“I can honestly say that this has been the best year of my life. Of course, I can’t remember the others…”
Lynn Ruth Miller is the oldest comedian in this year’s MICF program, and yet she pulls no punches in this honest and open discussion on ageing and the changing world. At 82 years old, she appears onstage swathed in loose white clothing, smiling sweetly and asking the audience to come and sit down the front, so she can see their faces. But once she begins to speak, her tiny presence fills the space onstage and it quickly becomes apparent that is not an afternoon tea with your grandmother.
Miller consistently defies expectation with her confidence and quick wit throughout her performance. Surprisingly, much of Miller’s show is dedicated to raunchy jokes and sexual innuendo. The format and content of these jokes is familiar, and while you can see the setup coming miles away, Miller’s charming and unexpected delivery brings great joy. She takes the audience on a journey of her sexual history; from flat-chested teen, through two horrific marriages and into the joys of elderly dating. One particular story she recounts, however, is both horrifying and hilarious, and has instilled a newfound fear of mammograms in this reviewer.
In equal measure to her sexual jokes are the astute comparisons Miller makes to the way the world was when she grew up. She tells about how she learned to drive, when she went to buy her first bra, and the confusion surrounding the dreaded ‘wedding night.’ As with any good comedian, Miller uses humour to discuss some darker issues, in particular her experiences with domestic violence and an eating disorder. Her observations that “back then men weren’t allowed to cry” and “we didn’t believe in psychology” speak to a time when toxic masculinity and emotional repression pervaded society.
Importantly, as Miller discusses the differences between generations, she does not act superior or resentful toward her (mostly younger) audience. She doesn’t imply that things were better, worse, harder or simpler when she was young, simply that things were different. Miller endears herself to the audience with her generous spirit and cavalier attitude toward adversity. Her inner strength shines through in every moment (even when she’s talking about losing her contact lenses) and you get the sense that, in this hour, she has barely scratched the surface of her incredible life.