In the last few weeks on this blog, 84-year-old London-based American comedian Lynn Ruth Miller has been documenting her globetrotting gigs – in Prague, Dublin and Berlin. Her next international stop is Edinburgh for the Fringe.
I have just received this message from her:
We leave Paris today and my lust for romance is gone. I bought me a brioche to love. It winked at me in a patisserie in Montmartre and I could not resist. It was a bit costly, though. – When WILL the day come that I do not have to pay for love?
That message came with the diary she kept during her week of performances there:
Lynn Ruth Miller at Palookaville in Paris
I am in PARIS!
There is something about this place.
Maybe it is all the wonderful things I have read about it… Maybe it is the glorious sound of the language… Maybe it is all the quaint outdoor cafes on every street.
Whatever it is, Paris is magic and I am here. I am here with Sarah-Louise Young who can speak this lovely language and understand what everyone is saying.
We are staying at a gorgeous flat in Montmartre that has a crystal chandelier in the bathroom and a fancy coffee maker that I am still trying to figure out.
Whatever happened to percolators?
We are here with a lovely man who wants to make a documentary about me. For reasons I cannot fathom, he thinks the world needs to know about a ditsy old lady who is addicted to chatting on stage with a microphone.
We three took a stroll to a lovely restaurant with wine, food and endless conversation. It is really very hot in Paris this week so we ate outside and made our plans for the time we are here. We are preparing for tomorrow, when we acclimatise ourselves to the pace of life in this hot, humid, exciting city and get ready for my first gig here: French Fried Comedy. Yes, that is what it is called.
French Fried Comedy Night is English stand-up comedy in Paris with guest host Adrien Arnoux, and “your favourite local comics” Robert Hoehn, Wary Nichen, Noman Hosni and “special” Lynn Ruth Miller at Le Paname – Art Café! I am coming up in the world! Or am I?
The show itself was a real test of my comedic endurance. Our audience was a dozen people in the basement of a bar and café, Le Paname. Unfortunately, there were only three people there who could speak English besides the comedians.
I spent nine agonizing minutes on that stage chattering away to people who all had blank expressions on their faces as they smoothed their coiffures (we are in Paris) drank their absinthe, fiddled with their cell phones and exchanged bored looks with one another.
The guy in the front row was Russian and had absolutely no concept of what I was saying. He stared at me as if I were a relic from the local museum. His girlfriend patted his hand and tried to smile encouragingly to me, but she was German. A joke does not exist in her language.
Thankfully, a couple from New Jersey who sat huddled in a far corner got my jokes. Thank goodness SOMEONE did. They were on their honeymoon and had decided to take a break from whatever romantic thing they were doing to have a laugh.
“Good news for me was that I could understand everything…”
Robert, the man who runs the show, is from Minnesota and calls himself Ro Bear. (It took me a while to get that joke).
The good news for me was that I could understand everything he was saying because his accent is so like my own.
I was told I got the most laughs in the evening but, I assure you, you could count the chuckles I inspired on one hand.
Robert wrote me later to tell me this had been his fourth worst gig ever and I handled it like a pro. I shudder to think about the agony of the other three.
I am in PARIS!
We three walked up at least a thousand steps to the very top of the city to see Sacré-Cœur, a breathtakingly beautiful church that overlooks the city. We lunched and dined in outdoor cafes drinking wine and talking and just being Parisian. Not easy for a Jewish yenta from Toledo, Ohio.
Thursday was the gig that actually brought me to Paris.
Sebastian Marx and I have been corresponding for four years about my doing English comedy here. I was supposed to do his room last Fall but he changed nights at the last minute and I could not change my Eurostar reservations in time. Which meant that, although I had come to Paris to do a gig, I ended up spending more money in four days than I had spent in a year, dining in outrageously expensive places designed to bilk the tourist instead of telling jokes to English people who left their hometown to absorb a little Gay Paree. This is the life of a performer.
This time, though, I got here on the right night and actually did a gig that I had begun to think was my ever-receding utopia.
“Former speakeasy with a sexy atmosphere”
The show began at 10.00 pm at Café Oscar in Montmartre. It is a former speakeasy with a sexy, dark atmosphere, lush velvet draperies, tiny sparkles of light so you can make out the drink you are served and baroque paintings of a bunch of women who evidently had just had a fresh bikini wax.
And the audience understood English.
Actually, very few of them were from English-speaking countries.They came from Sweden, Morocco and (mostly) from France; the native English-speaking people were from Ireland and the UK, but there were very few of them… maybe four in an audience of about 25. The comedians were all Jewish except for one man from Dublin, Darach McGarrigle.
I did a solid ten minutes plus… and finally got some laughs… in French, of course.
The good news is that Sebastian does a solo show in English on Saturday nights and I am opening for him this Saturday. It is on a boat and, since I am terrified of the water and cannot swim, this blog may very well be my swan song.
Friday night, Sarah-Louise and I planned to sing our songs at Palookaville, an adorable music open mic place run by Steve Cass. I went there on that last trip and it was delightful and very, very fun.
However, this time we three trooped over there way too early.
I am beginning to realise that French time is even more relaxed than Jewish time. We were supposed to arrive at 6.00pm and we managed to get there at 7.00pm. The place was not even open. However there was a board outside announcing that I would be telling everyone jokes.
We waited a half hour for someone to appear and finally Steve arrived, laden with groceries and let us into the place. It was obviously still in disarray from whatever had been going on the previous night. There were dead flowers in dirty vases, empty candle-holders and a candelabra dripping with wax. The keyboard was cluttered with unwashed glasses and cords and the sound system was sitting unplugged in the middle of the room.
We decided that, since the place was obviously not audience ready, we would nip out for a magnificent French dinner with atmosphere.
So far on this trip, we had not actually managed to find anything that we felt was REALLY Parisian, although ALL our meals have been delicious.
“We all loved the food so much we forgot to check the time”
Anyway we did locate a place in Montmartre that was unusual and charming called Chez Prout. But we all loved the food we were served so much we forgot to check the time and so we missed returning to Palookaville to sing our songs.
From what Steve said when we left, there was not much hope of an audience anyway.
Evidently, there is a lot of soccer going on at the moment and, in France, if it is a choice between a laugh and a goal, the goal wins.
Saturday in Paris is always special and we lunched, wandered through art galleries and then I went to La Nouvelle Seine to open for Sebastian Marx’s show, A New Yorker in Paris, in the hold of a boat on the Seine. It was truly a good experience with all the laughter I always dream of getting and want to kill myself if I do not.
We ended up at Chez Papa, a jazz place beyond wonderful with food to die for and an atmosphere like you always hope to find and never do. The jazz was from the American songbook so, of course, I loved it.
Both Robert and Sebastian have invited me back, so this trip is the groundwork for more croissants, espresso and coq au vin… not to mention a few comedy gigs to aid my digestion.