Old Folks Telling Jokes

As a card-carrying, paid-up member of the Grumpy Old Men squad, I occasionally look at all those fresh-faced stand-ups staring out from the posters plastered across the city like Seborrheic Eczema each August and wonder… What the hell can those kids possibly know about anything?

Such compilations can be mixed affairs, but the choice on the afternoon of this review was certainly diverse enough in tone to keep things lively.

Yes, it’s ageist; needing a fire extinguisher next to your birthday cake doesn’t automatically imply the wisdom and understanding on which all great stand-up is rooted. Yet judging by the four acts making making up this particular show, some old folk certainly can tell jokes, although it clearly helps to have an ageless devil-may-care attitude to the restraints of polite society.

This is essentially a showcase for a rotating cast of performers with their own shows in Edinburgh this August. Such compilations can be mixed affairs, but the choice on the afternoon of this review was certainly diverse enough in tone to keep things lively. As MC, Lewis Schaffer certainly gets things off to a “bad” start with his take-it-or-leave-it approach; he’s so bare-faced in his American Jewishness that you can’t help but laugh, even when he’s potentially insulting you.

Yet it’s possible that Schaffer has met his match in Lynn Ruth Miller; in her allotted 10 minutes this spry, petite 80-year-old (she started doing stand-up when she was 71) talks mainly about her succession of husbands, but is quick with the one-liners. Charmian Hughes, in contrast, comes across as a gentler soul who’s happy to share her accumulated “wisdom”–although, marriage also features quite prominently. Not that she isn’t angry about something; the “obligatory middle-age haircut” after you reach your 50th birthday clearly rankles.

“New Age Pensioner” Ronnie Golden brought this particular show to a musical close, and was proof positive that not everyone gets mellower as they grow older—they just get angrier. Admittedly, while appearing all rock ’n’ roll, Golden admits to being a big fan of “Country and Western” (as it used to be called), albeit with the wisdom that comes from age to know that when a song title is good, you sometimes don't need to bother writing the rest of the song.

Someone once said that inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened. On this evidence, you can definitely include those who take to the comedic stage in their far-from-twilight-years.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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The Blurb

A show of comedians aged 55+. A sell-out at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival and featured at The Pleasance, London. The line-up proves the old ones can be the best. Line-up includes Lynn Ruth Miller, 'a poster girl for growing old disgracefully' (Scotsman), Charmian Hughes, 'like Josie Long's mum' (Chortle.co.uk) and Lewis Schaffer, 'Controversial. Unpredictable. Recommended' (Time Out). 'Despite what some might tell you, it isn't all young bucks cracking gags' (Time Out). Line-up announced daily on Facebook - Old Folks Telling Jokes.

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