The rise of the silver stand-up

Laughter Lines: The Week in Comedy

“I’ve got to the age now where I’m seriously thinking about what I’d like to come back as.” So says Lynn Ruth Miller at the start of her stand-up show, Granny’s Gone Wild. Miller is 80 years old and in the thick of a 12-night run in the louche basement of Soho Theatre in London.

 For an hour every night she stands on stage telling jokes wearing a white babydoll nightie and white high heels. She strips down to these in her opening number, tossing aside her fur stole and gold dress before prowling into the audience to sit on the knee of a man in the second row and to steal another’s glasses. “I look better like that, right?” she purrs, not missing a beat. In a later number she tosses incontinence pads into the stalls, as if they were roses.

Miller, born in Ohio, based in San Francisco and currently living in Brighton, England, began her stand-up career nine years ago, when she was 71. A journalist and writer, she came across San Francisco’s Comedy College while surfing the net for jokes to tell at her book talks. She enrolled, thinking it would make a good story – “The idea amused me immensely. I’m Jewish. You’re either funny or you’re not funny” - but she soon discovered she was a natural. At her end-of-course exam, she performed a set about having a mammogram. “And I brought the house down. I thought, ‘Oh my god, where can I do this again?’”

Since then she has built up a fine set of wry stories and songs - about drugs, love and not being able to cook - delivered in a vampy growl. There are plenty of jokes about being ancient, but also about bulimia, internet dating and her abusive ex-husband. It is not all Complan and hip replacements, not by a long chalk. And it is delivered with a life-affirming confidence that is hard to resist. “Doing comedy has changed the way I think about myself, and my body”, says Miller. “Do I feel old on stage? No! I don’t have time to.”

Miller is one of a number of late-blossoming comedians on the circuit. Not old-timers like Ken Dodd, 86, and Barry Humphries, 80, who carry on pulling in the same crowds they did when they were half their age, but newcomers who have found the confidence to take to the mic in later life. Last year Marc Lucero, 61, won the second Silver Stand-up award at Leicester Comedy Festival.

Before becoming a comedian he worked on a swimwear stall at Petticoat Lane market, then he saw George Carlin on stage in Vegas and it “changed his life”. Now with a mane of grey curls and grizzled beard, he delivers sharp routines about everything from Saga magazine to cocaine. “It has been a struggle. The scene is dominated by 20 to 30 year olds and has been for years”, he says. Based in Kensal Green, north London he now gigs three or four nights a week, all over the country. “I would like to keep it Home Counties but I’ll go wherever. I’ve just got a Senior Railcard so I’m trying to do gigs I can get to on the train.”

At Soho Theatre, Miller’s audience comprises men and women of all ages. “The only people who do not like me are men in their mid-twenties and people over 70. Because I’m making fun of them. I loathe going to care homes. They find me offensive there. This one time I tossed out an incontinence pad and one lady grabbed it and said, ‘I’m keeping that.’”

Last year she did 250 gigs and she tries to fit in at least two or three a week, often getting home in the small hours. How does she keep fit for the stage? “I stay away from salty foods, and I walk my two little dogs every day”, she says. “I’m going to carry on until I die. Or until I can’t remember the set I’m doing.”

Lynn Ruth Miller, Soho Theatre, London to Saturday, then touring (ww.lynnruthmiller.net); Marc Lucero plays Showcase Coventry on Saturday and performs ‘George Carlin Saved My Life’ at Leicester Square Theatre, London on 17 May (www.marclucero.co.uk)

Monty Python

The great Monty Python build-up starts here. With just three months to go until their live shows at The 02 in July, Eric Idle has announced the first merchandise, a re-release of Monty Python Sings, remastered and with five new songs alongside classics such as the “Lumberjack Song” and “Spam Song”. One track will be released for free on YouTube, no doubt hoping to emulate the success of the last novelty hit song, Ylvis’ “What Does the Fox Say”, which got 366million hits. A single will follow in May and the album after that.

Merchandise is an increasingly lucrative sideline for mega stand-ups. They have the catchphrases, all they need is something to print them on. At Miranda’s O2 show last week, branded bobble hats and “Such Fun!” t-shirts sold like hotcakes and Jack Whitehall catered to his young fanbase at Wembley this week with Jack Wills-style grey marl sweatshirts featuring his signature and newly minted maxim, ‘Get it wrong. Gotta be strong’. Expect lumberjack style t-shirts and parrot keyrings to do well come July. 

What I Watched

The Claudia O’Doherty Experience

At The Invisible Dot, London. A fantastic night of young talents - Eleanor White, Mae Martin, Alfie Brown and Alistair Green - all hosted with pizzazz by the irresistible Claudia O’Doherty.

Tim Key

In the Arcola Tent, London. Key has replaced the on-stage bath of his last show with a bed and it makes for an intimate, sometimes sinister hour of comedy. There are poems about owls, anecdotes about threesomes and awkward audience flirtations. A dreamy evening from a comedian who is at the top of his game, and clearly enjoying it.

W1A

On BBC2. It’s great to have Ian Fletcher and his folding bike back and there were plenty of delicious small touches in the first episode of the BBC sitcom about the BBC. But is it too much of an in-joke? And why wasn’t there more of the amazeballs Siobhan Sharpe? 

Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution