When I grow old, I mean really old, I want to be like Lynn Ruth Miller who died yesterday at the age of 87. Until the last, Lynn Ruth was so full of life and dreams and plans – she knew the secret of immortality and now lives on in all of us who’ve worked, lived, and played with her since she launched herself onto the comedy scene in her 70s.
I was first told about ‘an old lady who did burlesque’ during the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 and after seeing Lynn Ruth’s act, our paths have continued to regularly cross over the years. She’s always been popular with our community here at Funny Women as a welcome addition to any lineup, running workshops, hosting panel shows, and (most recently) guesting on our podcast. When she lived in Brighton, reputedly above a fish and chip shop, she made regular appearances at our monthly Komedia shows and was a sage and inspirational mentor to the local community of performers and promoters who took her to their hearts.
Lynn Ruth earned many accolades after she started performing comedy at the age of 71, including ‘the new Joan Rivers of Fringe Comedy’. She has literally dined out on being the oldest performing female stand-up comedian in the UK and travelled the world “telling inappropriate jokes and shattering stereotypes” as documented in her autobiography Getting the Last Laugh. Many of us have fed her in return for hearing her stories first hand and getting to know the tiny, frail-looking woman with a big wit and a huge appetite for life as well as food!
Before the comedy bug gripped her, Lynn Ruth was a successful author, newspaper columnist, and a TV pundit living and working in America. She stumbled into performing when she took part in a workshop and her ‘potty mouth’ made the much younger participants laugh. She was rejuvenated and what followed was a dream career. She left behind her home, dogs, and books in the US and settled in the UK which became the staging post for her many shows and tours around the world. Lynn Ruth spoke to Ivy Paige about this in our Behind the Scenes podcast which now makes poignant listening.
In writing this I sought solace from Dr. Google and unearthed this fantastic piece on John Fleming’s blog from August 2018. It shows that, not so long ago, Lynn Ruth was still globe-trotting and performing her trademark burlesque striptease in Scotland’s capital city. The Edinburgh Fringe has always embraced her eccentricities. This is a typical Lynn Ruth quote: “My audiences screamed, cheered, whistled and yelled… but I could not hear them. I had left my hearing aid at home.”
Lynn Ruth was Jewish and together we’ve all shared some amazing conversations. There’s much to laugh at and about and I believe that comedy is innate to being Jewish, a culture that thrives on self-deprecation and a tradition of telling stories.
Knowing that Lynn Ruth’s time was nigh, I had already agreed to collaborate on an evening of Jewish Funny Women curated and hosted by Rachel Creeger as part of the Tsitsit Jewish Fringe at the Jewish Museum on Sunday 31st October. Details will be announced very soon and we will perform in Lynn Ruth’s memory.
I also personally want to help other older women to enjoy and celebrate their mid and later lives as confidently, joyously, and disgracefully as Lynn Ruth did hers. Plans are already in place for Funny Old Women, a project to support and develop older female performers, writers, and creators with mentorship from younger women in our community. Watch this space and, if we can get the funding, we’ll provide a bursary in Lynn Ruth’s name for one outstanding act, writer, or creator in 2022, our 20th anniversary year.
So good night Lynn Ruth Miller. You knew how to get the most out of life and taught me that ageing disgracefully is not just good fun it keeps you alive. You really did have the last laugh.
Listen to Ivy Paige talking to Lynn Ruth Miller on Behind The Scenes here.