91-year-old comedian takes center stage
Meet Gert the Joke Lady
Sure, she moves slowly, but Gert Schuster, 91, packs a serious punchline.
"You're 35-years-old and you still believe in genies?"
From her wheelchair, she entertains audiences on cruise ships and at comedy clubs. She calls it sit down comedy.
"A lot of [people] ask, can we call you grandma?"
You can call her "Gert the joke lady."
"Life is a joke," Schuster said.
But that doesn't mean she's had it easy. Fleeing from anti-semitism in Austria, Schuster escaped to the U.S. in the 1930s. Since then, she's battled spinal cancer and says she actually died in 2004 before being revived.
"The paramedics were around the corner, or I wouldn't be here talking to you now," Schuster said.
And now, she makes sure to laugh at least once a day. As we flipped through the pages of her past, she told me about her decades in show business. She performed for years in Ohio at the Cleveland playhouse--America's oldest regional theater--sharing the stage with Paul Newman and Margaret Hamilton, best known for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz.
But even off stage, Schuster has a sharp sense of humor.
"Is that your husband? No, that's my lover," she joked.
Her secrets to a good joke?
"Don't be afraid to give them the best you've got and that includes the pauses," Schuster said.
Eye contact with the audience and if you make a mistake, go with it.
"You can't hide an elephant onstage," she said.
When asked if she ever gets heckled, she said, "Sure! I heckle back and believe me, I win."
After 72 years of sharing laughs with her husband, the jokester and great-grandmother still has a special place in her heart for the audience.
"I just love it. I get so much back. It's not even funny."
Schuster will be performing at the Tempe Center for the Arts in Arizona June 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at tca.ticketforce.com or by calling (480) 350-2822.
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