Tag Archives: old age

Stand-up comic Lynn Ruth Miller looks forward to Viagra and back to Leicester

In recent blogs, 85-year-old London-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller has been sharing her experience of performing in exotic places like Hanoi. Recently, she was closer to home…


I really love the Leicester Comedy Festival because it does not cost an arm and a leg for me to participate. I have already lost a hip and a knee and I am in no mood to barter with any more body parts. 

Before Leicester, I had to convince a promoter or a venue that, if I pay lots of money, they will give me space to perform for an hour.  

Not any more. No sir.  

Now, I have a venue that wants ME.

OK, so it’s not a fancy one. It doesn’t even have a stage. There are no bright lights and no-one ever reviews shows that appear there. But it is my little venue and I love it just as much as the big showy ones that make the headlines and get the reviews.  

Bike shop: “a wonderful place for me to shine.”

It is a bike shop.

Things could be worse. I could be crammed into a refuse shelter among all the flotsam and jetsam which people recycle. I could even stand on top of an automobile in a showroom or fight my way to the top of a chest of drawers in an antique shop.

But my bike shop is a wonderful place for me to shine. 

Bicycle people are not judgmental. They all love to laugh. It was bike enthusiast and promoter Andy Salkeld who figured that out. He got the idea of transforming a commercial establishment into a comedy performance space several years ago because he wanted to amuse a healthy, outdoorsy type of audience. 

Though, sadly, that is not me.  

I am so uncoordinated that, the last time I tried to pedal my way to the grocery store, I mistook the hand brake for a horn and somersaulted into an intersection.

Andy is the Cycling Co-ordinator for Leicester City Council. (Yes. They really have someone like that, right up there with Public Safety, Public Health and Emergency Planning.)

Andy has created a bicycle comedy show – The Red Light Comedy Club – that has been part of the festival for several years. The challenge for Andy was to find someone who had nothing better to do than host his unusual shows. Any performer already creating his own production at that festival would never risk dampening his reputation by standing among a lot of axles, chains and rubber tyres.

Andy Salkeld “has a unique taste in comedy”

I was that someone.

What else do I have to do but take my medication, attend my dialysis and locate my dentures?

Andy has booked me to host his Red Light events for the past three years. And I love every ego-boosting moment.  

He has a unique taste in comedy. In the years I have hosted these shows, there have been comedians who sing wild, improbable songs, those who throw things at the audience and those who insist the audience throw things back at them. The events are unique and don’t involve deep thought, but there are all those different bicycles to look at if the person at the microphone does not appeal.

This year, I met some very unusual people who revealed things about themselves on stage that I would not even tell my proctologist, much less my mother.  

For example, Kevin Hudson, an accountant by day and observer of the idiosyncrasies of life by night, went into great detail about his prostate examination. His account was so graphic I thought we might get a hands-on demonstration but, sadly for me, he kept his trousers on. It has been a long time since I have viewed that area of the male anatomy and I kept hoping…

The most interesting part of that evening was meeting an accomplished comedian who is 75 years younger than I am. Ian Hall who introduced us to the real star of the show: his daughter, Niamh Hall. She is ten years old. She manned the audio for her father and stole the show.  

Niamh Hall (left) was “the real star of the show”

But that is what happens when you let a real woman take over, isn’t it?

I realized then how limited my own upbringing was.  

When I was ten, my main activity was bouncing a ball (rubber… not what you are thinking;  that didn’t happen until I was sixteen) and stroking furry creatures (FOUR legged ones).  

I certainly did not have the courage to stand on a stage with a bunch of strangers staring at me, while I took charge of my father.

It is a new world and Niamh is a shining example.  

I see her, when she is my age, appearing  at the O2, her tattoos crumbled into a kaleidoscope of unidentifiable colors, her confidence mesmerizing an audience amazed at her ability to balance on one leg while she operates ten turntables filling the room with musical cacophony.  

She will be able to do a thing like that until she is 100.  Unfortunately, all I can do is talk dirty to young people.

I was sorry to see the festival end. It was an education for me this year and I cannot wait to return to the bike shop again next year to find out why Viagra is such a success. I have always avoided it because it squanders four hours of your day. I don’t have that much time left to waste. Not anymore.

Next stop, Sweden.

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Lynn Ruth Miller goes home to join The Dinosaurs of Comedy in San Francisco

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 PragueDublinBerlin, 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

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Lynn Ruth Miller – “Comedy is a skill that is far more than the jokes you tell”


In the past few weeks, globetrotting UK-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller – physical age 84; mental age 24 – has sent me pieces about her trips to Prague and Dublin.

Next week, she has a week of performances in Paris. But last week, she was in Berlin for six days. 

This is (some of) what happened…


The Ryanair flight was ONE HOUR late landing, so we didn’t get the bugle call to tell us we were on time but my hearing aid gave me a little whistle which was much nicer and didn’t disturb anyone else.    

I had made friends with a lovely break dancer who was telling me how he had mutilated his body and had even begun losing his hair because of the extreme physical demands of his profession and I thought to myself: “It is a good thing I only do the Lindy Hop half time. I certainly cannot afford to lose any more hair than I already have.”

Bald is only beautiful on a baby’s butt and I am definitely beyond that.

I think, in a strange way, Berlin is very much like Brighton (although Brighton is wildly expensive and Berlin is amazingly affordable).

Ex-Brighton resident Lynn Ruth in Berlin

The similarity is that anything goes in both places and everyone loves everyone… no homophobia of any kind. But, although everyone feels at home and loved in both places, it is really hard to earn a living. Everyone has a unique talent they cannot market and they are so dedicated to that talent that they will do it anywhere and everywhere just to have the opportunity to express themselves to others.

No-one needs to pay them for what they do. So you cannot earn a living; you cannot progress in whatever field you happen to be in; and yet… and yet… both are such FUN places to be, everyone hates to leave.

Berlin is a place you need to experience rather than describe. There is an atmosphere of politeness and concern that is really comforting. It has been one of the most welcoming of places for me with people anxious and eager to help. I often wonder what happened to this national sensibility when my ancestors were here being converted into soap and lampshades.

We run away from our roots, don’t we? I certainly have: across a vast country, across an ocean. And the strange truth is that the clarification and validation I sought was inside me all that time.

That first evening in Berlin last week, I was intending to meet Kenny (a guitarist I met last trip) to go open air dancing but – alas – he was too tired (story of my life).

Instead, we took a little walk and talked about him. He is finding the glow that is Berlin fading and he is thinking about finding vibrancy somewhere else. The low cost of living and wonderfully hopeful atmosphere is tarnished. Kenny has been here 11 years. The problem of living in a low cost area is that salaries are also low, so no-one can get his or her head above water.

The second night – Wednesday – I was blessed with a comp ticket to Quatsch Comedy, THE upscale comedy club that does one English show every couple of months. The MC is Christian Schulte-Loh who is amazing because, although English is his second language, he has the English subtext down pat. He is an excellent host, never dominating the stage and always priming the audience for what is to come, welcoming them and getting them set up for laughter.

The headliner was John Moloney and I was amazed and delighted at his ability to give us one punch-line after another, never slowing his pace and never descending to cheap shocking material. He is an artist and he is the reason I struggle to perfect my set… What he does is where I want to be (before I die? Fat chance). The entire show taught me that I have a long way to go to be that smooth and that professional.

After the show, I went to Bombay – an Indian restaurant across the street – to have dinner and met two vegan women from Amsterdam who were in Berlin for a conference that was cancelled. Both are writing a vegan cookbook. The son of the owner of the restaurant fell in love with all three of us and plied us with shots until we were all bloopy. Evidently alcohol is fine on a vegan diet.  It is just cheese and eggs that are verboten.

“I am more than an old lady to them…”

Thursday was my first night at Cosmic Comedy and it was a delight. The audience is receptive and happy, filled as they are with pizza and free shots. I truly love doing my sets there because the owners and the audience always get my humor. I am more than an old lady to them. I am a funny comedian. Eat your heart out Joan Rivers. I didn’t have to have a face lift to do this.

Friday night was a showcase night and I headlined. The audience was small because of the Big Game (football over here is a way of life) but they were responsive and I did my usual routine. The interesting thing was that usually my audiences in Berlin are all expats, but this time the majority was German. English is their second and sometimes their third language. They got the jokes all right but slowly.

This highlights my theory that standup comedy is a skill that is far more than the jokes you tell. You are paid to make the audience laugh no matter what the demographic. That means adjusting your material to their response. Not easy, but definitely part of the job.

Saturday was my big show and I did one of my compilations of songs and stories. My friend Kenny Stanger accompanied me on a guitar. Since I cannot carry a tune anyway, it really doesn’t matter what the musician accompanying me plays.

When I looked at the list of musical numbers I realized that nine out of the ten were about my looking for love, loving men, wanting to find a guy and bemoaning my obvious failures. I was fairly sure this topic would be boring and out of date for the modern expat generation in progressive Berlin, but I was wrong. Even though I did my usual stumbling over words, tunes and melodies, the audiences was captivated and simply could not get enough of me. The show was a great success.

They clustered around me after the show just to assure themselves that all the stories I tell of my failed attempt at romance were really true (as they are) and several said they had never seen a show like this one and of course they were right. No-one in the world has stumbled and fallen so indecorously or made such a mess of a performance. I suspect the charm of this performance was that everyone thought: “If that old hag can make a fool of herself on stage, I would be a star.”

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Not quite dead yet – Lynn Ruth Miller is making merry in Montenegro

Lynn ruth Miller on her 82nd birthday

Lynn Ruth Miller on her 82nd birthday

A message received today from performer Lynn Ruth Miller which, I think, deserves a blog in itself for unexpectedness:


I am now in Montenegro with 200 Russians at a conference called Well Over Fifty.

So far, there have been lectures on how to pulverise spinach for a gourmet treat, how to be happy – whatever that is – how to not give a damn about money after you make the first million and a demonstration by a 97-year-old woman shorter than I am on how to shoot a bow and arrow: a technique I have long needed in case I get accosted in a dark alley.  

The bow and arrow was a great deal bigger than she was and the only problem she did not address was how to transport it in your handbag. 

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How I talked myself out of comedian Lewis Schaffer’s naked radio show

Martin Soan (left) Lewis Schaffer (being Jewish) last night

Two days ago, comedian Lewis Schaffer asked me to be on his weekly radio show next Monday and wrote in his blog that my own philosophy of blogging and performing was that “garbage set free is better than genius hoarded”. I have never said that, but I guess I do think it, so maybe I will claim it was my phrase not his.

Yesterday, I went with comedian Martin Soan to see Lewis Schaffer’s twice-weekly show Free Until Famous in London’s glittering West End – well, OK, it is in a basement in the rather dingy corner of Soho near Piccadilly Circus.

After Lewis Schaffer’s show, the three of us ended up in an ice cream parlour in Old Compton Street.

“Why do you want me on your show next Monday?” I asked Lewis Schaffer.

“I felt guilty about how bad the two shows you were in before were.”

“You felt guilty?” Martin asked.

“He’s Jewish,” I explained. “What was wrong with my two appearances on your fine radio show?”

“When we first started to do it,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “I didn’t know what the radio show was about… Now I know it’s about me and Nunhead, where I live. It’s about the life of a very small, previously-ignored inner city suburb and all the funny things that go on in this tiny little place that people who are not from Nunhead enjoy hearing about, because it’s got a funny name and no-one’s ever heard of it. So what’s interesting is Nunhead stuff. You’re not from Nunhead, John.

“In some cases I will have people on who are famous – because they’re famous – you’re not famous, John – or people who can help my career. I’ve known you for years, John, and I’ve now realised you can’t help me. But I keep forgetting that. When I…

Martin interrupted: “But John has got something to do with Nunhead now. He’s always coming down to my monthly comedy club Pull The Other One. And that’s in Nunhead.”

“And I’ve always supported you too” said Lewis Schaffer. “I’m always mentioning Pull The Other One on my radio show, though you probably haven’t sold a single ticket because it’s radio. I don’t know how many listeners we have: we could have anything from 10 to 30,000 listeners… and that’s literary ten.”

“Has he asked you to be on his show?” I asked Martin.

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Yes you did,” Martin corrected him. “I Facebooked you… You asked me to come naked but then you bumped me from the show.”

“I didn’t!” said Lewis Schaffer.

“You did,” said Martin.

“I didn’t know that! I apologise… I thought… I dunno… I thought…” said Lewis Schaffer. “But I like the idea of you coming to the studio naked.”

“Do the radio rules allow you to be naked?” I asked. “Perhaps you should have a balloon to hide your modesty?”

Lewis Schaffer and Martin looked at me. There was a long silence. Eventually, Martin said: “That’s a good idea, John.”

“So,” I suggested to Lewis Schaffer, “next Monday, why don’t you un-invite me – I have nothing to do with Nunhead – and invite Martin on naked.”

“Naked would be better radio,” enthused Lewis. “You come into the studio totally naked… and then, during the show, I’ll get naked too.”

“OK,” said Martin, “We’re shaking hands on this now.”

“We’re shaking hands on it,” said Lewis Schaffer, shaking hands on it.

“Have you still got your female co-presenter?” I asked.

“Lisa Moyle. Yes,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Do you maybe think you should ask her about this?” I asked.

“No,” replied Lewis Schaffer, “What’s the problem? I think it will make good radio… So what are we promoting? We’re promoting your next Pull The Other One show?”

“I’m not promoting anything,” Martin said.

“You have to promote something,” said Lewis Schaffer. “It’s a chat show.”

“Well… Ah!…” Martin suddenly enthused, “I could talk about what I’m doing in Nunhead.”

Lewis Schaffer looked at him.

“I’m working with old age pensioners,” explained Martin.

“That’s bad for comedy,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“I’m doing community work in Nunhead,” explained Martin.

Lewis Schaffer reconsidered: “I like the idea of you working with old age pensioners in Nunhead – probably a lot of the original residents of Nunhead – and now the dirty immigrants have moved in, like the Americans. I like that idea.”

“You could say,” suggested Martin, “And now, for Florence, who’s listening out there, here’s Martin who fitted your toilet seat last Thursday. He’s sitting here naked.

“And can we get into an argument and talk about America?” Lewis Schaffer asked enthusiastically.

“We can,” replied Martin.

“And you can talk a lot about toilet seats,” I suggested.

There was a long silence.

“Martin – you naked will be good radio,” mused Lewis Schaffer. “John would not be good radio. He’s run out of ideas.”

“I’ve run out of ideas?” I asked.

“That’s why you’re here,” Lewis Schaffer told me. “The only time you come to see my show is when you’ve run out of ideas for your blog. I wrote that in my blog. Now you’re going to write it in your blog. And people are going to read about Lewis Schaffer and think Oh shit! How boring! John’s run out of ideas again. He only goes to see Lewis Schaffer when he’s completely empty.

“What John’s really good at,” said Martin, attempting to be constructive, “is reminding you of the ideas you had but had forgotten about.”

“But how does he make a living doing that?” asked Lewis Schaffer. “People like us, people like Lewis Schaffer, we are busy people. We’ve got gigs and promotion to do; we don’t have time for a blog. Then John comes and sucks the life out of us, which makes it even harder for us to do a blog because he comes and takes all the ideas that we were going to use in our blog and puts it into his. I wrote in my blog the other day that John’s philosophy of blogging and performing is that Garbage set free is better than genius hoarded. I made that up. But I bet John will claim he really did say it.”

“No I won’t,” I told Lewis Schaffer. “And I don’t need to steal your ideas. I am not going to blog about this evening.”

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