A couple of months ago, I posted a video of standup comic Mrs. Hughes. Many readers loved it and "Mrs. Hughes" has since become the top search term that brings readers to Time Goes By. Both lilalia of Yum Yum Café and Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles suggested I do a TGB Interview with the comedian, and so today, here it is.
Mrs. Hughes was 40 when she began doing standup and 26 years later she’s still at it. Why we aren’t seeing more of this funny woman on television is beyond me, but she has taped an interview with Florence Henderson on Retirement Living TV and I’ll let you know when it will be broadcast.
She also appears frequently on cruise ships (“The Funniest Grandma on the Seven Seas”) and around the country. You can see her upcoming schedule here. And she has released two CDs. Information on how to order them is at the bottom of the interview.
Before we get started, here is Mrs. Hughes’ video for those who have not seen it or would like to see it again. She is an elder who does us proud, and will make you laugh out loud.
RONNI BENNETT: Comedians don't generally make their debut at age 40. How did that come about for you?
MRS. HUGHES: I was at Weight Watchers and the lecturer was a comic. I asked how to become one and she said write five funny minutes and go to open mike night at the Improv. I had five funny minutes already so she and I went. I went on at midnight and got a standing ovation. That was the start of it all.
RB: Did you work before you became a full-time comedian?
MH: I used to lecture on antiques, do craft fairs but never a real job.
RB: When did you first discover that you're funny?
MH: I don't know, I could always tell a good story. My Dad was funny and a great story teller.
RB:Is being a standup comedian fun?
MH: Yes, you get to sleep all day, you're the center of attention, and make pots of money. The travel is the only not fun part. Sitting around airports can get very dull.
RB: What or who makes you laugh out loud?
MH: My kids and grandkids make me laugh. Do you know who Craig Ferguson is? He is on after Letterman. He always makes me laugh. I love Ellen as well.
RB: Some of your humor is distinctly women-oriented - menopause, being a wife, etc. Do men and women react differently to your act?
MH: Not really. Kids have even told me they love my act (PG).
RB: Aging is also a good part of your act, so let's talk about that a bit. What's the best part of getting older for you?
MH: People help my put my bags in the overhead on the plane.
RB: And the worst?
MH: How do these people know I need help?
RB:How is getting old different from what you imagined when you were young?
MH: I don't know. My husband is older and I just thought he was cranky. Now I'm getting cranky. I am just waiting to pick a fight.
RB: What, if anything, do you miss about your youth?
MH: I didn't know how pretty I was. I wish I had known so I could enjoy it instead of missing it. I look in the mirror and I am horrified at how old I look.
RB: What's the biggest surprise - positive or negative - you've encountered about getting older?
MH: I couldn't wait to get boobs and now I just want to get them out of the way of my putt.
RB: Who are your role models for getting older?
MH: Betty White. I adore her.
RB: How comfortable are you thinking of yourself as old?
MH: I'm okay with it. I loved being 40. Fifty was hard, but I'm okay with 60.
RB: Age discrimination in the workplace is a big difficulty for many older workers. What affect, if any, does it have on a 66-year-old comedian?
MH: This has been a problem since I started stand up. It was very difficult to get many people to realize that I was serious about being a comic. Even my husband thought it would end up in the attic with the Afghan I started knitting. I thought my fabulous career was waning and that's when I went on the ships. Now with the amazing success of my video I am in demand again. I guess I am an overnight sensation after 25 years.
RB: From what I've seen on your video, your personal life is a big inspiration for your comedy. How true is that?
MH: Almost everything in my act is actually a part of my life. That is why it is so difficult for people who want to write for me. My act rings true and all of it has made me laugh.
RB: The subject of getting old has a long tradition in standup comedy. Jack Benny was 39 forever. Phyllis Diller has had a good run with it. So did George Burns. What did you learn from them?
MH: All the comics you cited were inspirational. I admire and loved Henny Youngman, Myron Cohen, Totie fields. They were funny without the language that permeates everyones act today.
RB: What contemporary comedians do you admire?
MH: Again Craig Ferguson, Ellen. I love the Blue Collar Guys. There are some not so famous comics that I adore - Tom McGillen, Woody Pittman, Lizette Mizelle, to mention a few.
RB: There's an old belief that clowns - comedians - are laughing on the outside, crying on the inside. Do you think that's true?
MH: Yeah. There have been so many suicides and drug overdoses that it is impossible to overlook the underlying sadness. Nearly every comic I know has had major trauma in their lives.
RB: Why "Mrs. Hughes" and not your full name?
MH: I started out as Mrs. John Hughes. For some reason, that confused people and they thought my husband was the comic. I dropped the John mainly because I hate to type and not using John made my name shorter. I think we are way too familiar with each other. There is no respect for teachers, seniors, any authority. I hate having to tell some pimply-faced pizza boy my first name. I don't want to be chummy with the teller at the bank. I prefer to do business with some one efficient rather than a pal.
RB: Have your kids inherited your humor?
MH: Yes, my kids are the funniest people I know.
RB: What is one lesson you've learned about life you would like everyone to know?
MH: You can do any thing you want. You just have to work at it. It may be harder to achieve things when you are older, but you can succeed.
Mrs. Hughes has released two CDs - one is PG and the other, she says, is R-lite. You may order one for $15 or both for $25 by sending a check or money order to:
P.O. Box 1507
Pismo Beach, CA 93448
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan Gulliford recalls a special Valentine's Day Dinner.]