Would we drink coffee with Anna Russell?
Kristy: Absofragginlutely! Are you kidding me? Of course, I’d drink coffee with Anna Russell! Granted, I’m gonna go for an iced coffee because I totally anticipate it coming out my nose before the meeting is over. We are talking about someone who was once called the funniest woman in the world. And with good reason.
My main source of knowledge about Ms. Russell comes from a podcast of an interview with Shelagh Rogers that Cammy put on a CD for me. At the time of the interview Anna Russell was already in her 80s and still feisty and hysterically funny. Totally the kind of old lady I want to be. It’s also amazing to think of all the things she lived through and everything she achieved as a woman from her time. The entertainment business is still male dominated and comedy even moreso. I’d love to hear her take on the business and all that. Plus, think about people watching with this woman! Basically… I just want to listen to her while trying to not snarf my coffee.
Cammy: YES! Anna Russell is hi-frackin-larious and absolutely brilliant. I was introduced to her by the same Shelagh Rogers podcast I shared with Kristy–CBC Sound’s Like Canada’s Digital Extra.
Her best known work is basically turning classical music into sketch comedy. Her most famous piece–and one included in the Digital Extra–was The Ring of the Niebelungs (An Analysis) which crams the entire Wagner Ring Cycle into a 30 minute sketch that nearly made me pee my pants laughing, and yet, was basically spot on to that massive operatic work. And it’s not just verbal–Russell was a trained and talented musician who basically give you a greatest hits collection. If you know Wagner, you’ll find it hilarious, and if you’re new to opera you will find it far less intimidated after this, I guarantee. And that kind of broad appeal is evidence that this woman was made of awesome.
But more than her work, the interview revealed that this woman was just as much of an entertaining character in real life as on stage. She treats the telling of her own life story with the same kind of hilarity as the telling of the Niebelung Saga. And with the kind of history she has (involvement in the early days of radio, doing time in an English boarding school, immigrating to Canada….) the wealth of information she could turn into gut-busting comedic performance over coffee is basically endless. She claims more than once in her telling of the Niebelung Saga “I’m not making this up, you know!” — she doesn’t need to make it up, because she makes it funny.
Kristy: I just feel like one of us needs to say, “But that’s the beauty of grand opera–you can do anything so long as you sing it!”