Golden Globe winning Comic Icon Ruth Buzzi

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on March 14, 2011

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) – Ruth Ann Buzzi is a Golden Globe winning 5-time Emmy nominated American comedienne and actress of theater, film, and television. She is especially known for her performances on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In from 1968 to 1973.

Ms. Buzzi started her iconic career with stellar musical and comedy reviews from the Catskills to Broadway.  She worked alongside other young, talented performers also beginning their careers at the time, including Barbra Streisand, Joan Rivers, Dom DeLuise, Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett.

Before leaving New York for a career in Los Angeles as a TV star, Buzzi appeared for a year-and-a-half in a Bob Fosse classic Broadway hit, Sweet Charity, with Gwen Verdon in the original cast.  She left the Broadway show to become a regular performer on the Steve Allen Show.  Between New York musical variety shows, Buzzi made numerous national television commercials, some of which won awards including the coveted CLIO.

Once in Hollywood, Ms. Buzzi was featured as a semi-regular on the sitcom That Girl, as Marlo Thomas’ friend. ¬†This while she had been cast as a regular member of the Laugh-In ensemble. ¬† But it was Ms. Buzzi’s character parts on the Steve Allen Show that led her to be cast on Laugh-In. Ruth Buzzi was the only featured player to appear in every episode of Laugh-In including the initial pilot for the show and the Laugh-In TV Specials.

A versatile comedienne, Ms. Buzzi played everything from dowdy old women, to tipsy drunks, to Southern belles to flashy hookers. Among her recurring characters on Laugh-In were Busy-Buzzi, Hollywood gossip columnist; Doris Sidebottom, a cocktail-lounge habitué who always got riotously smashed with husband Leonard (Dick Martin); and one of the Burbank Airlines Stewardesses, teaming with Debbie Reynolds as two totally inconsiderate flight attendants.

But Ms. Buzzi’s most famous character is ¬†Gladys Ormphby, the dowdy spinster¬†clad in drab brown, bun hairdo covered by a visible hair net, knotted in the middle of her forehead. In most sketches, she used her lethal purse, with which she would flail away vigorously at anyone who incurred her wrath. Her primary target was usually comic Arte Johnson.

Buzzi, as Gladys, was featured in most of the Dean Martin Roasts from the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas. Memorable shows included her intense comedic dialogue, ranting about notable roastees including Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, and Lucille Ball. In each case, Gladys Ormphby attacked the honoree with her trademark flailing hand bag.

In 1986, Ms. Buzzi voiced the character Nose Marie in the Hanna Barbera animated series, Pound Puppies. She voiced Mamma Bear in the Berenstain Bears, and did hundreds of guest voices for many other cartoon series. Ms. Buzzi was even featured on Sesame Street in comedy sketch clips from her six years on that show, and is often heard as the voice of outlandish failed torch singer, Susie Kabloozy. ¬†Buzzi was a regular performer on Sesame Street for 6 years, during which time she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work as “Ruthie”.

Buzzi has had featured roles in more than 20 motion pictures including Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, Freaky Friday, The North Avenue Irregulars, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The Villain, and a number of westerns for the European market, known as the Lucky Luke series, in which she played the mother of the Dalton Gang and other roles.

Buzzi received the coveted Golden Globe Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1973 for her work on Laugh-In.

Inducted in 2002 into the Television Hall of Fame (presented by the National Broadcasters Association, which bestowed the honor to Buzzi as well as the producers, director and cast of the top rated television show, Laugh-In.

A Five time Emmy nominee, Buzzi has been nominated by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Awards in several categories from comedy and variety to Best Performer in a Children’s Television Program; she was recognized not only for making people laugh, but for her versatility as an actress; she is remembered for a guest starring dramatic role on Medical Center with Greg Evigan, in which she played the wife of a fatally ill man played by Don Rickles.

Buzzi received a Clio Award for Best Spokesperson in a television commercial for her series of Clorox-2 commercials, and was among the few white women to ever win an NAACP Image Award. Ruth Buzzi guest starred as a music and comedy performer on dozens of prime time television specials, with colleagues including Jonathan Winters, Carol Burnett, Jim Nabors, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wayne Newton, Anne Murray, Rolf Harris, Dom DeLuise, Tony Orlando, and was in a show created for Debbie Reynolds called Aloha Paradise, to name just a few. She appeared 8 times on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and has made more than 200 other television guest appearances.

In 2008, Ruth Buzzi was named a, “Distinguished Woman of Northwood,” by the Board of Regents of Northwood University.

Ruth Buzzi graduated from the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California and was one of the first recipients of the Pasadena Playhouse Alumni Achievement Award along with her former classmates Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman.

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez, was truly honored to talk to Ruth about her body of impressive work.

AC: You have said as a child you discovered that you have a natural gift for comedy, how did that gift manifest and how has it served you over the years in your various incarnations in performance and in life?

RB: I first discovered I could make people laugh in dance class at the age of 10, when I couldn’t hit my marks and was dancing totally out of step with everyone else. The teacher finally realized I’d never “get it” and wrote a special comedic dance routine just for me so that my deficit became and asset, and I’ve been having fun making people laugh ever since!

AC: Where do the iconic characters you have invented come from?

RB: They come from having studied people my whole life…in grocery stores, subways, airports…everywhere! My “old lady with the lethal bag” Gladys Ormphby was originally my version of Agnes Gooch in a school play rendition of the classic Auntie Mame.

AC: You are considered a Comic Icon, along with people like Lucille Ball, how do you view yourself in light of History and your contribution to the comedic art form as we know it today?

RB: I’m honored and humbled to hear my name mentioned in the same breath with Lucy’s. ¬† She became a dear, dear friend of mine and I worked with her several times. I think she was the greatest television comedic episodic actress in history; I think I made my own contribution as a variety artist performing sketches and skits in musical comedy television variety, and history has already been good to me by including me and my fellow Laugh-In cast members in the Television Hall of Fame, by putting me in the Rhode Island Hall of Fame, giving me the Golden Globe Award and honoring me with Emmy Award nominations 5 times. I truly appreciate my peers saying they appreciated my work, even if some other bitches got all my Emmys.

AC: You have mastered almost every performance platform, which is your favorite, stage, screen TV? Which platform do you wish you had more success with?

RB: I like the big screen of motion pictures the best; you have plenty of time to work on and perform each scene, and anything you don’t like can be cut and left on the floor. In fact, I’m not really looking at any projects at this point in my life, which would take me away from our wonderful life in Texas, except for motion pictures…. that’s what I originally had in mind when I entered the world of show business. Of course, I wish I had done more good movies in my lifetime and I think I still have a few good ones left in me!

Okay, folks, start firing those movie scripts my way!

I loved being in the Lucky Luke movie series as Ma Dalton, with Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill, and with the same two genius movie makers in other films we sometimes called “spaghetti westerns” in Hollywood. It was fun playing an old lady in The Villain with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I enjoyed being a crazy street person in Chu Chu and the Philly Flash with Carol Burnett. Does the term “winner” mean anything to you? Bring it!

AC: You were a major force in the inception of variety TV over the years, how do you view the state of Television especially network sitcoms nowadays?

RB: There are so many brilliant young actors, directors and writers today doing a great job with sit-coms. The two best of the last few decades, in my opinion, have been Seinfeld and Everyone Loves Raymond. But we are missing a huge segment of entertainment called “Variety Shows” which include comedy sketches, great music, dancing and great costumes and glamour. The closest we have to that now are American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, both of which I never miss!

AC: Laugh In was a social political phenomena the show changed the way American viewed itself, lots of subtle political comments and innuendo, you never seemed to have a political agenda reflected through your work, were you aware of Laugh In’s impact on society at the time? Did you catch any flak, for your characters?

RB: Abraham Lincoln was a great thinker; one of my favorite quotes from him goes something like this, ¬†“I don’t know the formula for success, but the surest formula for failure is to try to please everyone.” Of course, we created some waves when we made fun of the government back when it wasn’t very fashionable to do so. But we didn’t take a political stance other than to poke fun as equally as possible at all politicians who showed the tender underbellies of hypocrisy, greed or insincerity….which included lots of them from both sides of the political aisle. At the time, all we thought we were doing was having a lot of fun at work; little did we know, we were helping to change the perspectives of millions of viewers in subtle ways, making them more politically aware, causing them to think, rather than to just accept everything the government was shoveling their direction at the time.

In the end, we probably helped Richard Nixon get elected because his timely appearance on TV’s most popular show presented him in a way the audience never saw him before…¬†likable¬†and approachable. The ironic thing is, he wasn’t so friendly and most of us never even got to shake his hand or say “hello” because he was surrounded by Secret Service agents and close associates, and he just walked in, did his, “Sock it to me?” line a few times for the camera, spun on his heel and walked out. He didn’t ask to be introduced to 7 or 8 of the most popular stars on television at the time, and left us standing there in amused silence.

AC: Most of today’s comics work Blue, what is your opinion of the pervasiveness of crude vulgar often times hurtful comedy today?

RB: I dislike overtly “blue” material, especially when women do it. We don’t need wanton vulgarity, “F-bombs” and such to be funny….and if we think we have to resort to that to get laughs, we need to sharpen our writing skills! I remember having lunch with Joan Rivers in New York 40+ years ago to tell her I thought she was being misled by the overwhelmingly appreciative (largely gay) audiences to whom she was performing at the time – – – they responded so strongly and eagerly to her “blue” humor that I feared she would steer her act too far in that direction. Little did I know she had the comedic genius to reign that back in a bit for more conservative audiences? She’s done quite well… in fact, she’s one of our premiere comedic performers in the world and I love her as a friend. I’d still like to take scissors to her club act; though… call me an old prude! By the way, gay audiences are the best ones for any female performer, in my opinion. They love their girls – – – Kathy Griffin, Joan, Ellen, Lily…..on and on. And they buy CD’s! I just think women lose some of their innate feminist when they get “dirty” on stage, so I’ve kept my work mostly PG-13 (Parental Guidance, 13 or older please).

AC: Your friend Steve Allen said, Pain plus time equals Humor, what do you think he meant by that?

RB: Let’s think up the most painful occasion we can imagine: You are on your way to a wedding; you’re the guest singer. Your car gets a flat tire in the rain and you’re out of cell phone range. You have to change the tire in a white dress, get soaked, and make it to the wedding filthy with wet hair just in time to sing “Evergreen.” Not funny on Wedding Day but it gets rather humorous in telling the story over dinner with friends later. Pain – – plus time – – often does equal humor.

AC: You are a Golden Globe winner and have been nominated for Emmy’s many, many times what does that kind of recognition do for ones career?

RB: As I mentioned before, its wonderful knowing people in your own peer group appreciate what you do. I think it’s terrific we have awards in our industry, but I’d also love to see more national TV awards programs honoring greatness in fire fighting, nursing, teaching, medical research, police work, etc.

AC: Tell us about 6 years on Sesame Street? And working on Children’s projects? How different is it than working on Adult projects.

RB: My good friend Kinky Friedman says, “Always treat adults like children and children like adults.” There must be something to that….it seems to work for me. Now, be sure to eat your vegetables and wash behind your ears…. No, seriously, Sesame Street is only one of dozens of children’s television shows on which I’ve been an on-camera actor (like the Lost Saucer with Jim Nabors, Betsy Lee’s Ghost Town Jamboree, You Can’t Do That On Television, and playing Screech’s mom on Saved by the Bell) and as a voice over artist (Granny Good witch, the voice of Mama Bear on Bernstein Bears, playing Nose Marie on Pound Puppies cartoon shows, and as the voice of crazy singer Suzie Kabloozie and lots of other comedy characters on PBS’s Sesame Street). The preparation for kids’ shows is exactly the same as for adults…comedy is serious business! You have to respect the fact that kids are very smart, and they know when you’re condescending (By the way, condescending means talking down to someone.)

AC: You left the Glitz of LA many years ago to live another lifestyle with your husband in Texas; do you miss the town and all the drama?

RB: If you see me in Los Angeles, please call the police because I’ve been kidnapped and drug back there against my will! (Unless I’m working on a good movie part!) I have so many dear friends in LA that I miss, but I don’t miss the traffic, smog, and pace of living and other factors that make our ranch in Texas our “heaven on earth.”

AC: Tell us about your stellar Rolls Royce collection.

RB: The Rolls Royce collection is really my husband’s hobby; he started collecting Bentleys and Rolls Royce automobiles long before he married me. I’ve never really been “into” cars. I refer to them all as “Buckets of Bolts.” I drive a Chevy Silverado truck, which I love. Kent bought me a new black Bentley Continental Coupe in 1998; he sold it last summer with less than 12,000 miles on it, most of which were put on it by him! I never drove it because I didn’t want people to stare at me, I disliked worrying about parking it and leaving it unattended, and I prefer to sit up high and see over traffic in my big truck. One by one, Kent is shifting from cars to cows… he’s given several nice cars to charity over the past few years and continues to weed out his (15-car) garage to make more room for farm tractors, 4-wheelers and trucks.

AC: What kind of advice would you give to the Lindsey Lohan’s and the Charlie Sheens of today’s world?

RB: I’d remind them of Freddie Prinze, John Belushi, Elvis Presley, River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain and others who’ve proven that “tiger blood” can be very fragile.

AC: You seemed to have embraced new media, and new media is starting to embrace you; how can people view your body of work and communicate with you?

RB: You can join Twitter and send me a Tweet! I personally answer all of them. If not the day you send them, I try to get around to checking for messages soon. You can send questions to me through Twitter with #AskAuntRuthie as a tag line, and I’ll be sure to see them because I scan for that frequently. Many of the funny questions and answers come from interested fans and friends across the Internet.

I love communicating on Twitter; Email has gotten burdensome and Facebook is cumbersome with the maximum number of “friends” – – I stay 300 to 400messages behind because Facebook‚Äôs computer safeguards keep me from answering dozens of questions when I have time…they shut me down as a potential spammer! So Twitter is my communiqu√© of choice these days. I’m @Ruth_A_Buzzi on there, and still waiting for the blue check mark which verifies my really being the actual Ruth Buzzi… but they’ll give me one eventually. I even sent a personal note on my own embossed letterhead to the CEO of Twitter! I included a glossy publicity picture signed to him personally! I even stuffed the address label from a magazine sent to my home, so he would know it was really me! Still, no blue check mark! (Did I mention his name is Dick?)

AC: What are a few things still on your Bucket List?

RB: I’d love to tell Warner Brothers, “Sorry, I’m booked for the next 4 years, as much as I’d love to work with Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Tell them Aunt Ruthie sends kisses and hugs.”

AC: What would you like your legacy to be? How would you like the world to remember you?

RB: I’d just like to me remembered as a caring person who loved to make people laugh, who never intentionally hurt anyone, who left the world a slightly happier place for having visited it for a while. And at my funeral I would love for someone to stand over my open casket and utter these words:
“Wait a minute! She’s moving!”

Jes Alexander March 14, 2011

1. Why the h*ll are you not the season finale guest on SNL, this season? 2. Since I just had a (AHEM) birthday, is Kent looking to hand off another Bentley? People can stare at me all they wish.

Thank you, Miss Ruthie, for taking the time to grace the pages of our publication.

Jes Alexander, Publisher
Herald de Paris et Cie.

Johnny Hernandez March 14, 2011

Wonderful interview Al, what an honor to meet and converse with such a talented, truly gifted but down to earth artist and Icon. Thank you for this uplifting article and keep up the splendid job you’re doing Doctor!

Theresa Cox March 15, 2011

A most pleasant reading about a wonderful artist. Great job!

Ruth Buzzi March 15, 2011

Thank you Al Carlos for the terrific interview; it’s so great to see an interview in which I wasn’t misquoted! Excellent job and now I’m a fan of yours!
Love and peace to you and your readers, Ruthie

Brian Rachlin March 15, 2011

Excellent interview. Congratulations to Ms. Buzzi on a loge and eventful career.

Oogie Hundley March 16, 2011

Wonderful interview on a lady that gave us many laughs and good times to remember. I am glad to know she is so happy and enjoying life to the fullest.

Joe Bartlett March 20, 2011

what a wonderful article, You are incredible!

tommy moore August 16, 2012

Wonderful interview, as always!

tommy moore August 16, 2012

Great interview, as always!

Antoinette Chavez August 16, 2012

I Love Ruth Buzzi ! I rememberalways looking forward to watching “Laugh In” and enjoyed Ms Buzi’s great talent. This Article is wonderful Excellent Job as always you are the best writer Al Carlos and you interview the most interesting Articles and Gifted people.

Sarcasmo January 30, 2013

Ya gotta LOVE Ruth Buzzi… she is one of the GREAT women comediennes of all time. Love her on Laugh-In, That Girl and especially, on Sesame Street. She should go back to good ole Sesame Street. Love her on it.

She looks great for her age, as always and she is definitely, along with Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett… an Icon.

Leave a comment