Senior Comedy Afternoons cater to an age group that knows the humor in growing old
LOS ANGELES — Marty Ross trudged toward the front of the restaurant, one deliberate pace at a time. A maze of tightly packed tables and chairs stood between him and the stage, demanding careful navigation from the 72-year-old. So when he finally arrived at the microphone after several seconds of silence, the comedian nicknamed “the wrinkled rebel” sounded relieved. And slightly out of breath.
He opened with a joke:
“It’s a long walk from over there,” Ross said, about 20 feet from his starting point.
More than 100 seniors in the audience exploded in laughter, nodding in agreement. Some clutched walkers at their sides, others sat in wheelchairs. They all understood Ross’ joke.
For a few hours at Senior Comedy Afternoon inside Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif., aging was funny.
“Just being old is a laugh,” said audience member and local resident Eileen Aaron-Sacherman, 84.
And laugh the elders did.
They laughed at comedian Mel Kohl, 55, who complained about voice-automated phone systems.
“The worst is 4-1-1,” he said. “They say, ‘Please say city and state.’ I say, ‘Downey, California,’ and she says, ‘Denver, Colorado’!”
They chuckled at Anita Cheek Milner, 76, who bemoaned the indignities of shopping.
“I can go into an antique store and remember everything,” she said.
And they cracked up at Ross.
“Anyone drive behind an old person recently?” he asked. “I just want to say I’m sorry, I don’t know how this happened. I look down at my dashboard and I’m going 6. And I think, ‘I should slow down!’ ”
It’s comedy for seniors, by seniors, and while the sun is still up. Ronel Leonard, 71, adds another dimension to the disconnect some seniors feel.
“Most comedians are talking about current events and young people,” Leonard said. “Most of it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
Why the shift in values?
“Comedy hasn’t changed a bit,” Leonard conceded. “But we have.”
So the jokesters did their best to keep it clean and provide a few hours in which seniors could revel in old age.
Giving seniors such an afternoon out was the goal for producer Bonnie Barchichat, 59. The Fountain Valley, Calif., woman got the idea after taking her now 92-year-old mother to an improv show in Irvine, Calif.
“She just hated it,” Barchichat recalled. “The comedian was filthy and the humor just wasn’t getting to her.”
So Barchichat decided to put on a show herself. Her first Senior Comedy Afternoon hit the stage in December 2010.