Lynn Ruth Miller: comedian

Lynn Ruth Miller. Photo: Marcy Malloy

Publishing her first book at 67 and launching a career as comedian nine years ago aged 71, San Francisco-based Lynn Ruth Miller isn’t your average octogenarian. Once described as ‘the poster girl for growing old disgracefully’, she has performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the past eight years. She performs at Chelsea Theatre’s quarterly cabaret on July 11

How did you get into comedy?

It was an accident. I’m funny because Jewish people are naturally funny, if they let themselves go, which most of them don’t. But I was writing a story about a thing called the San Francisco comedy college. I thought that was interesting because I didn’t think you could teach people to be funny. So I took the class and here I am nine years later. I was 50 years older than most of the others in the class but when it was time for the final exam, I swept them off their feet and absolutely killed it. And so I began pursuing comedy.

Did you find it intimidating at first?

Not really because I used to be a university lecturer, so that didn’t scare me. But it’s the most awful thing you can imagine when no one laughs. That happened maybe two years in when I was doing comedy to a room full of 21-year-old Stanford graduates and they were all men. It was awful, they didn’t laugh at all. I think some of them fell asleep. I’ll sometimes get it where they’re not laughing enough but I rarely get it when they don’t laugh at all. It wasn’t until three years ago that I did a real stand-up comedy gig, when I did an hour in Edinburgh. Chortle Magazine said it was the most abysmal thing they’d ever heard, but Kate Copstick from the Scotsman said I was the new Joan Rivers so, she got it.

Your new show isn’t just comedy though is it?

No it’s a cabaret, so it’s comic singing. I have over 50 songs now, half of them are parodies and half of them are original songs of my own. I’m also performing in three shows in Edinburgh this year. I like to do a lot of shows, I don’t get tired like all the young people do because I don’t do all the partying.

What do you love about comedy?

It’s the best way to get loved I’d heard of. You don’t have to cook dinner, you don’t have to take off your clothes. I’m relating to people of every age. I believe that the reason that I’m a happy old lady, is because when I’m doing this I’m really having a lot of fun and I’m not doing the things that most people of my generation do. But what I’m doing is not the least bit unusual, it’s just unusual for my generation.

What have you learnt from your years in the business so far?

This takes work like every other career. I thought I was just going to get up there and tell jokes, and it’s a lot more than that. One of the things that’s important is that I’m doing this with a definite purpose. I believe that anybody can do what I’m doing, I do not believe that I have a special talent. It takes motivation, determination and it takes work. I don’t think there’s any profession that doesn’t demand that if you want to be good at it. I don’t want people to laugh at me because I’m an old lady, I want people to laugh at me because I’m funny.

Lynn Ruth Miller performs in Come With Me If You Want To Live at the Chelsea Theatre on July 11