look. Now read on…
The minute I walked into the Boobie Trap venue, I knew I had made the right decision. This was a variety show that was totally out of the box. I particularly love Scot Nery. He made his name in San Francisco first, cooking pancakes on stage and throwing them at the audience. This time, he piled chairs on top of one another and balanced them on his face.
I was one of two stand-up comedians. The other acts were magic, mime, song and poetry. The show’s finale was done in the middle of the seating area. We removed all the chairs and watched three men spit water at each other.
After the show, I returned to my hotel to romp around in the shower…alone of course… Some dreams never come true.
The next day, my friend and very talented comedian and cross-dresser Nick Leonard drove down to be part of my Los Angeles experience. Nick is one of the finest comedians I know and has given me many of my punch lines. He has a way of zeroing in on just the right expression to make you smile and still describe what you are after.
I wanted a succinct description of my poodle and he said: “How about Donald looked like a fluffy baked potato?”
You simply cannot beat that for accurate humor.
The highlight of my trip was the day NBC picked up Julie and me to begin filming for 1st Look.
The idea was that I was supposed to teach Johnny Bananas how to become a stand-up comedian. Since it has taken me 16 years to come close to figuring out what I am supposed to do on stage, this was a daunting assignment.
People think that stand-up comedy is just standing on a stage cracking jokes, but it is far more than that.
I tried to explain timing, mic technique and the need to ‘find the funny’ to this very enthusiastic, over-the-top young man.
The idea was that, after I coached him, he would do a set for Ron Lynch at his midnight show that evening.
Ron Lynch’s show is called The Tomorrow Show and everyone who performs in Los Angeles loves to be on that show. I love being in that show so much I used to drive 382 miles to LA from Pacifica to be on his stage. I always bought a bottle of wine to pep things up. Often I would drive back home the same night if I had nothing else to do in LA. The show was (and still is) that much fun.
NBC filmed both my set and Johnny’s attempt at humor. The highlight of the evening was the band Ron has on the scene, playing unexpected accompaniment to the things we all say and do.
Comedy in LA is very different from British comedy. It lacks the subtlety, the double entendre and the wit… at least to me. But what do I know? With my hearing aids on high, I still can’t hear enough to make a judgment.
The next night was my big show at the Five Star Bar in downtown Los Angeles. Julie had been working for at least a month on creating an audience to stir up interest in that show. She planned to do an hour of open mic performances; then the main show with a few supporting comedians for me; then my hour show; followed by more open mic sets. Her reasoning was that the open mic performers would fill the house and that would give me a large audience.
Entrance was free but on the stage for all to see was a big bucket labelled Lynn Ruth Miller’s Retirement Fund. Julie passed this around at appropriate and inappropriate intervals
Edwin Li walked into the bar see the show. Edwin started comedy in San Francisco the same year that I did but the difference is that he was 14 years old and I was 70. He is Chinese and his signature joke was: ”My dick isn’t small; it’s cute.”
Edwin no longer does comedy because he has moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to make his fortune… as they all do. He said he had to move away from his house full of women because he needed to find out who he really was.
In order to support himself now, he delivers food for a local take away café. By the time he finishes his deliveries and makes his way to a comedy club, it is very late at night. Getting home is a huge problem because all cabs, even Uber and Lyft, are expensive when you are living on minimum wage.
Los Angeles’s public transportation, while not horrid, isn’t very good.
It is very challenging for people who do not drive when they live in areas where the buses only run once an hour or not at all.
So Edwin, who moved to LA to do comedy as well as escape a house filled with domineering women, is now too tired and too financially challenged to develop a talent that showed so much promise when I knew him in San Francisco.
It is a great loss to the comedy community. It also is instructive.
Those of us who really love what we are doing in comedy will manage to do it no matter what. Common sense and logic play NO part in pursuing this thankless, yet addictive, career.
Edwin did a sensible, pragmatic thing… and I have no doubt he will return to comedy eventually.
On the other hand, I never paid any attention to common sense. I knew that, for me, comedy was the entrée into living a fulfilled life. So I did it.
And here I am still – 16 years into the game and not even close to wanting to quit.
I was overjoyed to see Edwin of course, though I never managed to find out if it was still cute.
And now I’m back in London.