hy, retiring, vulnerable Ruby Wax sounds like a contradiction in terms. From the rollercoasting of French and Saunders in Girls on Top, to her recent much-advertised demolition of a frozen pizza, Wax’s TV persona has been proud, loud and, unavoidably, heard. The chat shows, Hit & Run and The Full Wax, further enhanced the image of razor-tongued marauder waiting to pounce on her prey. Her latest incarnation sees Wax on the road and in the theatres whence, you would think, no sensitive audience will escape alive.
But Ruby sees herself differently. ‘People need not be afraid,” she protests. ‘I mean, why would I talk to them when I have me?’ There may be a little of the expected cynicism in her reply, but there‘s also a hint of vulnerability, ofwanting to be loved.
Surely this can’t be right? Surely Wax relishes the role of rough diamond with a heart ofsolid iron? ‘Not at all.‘ she implores. ‘That’s just not true and I don‘t think that anybody likes living a lie. I have an aggressive style, but that’s to keep the pace ofthe TV shows going. If it was just a talking head, it would be too dull, too relentless. I have people on my show and although the pace is pretty hectic, I think you can see that we really love each other (or at least like each other quite a bit).‘
This is now becoming quite unreal. Ruby’s ; tone is almost pleading. She reiterates the | fact that she will not be nasty to her
audiences on tour and that they have nothing to fear. She also gives the impression of being, of all things. a somewhat frail performer.
‘I get so sick before I go on stage, I‘m completely ill, I can’t tell you,’ she tells me. , So why put yourselfthrough it? ‘I like the ; money. Also, because it‘s what I do. Iwrite. 12The List3— 16 May 1991
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RUBY WAX. Just the name can strike fear into the hearts of mild-mannered suburbanites. Philip Parr ventures out of his semi to find a woman misunderstood.
I write about people’s pretensions and ifI want people to hear what I have to say then this is the only way to do it. It just wouldn’t work on TV, so I might as well tour it. It’s much closer to the real me than what I do on television. I don’t interview people; that’s not my idea of a holiday.’
‘I am a writer first, so everything in the stage show is very tightly scripted and it’s a kinda observation of life, death and birth. I hit on every topic while I sit there, on my sofa, on stage. And also I reveal a kinda person who’s me . . . but it’s funny rather than wanky. It’s not absolutely the real story, it’s kinda painted.’
So, the real Ms Wax is a performer blighted by stage fright, desperate for her audience to warm to her and to see her téte-a-tétes with guests as friendly chats. The stage show, however, proves that any inhibitions are left securely locked in the dressing room. In the hour-and-a-half performance, you can expect the unexpurgated details of childbirth (the existence of Max Wax (age 2) is Ruby’s qualification to discuss the topic), plane crashes and, in an unstoppable diatribe, the French.
These, though, are just the hors-d‘oeuvres. What really gets the Wax goat is the country of her birth. For although she has been resident in Britain for over a decade, the USA still retains that special place in her trash can. '
‘I have a sense of irony that most Americans aren’t born with,’ she says, ‘and being here for fifteen years, my humour has developed in a very British way, you know, not taking yourselftoo seriously. Joan Rivers came over straight off the streets of America where you take yourselfso seriously and I think that they smelt a rat over here. Even as a kid I thought that laughing at yourselfwas quite amusing, I
had that kind of temperament. Nobody in America laughs at themself.’
Least of all in Miami, which rankles above all else in Wax’s world. From the senile residents dying in the sun, to the ultra-bimbos in microscopic bikinis displaying their plastic surgeon’s latest creation, the daggers are out for Florida and its inhabitants.
All of this vitriol would appear to indicate a woman torn between two personalities. There is the artist, perhaps even the tortured
University of Berkeley, then studied at th RSAMD in Glasgow, before joining the
artist, who majored in Theatre at the 1