This week on Growing Bolder, Linda Robson speaks to comedy legend Lynn Ruth Miller. Lynn’s rise to stardom began in 2008 when at the age of 71 she performed on America’s Got Talent and quickly made a name for herself on the comedy circuit. Now, at 87, Lynn is considered “the oldest performing stand-up female comedian on both sides of the Atlantic.” In this fun and friendly chat, Lynn tells Linda all about her fascinating journey into the world of comedy and why she considers ‘old’ a dirty word.
As a young woman, Lynn had a tumultuous introduction to the working world. “You know in your heart what you love to do - but sometimes it doesn’t feel practical. And what I loved to do, always, was write.” But Lynn set her passion aside for what seemed like a more sensible path as a primary school teacher before faculty politics and in-fighting pushed her to try her hand at secretarial work. Finally, at the age of 30, she returned to writing via a career in journalism. “I am a failure trying to be a success,” she says, “and that is the story of my life.”
So how did a career in journalism translate to life on the comedy stage? “I was a journalist, and I wanted to write a story about a comedy college.” But as Lynn explains, she didn’t consider stand-up comedy to be a career at the time and thought the idea of a comedy college was ridiculous. She had planned to write about a comedy school taking advantage of young people by trying to teach them something that couldn’t be taught. While she still feels that wit is an inherent trait, Lynn took to stand-up like she’d never imagined. “I’ve loved every single job I’ve ever had... but stand-up is my life. That’s where I need to be.”
In a way, Lynn considers being older a boon to her beginning in comedy. “It’s not like young people when they take up stand-up comedy. They’re putting aside something else to go do an open mic… I had nothing else to do!”
Looking back over the success of the last decade or so, one of the things Lynn enjoys the most is the love she’s found through her young fans. When performing in Glasgow, she says it’s inevitable that she’ll get an invitation to go clubbing with a group of young women. “As if I were one of the girls! That’s memorable.”
On being an older woman in comedy, Lynn feels quite strongly that it’s about punching up. “We’ve got to stop making fun of older people... I believe that old is a dirty word. People will say to me; ‘You don’t look 87’ - and they think it’s a compliment. It is not. I’ve worked 87 years to get where I am, and it’s been an uphill battle. This is what 87 looks like!”
So, what’s Lynn’s advice to people who want to get started in comedy later in life? “Do it. Do it! You’re going to find it won’t be the same road you would have taken when you were twenty, it’s going to be different... Be the person you are, but go after it. You can do it your way.”
To hear the full episode, find us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also click here for more information about how to listen. Don’t forget to tune in to Growing Bolder next week for Episode 5, when Linda will be chatting with Ceri Wheeldon, founder of the inspiring online community FabOverFifty.