her Ruby Wax is bringing her stand-up show to her stand-out favourite UK city. She told Rowan Mantell how comedy, cavemen and cushions can trump the cosmos
We interview star comedian Ruby Wax
She was born in the US, lives in London, will be spending Christmas in Cape Town – and adores Norwich. Ruby Wax, internationally renowned comedian, actor, writer and mental health campaigner, has revealed that she chose to end her 2018 tour in Norwich because she loves the city.
“Norfolk is my favourite place in the UK. It has the best restaurant, my favourite restaurant. It’s the only place I do three days. I love the area and all the old lanes and courtyards.”
She brings her latest show, How to be Human, to Norwich Playhouse on December 7 and 8.
Ruby, with a little help from a monk and a neuroscientist, will be riffing on the theme of how to be human. It’s a huge subject, so what is her favourite part of the show? “The whole thing!” she insists. Her favourite part of the human has to be the brain – although she is not a fan of every aspect of our brains. “Part of it is still Stone Age,” she says. “We were made for life 10,000 years ago.”
That ancient part of our brain, so good at dealing with threats from wild animals or enemies armed with clubs, is not necessarily so helpful when the attack is on the road or online. What keeps us alive by taking care of essentials such as breathing and heartbeat, also leaps into action in response to threats. So when you react with fury to perceived slights on the road or in social media, you are merely using your brain.
“It’s not your fault, it’s evolution’s fault,” said Ruby.
However, she has a futuristicsounding solution to this problem bequeathed by the distant past – we need to upgrade; reining in the less helpful parts of the reptilian brains (presumably leaving it with the breathing and heart-beat duties) and encouraging the newer updates which deal with insight, compassion and empathy.
How to be Human is a comedy, because Ruby is a comedian. But that does not mean she isn’t serious about her subject.
“To me it’s the most important stuff on earth. Brian Cox can go on about the cosmos, but what’s more interesting than why you are the way you are, and what you can do about it? I love delivering this material.”
The show is based on Ruby’s bestselling book, How to be Human, the Manual, and she sets out to discover how to find happiness in the modern world – with excursions via evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, sex, kids, compassion and the future.
So what makes Ruby happy? Well, right now it would be being able to remember the name of that favourite Norwich restaurant – and buying cushions.
“I have just bought my 105th cushion!” she says. “I get this hit. The minute I get one, I want another one!”
Ruby has worked as an actor – in everything from Shakespeare to sitcom – a script editor, chat show host, mental health campaigner, lecturer and author.
Her first comedy chat show, Don’t Miss Wax and then The Full Wax were followed by Ruby Wax Meets... in which she interviewed the famous, and infamous, including Imelda Marcos and OJ Simpson.
So, with her new insight into the human mind, who on the world stage would she like to treat to a humour-laced inquisition now? “No-one, otherwise I would be doing that job still,” she said.
Instead she is trying to lead a mental health revolution, alongside entertaining the nation. Her stand-up show Losing It dealt with her experience of depression; she has a masters degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University, (she says she would have loved to have studied for her first degree at the University of East Anglia), was made a visiting professor in mental health nursing at the University of Surrey and awarded an OBE for her services to mental health.
Her books include Sane New World, A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled and Norwich is one of the 10 places around the country which runs one of her Frazzled cafés, which meet in Marks and Spencer cafés. Each offers a place for people to share experiences in an anonymous, non-judgemental atmosphere. (frazzledcafe.org) “Feeling heard, to me, has always been half the cure,” said Ruby.
Hear her at the Norwich Playhouse this month, where she will be joined on stage by monk Gelong Thubten, an expert on our inner lives, and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura, an expert on our brains. Described as “the show you need to help you upgrade your mind as much as you’ve upgraded your iPhone,” it should make you laugh and could change your life too. What should audiences expect? “They will love it. It’s really funny. And they will be inspired and exhilarated,” said Ruby.
BELOW:Ash Ranpura, Ruby Wax and Gelong Thubten