A local legend, Lynn Ruth Miller, died last week in a London hospice at the age of 87. She had been diagnosed with inoperable esophageal cancer in July.
A well-known comedian, she had bookings in London and the Netherlands when she died. A recording of a BBC Radio 4 special in Britain called “Not Dead Yet” was postponed when Miller suffered a mild heart attack before recording. The show was to detail her working life and past careers. She would have been the oldest person recording a special for the station.
She called herself “the world’s oldest performing stand-up comedian” on her website. She owned a home in Pacifica but later settled in London.
She started her comedy career at age 70 to enchanted audiences. She built up a following that enjoyed her performances and her personality. She found a course to learn stand-up comedy in San Francisco in 2003 that taught her the technical aspects of the craft. Her first performance was in the city.
Miller believed people over 60 should expand their lives and provided a good example.
She appeared on “America’s Got Talent” in 2008. She won a People’s Choice award in the 2009 Branson Comedy Festival. She was a finalist in Bill Wood’s Funniest Female contest in 2009 and a semi-finalist in the San Francisco International Comedy Competition. She was in the top 100 in “Britain’s Got Talent” and won both nights of the Texas Burlesque Festival.
She was a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and won best cabaret act in 2014, a liberty award at Leicester Comedy Festival in 2015 and in 2015 was a finalist in the “Old Comedian of the Year” contest.
Miller received standing ovations at her burlesque shows, comedy club acts and cabaret performances around the world.
Before comedy, she was a writer, tutor, Pacifica Tribune columnist under editor Chris Hunter’s reign, theater usher and a saleswoman.
She appears in Hunter’s book, “Legendary Locals of Pacifica.” He wrote that it’s not often a stripper is considered an inspirational figure, but Miller was. Long after most people retire, Miller was writing novels, painting, performing and developing an international comedy act, Hunter wrote.
Hunter wrote that her “stripping granny” act at comedy clubs throughout the Bay Area inspired younger performers to seek their own bliss, inspired by her fearlessness.
Miller wrote six books, “Starving Hearts,” about her early years, and “Getting the Last Laugh,” detailing her comedy career. “Thoughts While Walking the Dog” and “More Thoughts While Walking the Dog,” were reprints from her Pacifica Tribune columns. She also wrote “The Late Bloomer” and “Ridiculously Old and Getting Better.”
“She often acknowledged that she gained confidence through the support of the Pacifica Tribune and Pacific Community Television, both of which originally showcased her talents,” Hunter wrote in an email to the Tribune. “Her dedication and perseverance gave her two decades of personal happiness...
“She will be missed by fans whose lives she touched all over the world,” Hunter wrote.
Miller performed at A Grape in the Fog. Owner Beth Lemke remembers her as the one who became one of her best friends, like family. Miller started a regular Thursday comedy night at the wine bar early in its existence.
“She brought some really amazing comedians. Then she got busy with her own gigs. It was great she could do this in her own backyard, but she was ready for a bigger stage,” Lemke said.
Lemke compared Miller’s one woman show to Lily Tomlin performing when she saw Miller at a comedy club in San Francisco.
“She was an amazing storyteller. She had a lot of challenges in her life,” she said. “She was brash. She was comforting to me as a role model. She didn’t care what anyone thought of her.”
Lemke visited Miller in London a couple of times and talked to her a week before she died.
“She chose an international intergenerational family,” she said. “She was someone who never ceased to amaze and surprise me. In the last few weeks of her life, I was on a group text with the London crowd. It’s amazing how many people she had made a strong impact on and kept in touch with. She was a big supporter of the wine bar. She always wanted to know how my dog, Daphne, was.”
Local Pacifica comedian Brett Lillegard performed with Miller in some of those Funny Thursdays shows at the wine bar and became friends with her.
“She was one of the most naturally funny people I had ever met,” he said. “She was straight to what she thought about something.”
They used to both perform at a variety night at the Chit Chat Cafe where there were all different kinds of acts. Miller introduced the poetry part of the events, challenging all, “It’s time for you to use some intelligence now,” he remembered.
Comedian Debi Durst said Miller stood out for combining burlesque and vaudeville, and noted that she made people laugh all over the world.
“I’m so verklempt about Lynn Ruth,” she said. “She was a firecracker.”