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Before we get on with today's episode, I just wanted to beg you all to buy my new book. You might as well be completely upfront and open about it. That's what I would love you to do. You can preorder philosophy now at the Waterstones website. In fact, you can preorder a signed copy is out on the 1st of October. I would love to read it. It is a distillation of everything that I've learned in the last two and a half years of talking ceaselessly about failure to lots of amazing people.


It is packed full of inspirational quotes from past guests and loads of practical wisdom for how to get through tough patches in life.


It is organized, according to Savan, failure principles. If you come to one of my life shows, you might have heard me go through them. And it's just an expansion of that, really. But you can read it in one sitting. It's not that long. Or you can dip into it as and when certain themes seem to be applicable to you. It's also beautifully illustrated, not by me, I hasten to add, but by the amazing illustrator orgullo.


Anyway, if you would like to preorder it, I would be incredibly grateful. So just had to w w w dot waterstone's dot com. And on top of that, if, for instance, you wanted to buy the book and a ticket to see me life, you can now come and see me at the London Palladium. I am doing excitingly a socially distanced show where they have all the safety measures in place. You book in Hassel Bubbles. That's going to happen on the 2nd of October.


It's my only launch event for the new book and you can buy a ticket that includes a book in the ticket. If you can't come to London or you'd rather not, then you can also join me on the livestream. And it's going to be a really fun evening. I'm going to be doing a bit of a spiel at the beginning. Then I'm going to be interviewed by the fantastic Ravensworth Bravo columnist and funniest man on Instagram, I think. Anyway, hashtag TTM.


Then they will be a Q&A and there will be some very, very special guests on the night as well. So if that interests you, please go to w w dot fan. That's f a m e doco. Dot UK are now on with the episode.


Hello and welcome to How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, the podcast that celebrates the things that haven't gone right.


This is a podcast about learning from our mistakes and understanding that why we fail ultimately makes us stronger, because learning how to fail in life actually means learning how to succeed better. I'm your host, author and journalist, Elizabeth Day, and every week I'll be asking a new interviewee what they've learned from failure. My guest today has had two notable careers. The first was as a professional, funny woman, she trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, joined the RSG, discovered a gift for comedy, became a TV star, and fronted a brilliant interview series where she met and chatted to everyone from Donald Trump to the Spice Girls.


The second career is as a mental health campaigner, a woman who, after leaving television, completed a master's degree in mindfulness based cognitive therapy at Oxford University. Her dissertation became a sellout stage show, the first of many.


She then went on to write three bestselling books on mental health, including Sane New World and How to Be Human A and was awarded an OBE in 2015. She is, of course, the wonderful Ruby Wax. Now, I wanted Ruby on the podcast.


Ever since I started to fail because she has been such a pioneer for people like me in speaking openly about the things that go wrong and offering us hope. In 2017, she launched Frazzled Cafe, where people who are feeling not OK can meet on a regular basis to talk and share their personal stories during lockdown. Ruby took the Frazzled Cafe onto Zoome and her new book. And now for The Good News is an informative and humorous guide to all the things we can be positive about in the future.


As she put it in an interview last year, it was out of the darkness. That light came in. But for years, Ruby kept her depression under wraps, telling her husband, TV producer Ed, by only five minutes before they got married. It wasn't until she checked into a clinic years later that she realized how widespread mental health issues were and what impact she could make by speaking out. My belief is that being vulnerable isn't being weak, she writes in her new book.


It's being human.


Ruby Wax preached to that. Thank you so much for coming on. Hard to fail.


Thank you. I can only fail. I knew that that was going to be my badge of honor. I'm delighted you're the ideal guest.


How are you today? How vulnerable are you feeling today?


Not that vulnerable because, you know, you need a reason to get up in the morning. And I know this sounds a little trite, but and I don't want to push it. But Frazzle Cafe that I do every day at five thirty, it's my anchor because I'm looking at a sea of sometimes up to one hundred people and they have the same expression on their face that I do, which isn't. Yeah. How you doing? Oh, I'm fine.


I don't want to hear that anymore. I want to slap somebody.


It's not like they have to feel terrible, but just give me a few more details. You know, I always say to the people, give me the weather condition inside your head and then I'll relax, because that's when you go, oh, yeah, he's like me. She's like me. I'm such a good question. The weather condition inside your head, because suddenly that makes it available. It gives you the vocabulary that you need to express yourself.


You're not shrinking them. You know, there's no therapy. I'm just saying go below the radar. Don't give me the news, please. Everybody is like it's like The Walking Dead. You know, people want to talk about the news. I said, well, I can watch it. We're in another realm here. We should have been here before. You know, when people speak from the heart, that's community. You can do as many people weekends as you want.


You're not going to connect.


I hadn't realized that frazzled is a technical term. I read you saying that in an interview somewhere. What does it mean?


Yeah, it's a neurobiological term. You see how honest I was. I didn't know that frazzled is state. I have the actual definition, but not in front of me. It's when you focus on the stress and it becomes so extreme that you can't focus on the mission at hand. So now you're getting stressed about stress and that's a new phenomenon or anxious about anxiety. It's that constant parade of thoughts that sound like your mother's living in your forehead that streams through.


And that's what creates now the mental distress. It's that thought straight and I could talk about why it's there, but I did that in How to be Human in the book as to why we get the ticker tape parade. And thank God we have it because it was basically for our survival. So we have to live in peace with it. And B, I always think talking is half the cure. The minute it's out of your mouth, it's kind of dispersed into the community and a group can handle stuff, whereas an individual really can't.


So the Frazzle Cafe is all about community. And in your new book, and not for the good news, you also talk about the fundamental importance of community cohesion and inclusion. How long has it taken for you to feel included in something? I never feel included.


Ever since I was a kid, I didn't feel American. I'm not sure what sex I am during the day. I don't have a label which is really dangerous. I didn't do it on purpose. It's just that my parents were so weird living in America that I was from another planet. That's what it felt like. And then when I got to the UK, I also was a freak of nature. So I never feel part of a group until I went to either the mental institution.


These are my people and the frizzled and they are the one in four necessarily there. Everybody is. Soon as somebody says to me what's going on, the what's the weather condition in their mind, they don't have to go on long then I feel there in my community. So my community's gotten quite large. It may be the reason for writing. And now for the good news and now for the good news. Dot, dot, dot to the future with love.


We may or may not include that, but it's on the cover because I was looking for community, I wanted to change my life again. And so for the last two years, I went on a hunt to find where people were doing things that weren't constantly pummeling us with. It's never going to work. The world is coming to an end. I shouldn't have children. It's a disaster. So I intentionally took my attention to where people were doing really innovative stuff, because wherever you focus, your attention defines who you are.


So I was having a good day for the last two years, you know, and it wasn't living in my house in London. I want to come back to that.


But do you really mean that about not knowing what sex you are on any given day?


No. I mean, I kind of know, but religion. No, I know it's exciting, but I don't have a solid identity and I'm not proud of it. It's just the way it is. Maybe that's part of the I'm not mentally ill every day of the week, but that could be this loss of identity. My parents didn't give me any identity except that I was an idiot. That was my identity. So you can see why. Moving away from my initial identity, you talk in the book about.


The value of kindness and not just a community value, but it's also something that has socio economic value as well, isn't it?


Yeah, I mean, I never used the compassion word, you know, the C word. I always flinch slightly that we're being a little greeting card with a kitty cat on the front. But now researching this stuff, I have to say, even when Darwin said survival of the fittest, it's so interesting. He didn't mean the toughest. He didn't mean the Alpha. It was misinterpreted by Herbert Spencer during the industrial age to mean the tough guy wins, you know, so he could justify the fact that he was ripping everybody off and making people his slaves.


But by fittest, Darwin meant the people that can adapt to other people, the people with compassion, the people who could make other people feel good. That's the fittest. That's what he meant. I certainly was educated thinking the Gordon Gecko thing of you have to be an asshole to survive. And that was all a fallacy. So now I'm starting to say, wait a minute, because I said in my last book, I thought it was we had a reptilian brain and then a higher brain, but we were more in the fight and flight state.


It turns out now we were born with this kindness. I mean, that's certainly how a mother grows a baby's brain. If she doesn't, you know, make those mothers noises and it and they do. But I don't even know. Suddenly it comes out of your mouth. You think I didn't study this? And the rocking that's passed is this oxytocin and that grows the baby's brain. And then the baby starts to realize it's safe and it has a little imprint for the rest of its life that the world is safe.


If you didn't get it. I'm including myself. You know where my mother goes. Oh, I dropped the baby. If you didn't get it, you really spend a lifetime looking for that acceptance. If you begin with that, it really is a good template for the rest of your life. But most people begin because even if you're defective, most mothers, I don't know how nature knew this get filled with this kind of love juice. Just you may not know it, but she is unless she's really psychopathic.


But that's how you grow a baby. So we begin like that and then people start to say, oh, you're not good enough. Teachers tell you you're not smart enough. You start to have experiences and that becomes your default mode.


One of the things that I loved about your new book is The Robot, which I'd never heard of before because I love a part anyway.


But tell us what the robot is.


Oh, there's a tech chapter where I was trying to find the good news there. Well, who knew that zoo was going to come along? And if you can't feel anybody or touch them, you know, we can now at least look in the whites of each other's eyes unless it's a business meeting and that oxytocin, that bonding chemical does turn on over a screen. Who knew that? So I could have written about that. But it was before the virus.


But there are these little gadgets, especially for elderly. There isn't a generation really to take care of them and there's not enough nurses. It started in Japan where there really isn't a younger generation to take care of them. There's so many elderly people there. There's just been a boom and not enough of the younger generation. So it senses your feelings, your emotions, and it can make gestures that look like compassion. And they put their arms up for affection and they make noises.


It's like a purring cat, except in a lot of elderly homes. They won't allow cats. I'm not saying this is the answer, but I'm just saying as far as taking care of a certain group in a bad loneliness and feeling unloved is a killer. People don't thrive as long if they feel that alone. It's a chemical thing that happens. It disintegrates the brain. So you use these artificial things. People are going to be appalled. But it does have a high success rate with the elderly and then with kids with certain learning disabilities.


It memorizes certain personality traits so it knows when to speak. You can exchange greetings with it and it helps them with their homework. I think it sort of understands the autistic mind, but I'm not totally for that. What I think is now interesting, those are just a couple of things on the market is now there's bots that do CBT. Well, that's really interesting. So that CBT is very technical. You know, it asks you, what are you thinking?


Is this a repeated pattern? How can you be validated? And then by watching how your thinking is so habitual, it makes you reassess. Oh, maybe this is a habit and this bot is open all night. It doesn't cost very much. And it is what a shrink does. It isn't supposed to give empathy. It's just supposed to make you understand the habits of your mind. And there's no waiting list for it and there's no waiting list.


Yeah, we're in desperate situations now. There's not enough shrinks. That's so I have frazzled because there's a big population out there. The Quakers had it right and maybe religion had it right. Is that, again, if you can have a community to back you, it might just. Protect you from the oncoming full tsunami of a mental illness, it just might there's another thing, though, if you're talking about the tech side, they're teaching kids emotional intelligence.


I thought this was good. So when there's a bad guy, the kids get more points. If they try to figure out why he's a bad guy, like, did he get a divorce last week? Maybe he couldn't find a parking space. So kids artificially learn how to feel empathy.


It's brilliant that you speak in your work about the idea that we are not our fault, which I think is such a good phrase. And you've mentioned your parents a couple of times, and I wonder if I could ask you about your childhood. So your parents were Austrian Jews who left Austria in 1938 because of the Nazi threat and your father was a sausage casing salesman, is that right?


Yeah. So proud. Yeah, I always said he was a fashion designer for hot dogs. I like to just bump it up just to buy, you know, like I'm no slouch. He was like the guy who's really famous now, you know, the Michael Kors salami. So don't look at me like that.


But did you at some fundamental level not feel safe around your parents?


Well, sorry to push this, but I wrote a book called How Do You Want Me, which was the first book I ever wrote. And it was about sort of taking the line from my parents. I didn't even have to edit. What came out of their mouth was genius as far as going to the dark side. So much so that Carrie Fisher edited it for me and she said, your parents are almost as nuts as mine are. You can't get a better review than that.


I mean, they were wild.


They were there dismissive, saying hello. I don't know if you're thinking that's mother. No, my daughter is a mother more.


You know, I just wild and said great lines like who brings footprints into a building when I used to come in with sand on my feet and she'd be scrubbing behind me on the shag pile because she couldn't stand dust or dirt. But that wasn't the only problem. But they had these Austrian kind of Gestapo siren voices. So even though I didn't come from Nazi Germany, I felt it. They brought the war to our kitchen look. And I think they used me as a kind of grenade that they tossed to each other.


So it wasn't a great beginning.


And you were an only child as well.


Yeah. So I was the only football in town and I thought that was normal up until I started telling people and they said, no, that's not normal. I told my aunt when I tell them stories, they thought it was fantasy. And I said, my dad took me to South America. Right. Our family, because he wanted to point out some people who were Nazis, they used to do that. And they went to South America and he did point a few out.


But while we were in Chile, I was about 10. He left me and went to the airport to teach me a lesson that I should be on time with sixteen dollars to get to the airport. I was nowhere near that. So as a young kid, I had to figure out how do you find an airport? And it was just about at war at that time. They were seriously out of control. But then, you know, they did that show.


How do you want me? And now I I understand.


It's interesting that you mentioned Carrie Fisher there.


And I know you two were very close because sometimes I wonder how much a difficult childhood gives you a drive to succeed and prove your parents wrong.


Do you think that's part? No, I don't. I think there's just as many kids who are stunted by it. You know, some kids might have successful parents and they can't get out of their rooms. It's Russian roulette. People always think mental illness is carried. Well, if you have any brothers and sisters, are they all mentally ill? We just don't know, you know, that we have to put up our hands and say this brain is so complex that we're only in the foothills.


I don't know. And I don't agree that all comedians have mental illness because one in four people aren't that funny.


In the book, you also write about the future of education and community.


So tell us a bit about that. Well, that's how I came up with this concept that it is going to be community that's going to move us into a healthier future. So I went to Finland to see how they educate kids and they said they don't want Nobel Prize winners. They just want kids to feel safe and feel that they have a reason to be on Earth. So I watch these classrooms where they put the smartest kids with kids that aren't that great.


And you watch the kids who are smart in that area really get pride out of helping the other kids. And all of them are encouraged to ask really stupid questions. You almost get a better grade because those are the kids that think out of the box. So there's no them and us. You know, I got a higher grade because if you keep believing like me that we're stupid, we will become even more stupid and we could grow some really angry adults if you keep putting other people down, like.


And there are schools in the U.K. like there's something called reach to where those kids work as a little community, they have buddies that they have every morning. They get in a little circle and say, here's what I like about you. I mean, it sounds touchy feely, but their grades are sensational. Now, I did actually go to communities, which I was going to move to for a little while after I finished the book. There's these eco villages that sound really hippy, but they're not.


Some of them are very impressive now. And there is about 10000 where if you want to do zero emissions, I always say get off the pot and live there or shut up.


So I did find these communities where some of them are have two thousand people and there's professors in there and startups and whatever. But they have to adhere to these rules, which are they have to be transparent, there has to be quality and there has to be authenticity when they make decisions. There are little communities in there in cities, too. There's one in London called Bed Z and it's in South London. It's a community where everybody has their own plot in the garden.


They all watch the kids. They have community centers where women who have babies take care of each other. Where does that happen? And this is in the middle of a city. I wanted to move to Banzet just for a little while. There's that feeling in your heart that people have got your back, but also in business, because I thought business was what my dad said it was, which is May the best man screw you. There are now companies.


I went to work at Patagonia, the sportswear company in America, where for 40 years they walk the talk. So 10 percent of their money goes to environmental causes. Each person has to commit to working locally. When they advertise their merchandise, they say, please never buy another one if you bought a jacket. If something goes wrong, send it back. We'll fix it and send it back to you. Everything's recycled. I have a jacket that's fantastic made out of plastic bottles and there are companies that I went to visit where they're changing the bones inside.


There's a book called Conscious Capitalism, and it names those companies and they make a lot of money. This is not alternative. So it is community that is the glue that holds society together.


And I think one of the linking factors in all of those communities is that everyone or everything be a school people or a jacket is given space to fail completely.


Completely, because they're the creative thinkers. Yeah. In twenty years, the jobs that we have now won't exist. So what are you stuffing into a kid's head? 60 percent of eight year olds will have jobs that don't exist now, but it'll be creativity and empathy. That'll be the Gold Star standard. You know, if you really know how to work a crowd, you're going to go to Harvard.


How do you feel personally about failure, Ruby? Well, I think I am the result of being able to tolerate failure because it came so hot and heavy and with each gash in the stomach, some people would go under. I mean, I come from a long line of people with serious mental illness and some of them didn't survive. But I must have had a gene. And I think it was anger that said to my parents, I'm not going to go under.


I'm not going to be institutionalized for life, which my dad thought was going to happen. I'm going to show you that I can be more successful than you. So I got successful through rage. And that's not really good for your health. That's why I switched careers. But boy, does it get success, success through rage. I love it, especially because women historically have been taught to sideline rage, that their rage is seen as kind of inward and hysterical and shrill, slightly embarrassing, whereas men can be rageful and they can be Batman childlike.


Yeah, like, well, Gordon Gekko, I have his quote. We thought, wow, that guy on Wall Street, he almost became a hero and he was Attila the Hun. You know, all these guys, we slightly smirk and go where they cute in a way, Napoleon, Alexander the Great look, they were just doing their job. If it was a woman, forget it. We'd be burned at the stake. So true.


I'm going to come on to your feelings now. There's no easy link.


Just just jump jump in there.


But your first failure is about wanting to be on Saturday Night Live. So tell us what happened.


Well, I always wanted to make it in America. And every time I touched anything in America, it blew up. It just exploded. It didn't work. So after I was in the Royal Shakespeare Company, I thought, surely I must be good because I was a terrible actress before the RSG and probably during the RSI. But Alan Rickman taught me how to be funny. He took me under his wing and he worked with me for thirty years teaching me how to do comedy.


So I leave the RC, I think, oh boy am I hot stuff. I go to New York. I'm sorry.


Did he teach you to be funny in that way? How did he teach you comedy? Alan Rickman. Well, you can't really teach comedy, but Alan said write down. How you think or it's being he said there were 200 pages of me riffing stream of consciousness, and he said it was like I vomited on him. So he put all the pages together and a play came out of it. And then I put in Juliet Stevenson and I put it quite famous people and gave myself the lead so I could write funny.


That was the first thing. He was the one that pointed it out. I thought I was illiterate, but it turns out my dyslexia worked for me because it makes it more like jazz rather than a waltz. And then I get on stage and he directed all my shows and he said, No, no, no, you look desperate. You want people to laugh, get rid of those Hatchard eyes. And it took me 30 years. He said, just say they need show me.


And he was hilarious. And I really couldn't get rid of the desperation for many years. And now I get what he means, just kind of don't give a shit and then people will come to you. If you're desperate, they back off. So, you know, first of all, I could write funny. You can't. I just had to learn how to do my own lines better.


And it's as if you needed to have someone who believed in you. Oh, yeah, he was. If it wasn't for him, I would be well, I don't even know where I'd be. And he'd tell my parents she's really funny. Go. That's ridiculous. My father, they're laughing at her. They're not laughing with her. And Rickman would say, Oh, no, Mr. Wax, she's very talented. So he saved me. So I thought I was really funny.


And I got to New York thinking, I'll just make it in New York and I go to the Brill office and they say there are no auditions for Saturday. And I said, sometimes I'm nuts. Oh, well, I demand to see the people in charge of the show. It was six o'clock at night. They got some pretty big players into an office on a sofa looking at me, three of them. And they said, OK, be funny.


I don't even want to discuss what happened. I couldn't be with oh, I had a full attack in front of them talking about some madness.


Madness came out of my mouth and I saw their faces, the disappointment. And then Al Sharpton, somebody really famous, said, do you want to go out and have a drink? I think he felt sorry for me. And we went to a bar and I got so drunk that he just left me there. So that was.


Oh, my God. Yeah. Oh, yeah. That was bad. That was my audition. And I got on for hours about how funny I was.


What a nightmare that is.


One of the things that I often think with actors and comedians, the stress, the performance and the requirement audition must just be horrendous.


To get into the RC. I auditioned and I didn't audition a lot in my life, but that was truly grotesque, grotesque. If you can write your own show, you never have to audition again.


Tell us a little bit about the RNC, because I know that that's one of the things that your friends find extraordinary, that that you ended up that know, my friends say there's two mysteries in their lives.


One is who shot Kennedy? And two is how did you get into the RC? That I hear from a lot of people. I was in drama school and I was a total failure. There's another failure to the point that you're paying to go to drama school. But I didn't get any parts. Imagine that in all the plays. Once I was like a waitress, somebody and restoration comedy who had no lines. And finally at the end, my class went to the principal and said, I don't think that's fair, that she doesn't get a part.


Anyway, what happened was then you had to compete at the very end and well, that's when I auditioned. But I knew how to play madness like nobody's business. So I played madness. I think it was then Tiffany or something, and that won me the gold medal. And then I mentioned the principal then and said his head should roll. My dad and I have a really good sense of revenge anyway. Then from there I eventually got into the RC because I could play that scene.


I remember Trevor Nunn watching, I think in John Barton and they were one of them was eating ice cream and the ice cream fell on his tie because I was so insane. I wasn't good, but I could play crazy. And then I got in and I met Rickman. I met him before I got into Sheffield. But the Crucible before the RC and we lived in the same house. We were boyfriend and girlfriend, but we called it Shakespeare Sona.


It had one wall that was all tin foil and we would tell people this is where Shakespeare and Inspire people would believe us and we give tours to our house. Rickman was hilarious. And then gradually he said, you should do comedy because you're not a very good actress. A lot of people said you're not a very good actress, especially my dad, when he came to see me. But Rickman said, I bet you're funny. So that's how it happened when you were playing madness.


At this stage in your life, how much were you aware that that. Came from your own mental health? Oh, I speak. Are you kidding? Yeah, that was just somebody exploding, but calling it Antigoni, but I could really play madness and then I could do wenches. That's how I got ahead in the RC. And nobody ever played a wench, I think, like I did. And Michael Jordan was in Love's Labour's Lost. He played my boyfriend and I was a pretty good wage.


I hate my stomach up to make it, you know, so I could really have a cleavage and I'd speak that Shakespearean. You know, they do those art. Oh, yes, kind sir. Which is not far away from Chicago. And I had my little Bo Peep stick. I could be killed in those days.


When you scared of your madness, probably.


I don't really remember. I mean, when you have a mental illness like mine, it's not all the time. So when it goes away, it's gone. Now, I wouldn't say got mental illness, so it would only come once every five years and then once every three years. And then it started to accelerate. I wasn't scared. I just at that point assumed I had a physical disease like glandular fever. And that's what made me unable to move.


Sometimes for a few days, I'd check into a hotel and wait for it to pass and then I'd come out again. I assumed it was a physical disease, so I didn't think I was mad. When I started telling Ellen about my family, he said, write it down. So that's how I started. I could play my parents like a dream.


You must Miss Rickman an awful lot. I'm so sorry.


Yeah. Yeah, I do.


How did you get from Evanston, Illinois to Glasgow? I mean, obviously, physically, you've already got a plane, but why did you end up there? Oh, speaking of failures, I got to London and I was living in a bedsit where you had to squat over the plastic coals to feel any heat, and they were just flickering. They didn't provide heat, but I actually sat on a hairdryer to survive the winter. I'm not joking. I auditioned for all the schools like Rada, every single school, maybe twice.


And they nobody let me in. But Glasgow did because they were looking for lunatics. So my parents had a big discussion, which I heard should they send me to an institution or drama school? And they figured out drama school was cheaper. So off I went to Glasgow and then to their surprise, I never came back.


And why were you in London in the first place? Was that just wanting to get away from home? Yeah. Yeah, sure. I wanted to get away from home, so I was here.


So you failed to get onto Saturday Night Live? I failed to get into every drama school.


But you did eventually get an incredible career in comedy and you wound up meeting your hero, Paul McCartney, which is your second fight. Yeah, and I'm so intrigued by the story because you just give me the barest bones. So give me the context. Why were you meeting him?


I came really to England to marry Paul McCartney. That was another failure.


Ruby tell me. I lied when I was little, like 11. I iron my hair so I could look like Jane Asher. And all of it fell out mostly except three strands that were burnt. There were no mini skirts. I stole my mom's skirt and I got my grandmother's girdle and opened the zipper and then tucked the girdle over it so the skirt would start at my hips. Are you getting the look? Yeah. And then galoshes for the go go boots.


And that's how I looked. I think I drew some eyelashes, you know, the spider eyelashes on your eyes. And I was an ugly child. And so I decided I would go to England. I used to call the Liverpool operator from Chicago so I could hear her accent and I'd giggle and hang up. A lot of my friends did.


We just become hysterical. So I came to the UK.


My parents gave me some money, but it was like a hundred dollars then. And after I was in Girls on Top, when we really have to jump ahead, I think one of the kids really liked girls on top. So I got invited to a Buddy Holly evening because people like Buddy Holly. So it was a buffet. Jonathan Ross was the emcee. We got food and then we could go to any table. I went to Paul McCartney's table and my husband came up to sit next to me.


I went I went, get out of here. You know, I don't know you because I'm on the inner sanctum now. So I'm in the center. There's Linda McCartney. The kids are young and Hank Wakeford or somebody some country Western singer. I started drinking because I was a wreck and Hank Wynford left all the kids left because now I wasn't making sense again. I got to Linda McCartney. She left and now I'm with Paul and I'm really throwing it back.


And all I remember is Paul trying to say something like, Oh, I played in Hamburg. I knew that because I studied and he was called the Silver Beatles. I knew everything, but I went, Yeah, yeah, yeah, enough about you. I was in Beverly Hills High School doing a shorthand, of course, and I proceeded to tell him a story. And I remember the story, which is funny, but it really wasn't appropriate.


When I was having a nervous breakdown, I went to a night school in Beverly Hills. I don't know what I was doing there many years earlier because I had a friend there and I went on a shorthand course because I was in the midst of a breakdown. And every week we learn shorthand. And then after four weeks we had a test and I sat there and the bell rang. And when I handed in, she called me forward and all I had written was Loop's just loop's.


I had thought I was doing shorthand, but that's a good story, but not to Paul McCartney.


So he was looking at me and then I drank so much. Well, I ended up under the dining table and Paul came and lifted the tablecloth and said, Nice meeting you, Ruby. Oh, I'm crushing girls on top.


But she mentioned there was the first comedy show that you were on in Britain with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders heard of them. I'm Tracey Ullman. And it was a huge hit. Did he recognize you? Did he know? Yeah, he knew what? He must have known who I was. And I've seen him a couple times since then. And he just act really normally go, hi, Ruby and I did my Saturday Night Live to him. I went, Yeah, that's how I talked to Paul McCartney.


You actually shy. And I don't know, I don't think so if I'm intimidated like I was when I met Donald Trump, I clam up pretty quick because they scare me. So that's not shy. That's fair. And it's not a specifically male thing.


Do you think are you more scared of. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Certain types of men scare me because they remind me of my dad that they're violent and they mean to hurt me. So when I see that type of man, I freeze. Yeah, you mentioned Donald Trump there, who you interviewed in your series Ruby Wax meets, which I was obsessed with when it was on TV.


Thank you. All right. Laughter I think you're such an amazing interviewer. So it's actually very intimidating for me interviewing you. But there is this scene on Donald Trump's private jet. And I watched it again in preparation for this interview. And it is astonishing how you can see exactly the person that he is in that interaction. What do you tell us about. I'm sorry to ask you to revisit it when you've just said that it was a horrible experience, but just tell us about your impressions of him.


My girlfriend was the makeup artist and she had to take his two hairs and a nose hair and swirl it like a Mr. Tastee or whatever it is around his head. There was a lot of waiting for him. And the second he sat down, I was washed away in the hatred he had for me washed. And so it's a terrible interview. I'm asking stupid questions. He's right. It was obnoxious because I couldn't again, I didn't go into Saturday Night Live, but, oh, if you were dating somebody in the way, what kind of question is that?


If I just shut up and said, oh, you want to be president of the United States instead of laughing, I could have hung him. Tell me what your policies would be if I was is together then, as I kind of am now, you know, I can pull back the reins of my fear, but then I couldn't. So I asked again, if you treat somebody like an idiot, they will become an idiot. And that's what I became a cartoon character of myself, which I wasn't, you know, just got louder, more obnoxious.


So he got up and said, I want her off the plane. Then when we were thrown off the plane, that's when the show's hilarious because we go to Branson, Arkansas, and go to a shooting range where you shot at Saddam Hussein. We go to a place that's like Dollywood. You know, you see the Trump voters down there, and that was brilliant. And then at the end, we go back and meet Donald again just to bookend it.


At one point he gave me a lift in his car. This is where they and then he liked me because I outgrossed him. He was giving me man jokes about women. And I gave it right back because he wanted to shock me and he thought, oh, she's one of the guys. And then he you could see his eyes light up. But as a female, he hated me because I wasn't scrollable. Such a horrible experience, and I've never had something that extreme, but I have been in similar situations with male interviewees where I end up almost trying to win them over.


Yeah. And putting on a show for them and as you say, like meeting them where they are in order to make the atmosphere more comfortable.


And then afterwards feeling kind of grubby and disappointed in myself. But I think it's important to tell people that often the interview scenario is extremely intimidating and it does feel like a battle.


Yeah, that was horrible. And I hate that people watched that one, whereas there were great interviews like with Imelda Marcos. I love. That's my favorite one. Yeah. Yeah, that's my favorite too. Because she didn't intimidate me. You know, we met on a girl level, even though she robbed the country of 17 million. But she was a female in all the ways you had much in common. We bonded.


We you know, she loved me. I could feel it. And she sang love songs to me, including feelings. And she took me everywhere and got rid of her kids. And she just loved me and gave me presents. So you're watching a relationship.


Mhm. And there is such a warmth to your interviews. I think you really disarm people with your warmth and your humor and your loveliness. And I wanted to ask you how much you feel comedy can be used as a vehicle for truth because you're making a joke and then bam. So I something. Yeah. I mean it's a seduction, you know. I mean some people say, well you can only have five minutes like Jim Carrey. He'd done a junket all day and I said, please, my children would starve if you don't do this.


And he ended up doing a performance of a lifetime. He'd stayed with me like three hours and we couldn't get rid of him. It's because we started playing tennis with humor. Otherwise you're just sucking these people dry, you know? Tell me the story you told one hundred other people. So that worked. But somebody always said to me, if you had played it straight, maybe you wouldn't have become successful. You'd still have a career because it looked like I was being cruel.


People would say, how could you talk to that person that way? Especially when show went to America, they go, How dare you talk to Pamela Anderson that way? And I said, But you're not watching a half an hour relationship. It's not a talk show. I was with them a week and you're watching it. I say that over and over again with people. How do you have the nerve to talk like that? You know, eventually a man took my job.


And in a way, I'm really grateful because I wouldn't have gone to Oxford and develop this new career because my career would have ended anyway. It's against the law to be a certain age and be on television. It's against the law until you're really old and then you can be on Golden Girls. So it would have happened anyway. That's the way it is for females. But I was yuzu pretty early. I could be better, but in a way it was a launching pad for a new life.


Do you keep in touch with any of the people that you interviewed in that period of your life?


Oh, well, Carrie Fisher was my best friend for thirty five years. And Goldie Hawn I'm supposed to go to Japan with I mean, I did get some relationships because that's what you're watching. I'm sure there's some more. Oh, John McEnroe. You know, there are people where relationship grew out of that, but people said, oh, you're so mean to them. How can you talk to them like that? I said, because I'm living in their house.


Yeah, that was an interview recently in New York magazine with Mickey Tickle, who wrote Star directed And I May Destroy You. And it was an incredible interview to read. And then I read that the interviewer had had seven weekly conversations with her, which as a journalist myself in Britain, I can only dream of that kind of access.


I mean, we get forty minutes at most. Celebrities don't junket. How much do you think a good interview relies on access? Know a good interview relies on our relationship. Like I like you now and if we went on a couple more hours, I'd probably go have lunch, but I'd still go on talking. If the relationship is bad, we both might as well say this is dead on arrival, you know, and you can tell when you start answering like this.


But people who aren't sensitive enough don't hear that. I remember a journalist once sent from a really dumb newspaper what were my top ten fears? And I said, no one is death. And she said, any particular reason? I'm just giving you an example of where the interview ends.


Well, what a great follow up question. Good, isn't it? I had to call it. I had nothing else to say.


I like you tremendously, too, and I wish we could go for lunch, but we're doing this audio only remote recording because we're still in lockdown.


So after twenty five years, the BBC, as you mentioned there, you were replaced by a man and fired and you were asked to do a show called SILC Survey, which is the genesis of your third failure. So tell us about that. I wasn't fired.


I was squeezed. I'm so sorry. OK, yeah, no, it's OK. It's similar to being fired, but, you know, it's over and it feels like a death. You know, whenever we have to reinvent, it feels like a death. Well, it is in a way. And then something else is born, but it hadn't been born yet. So the tragedy of people have been on TV as they hold on for dear life.


And then you see them imitating who they used to be, you know, going please do a documentary about my gallbladder operation.


Although could phrase trending you they used to be. That's just so true.


And then they end up on an island eating a cockroach so that I won't do, you know, because there's some dignity. Have you been asked a long time ago? I was. And I would rather open a vein, but I did do some reality shows for Comic Relief. So I was in Fame Academy with Joe Brandao. It can't get more fun than that. And a couple other ones, which I came in second and I can't sing. So it's not like I wouldn't do it if they had just put comedians in it.


These would be brilliant shows. But of course the public really like humiliation, so we can't provide them. There was a couple of shows. One was game show first and one was Cirque de Soleil. They said, would I do it? And I was in the full depression then. I don't even remember. I was in the deep darkness of full. The demon had come in my mind so I couldn't think straight. So I said, OK, so they put me in a corset and a ringmasters outfit and sent me out into the ring where I know they said, Can't you be perkier?


Hey, here we are with Cirque du Soleil. And then I cracked my whip, but I had tears running down my face because I was sick. And then I was supposed to look up at these celebrities like, look at her. Isn't that fantastic? Where I'd see her cervix going over me, you know, people doing death defying things where they could die, but they wanted to be famous to, you know, where you hold on by a fingernail.


Everybody was death. You could smell what Rickman was talking about. Love me, love me. And then I'd have to crack my whip and go five points for that, you know? You see, it's not my natural gift. I think it's wonderful when people can do that. There is gifted people, but they ate my area, so every line had to be redone with sweat running off of me again. I think I did a few shows I can't remember.


And the panel were like kind of screaming people, you know, but exactly what they wanted. So not funny, but completely over the top. And there was no humor anywhere to hold on to or irony. So I free fell and then we were at a party and they said, oh, we're going to do another series. And I went, oh, great, insane at this point. And they said, Yeah, but not with you.


And that's when I knew I had to leave show business pretty quickly. Oh, while I was doing Cirque du Soleil, I'd already jumped in, was studying psychotherapy because not that I wanted to be a psychotherapist, but I was trying to invent another life because, you know, I'm like that. I can't have no identity. So I was always interested in psychology. So now I'm at school, I'm studying a psychotherapy. I have to do four hundred hours to get my degree.


I got 200. That's as far as I go. But we had supervision and I had clients. Right. So I'm with my supervisor. And she said, I don't think you're really serious about this. And I said, I really am. And she said, no, it's not really good for the clients. And I said, What is it? And she pointed out the window. And over Hammersmith Flyover was a gigantic and I mean a football sized picture of me in my corset and master of ceremonies, gear holding a whip lying sideways.


That was all that was out the window. OK, yeah, OK. That's not great for your clients. I know.


But when you say the tears were running down your face, you mean that literally. Yeah. I mean anybody else would say, wow, you're so lucky to have that job. But I was having a nervous breakdown. Mhm. And was trying to hide it and I didn't know how I got there. And you find yourself in front of TV cameras but you're gone. And then I started breaking badly and ended up in an institution. Which was really a turning point in your life because you stopped doing that kind of TV and you went to Oxford, so it's an odd question, but are you in some ways grateful for that breakdown?


Yeah, I am. I'm not happy about the breakdown, but I'm happy that I got kicked out of TV because I would have anyway, because it made me reinvent anybody else. Might have still you know, you hear about people who used to be on TV and they're living in a basement somewhere. Once in a while. They do pantomime, but I guess I have that resilience. So out of, like, total darkness, I got my brain started to work and I became smarter than when I was a kid because it was a relief when you checked into what you describe as an institution.




I mean, you don't feel emotions, so you can't ask me that. There are no emotions know, just empty. But I was with my people, which means you go, am I ever going to get better? And they go, yes, you will. That's the conversation. So I was there quite a long day.


I mentioned at the beginning that you are married and have been for many, many years. What is it like being married and being the mother of three and going through these incredibly dark episodes?


Well, I married the right person. Yeah, you were right. When we got married, I halfway down the aisle, I told them how old I really was and that I was mentally ill. So it was too late, but it was hidden from my kids until they were 16. So I was lucky he'd say I was doing a documentary. I had a perfect cover before when I'd get ill, but then when they were old enough, he took them to the institution, especially them.


And they could see that I was surrounded by really interesting people and that this was just another illness and not to be scared. So I had a perfect cover. Women that are single mothers and they have a mental illness, I don't even know where to start with that one. But I was lucky I had a cover.


And now that your children are older, are you completely open with them?


Oh, boy, do they know they've seen all my shows, by the way, people go, oh, do you do shows about mental illness? I said I did the first show about that because the Edinburgh Festival only does shows about mental illness. So I have to find a new disease phrase. Now you have to have cancer and then herpes anyway. So after I wrote my first show, they weren't about mental illness because people can't get it in their heads that you change shows.


So this one, you know, the last one how to be human in the second half was a monkey and a neuroscientist. It was basically about you are not your fault. So I went through evolution. I went through what thoughts are all the questions I had. How do you pick the people you pick choose as a relationship? And if I'm not answering them accurately, I'm making it funny. And that's what my hero, Bill Bryson does. So that's what I was trying to do.


And your children have seen your shows? Oh, yeah. They're dragged to those shows. And then my next show is. And now for the good news. I don't know where I'll be performing that, but I do bits of it on Zoome every other week we're starting this call Frazzle Theatre and you go to Frazzle Cafe Dog to find out to raise money to keep Frazzle Cafe alive because that's free. And so I'm already building bits of the show. And now for the goodness because who knew that that was going to be so important after all this?


And it is a kind of Michelin guide to if you want to change your life. I found these things. I found these because I wanted to not, you know, wasn't a chore. The charities I want to join and they're real grassroots just for me, the businesses I'd want to join if I was a teacher, I'd get onto this wagon. This is how you live. This is health. I did go into probiotics and how agriculture can be switched and how business can be switched.


So it does give you hope because there's people on it already. The world isn't so dark.


You've talked quite a bit about change and about reinvention and the extraordinary human capacity to do that and for the brain to do that and regenerate itself.


But I think so many of us are terrified of change. And I wonder if you could give advice to those people, given what you've learnt and been through?


Well, I think part of the the lockdown is suddenly we're hit with uncertainty, which we should have been practicing all along. And I'm talking for me to at least if we survive existentialism, we have an idea, but nobody ever thought this was going to change. And meanwhile, your life is changing all the time anyway. But maybe that's part of the human package, is we shouldn't notice it. Otherwise you might hurt yourself or be very unhappy. I think the lesson is that it's changing anyway, whether you like it or not.


I don't like changing because I don't know what. Next and in the past, that would probably throw me into depression and this time there's change, I wouldn't have written that book if I didn't think something was coming. But I'm not that scared this time. I'm not happy. But I get it. There's different phases in life, not just puberty. Something happens when you're 50. Something happens when you're 80. Your mind changes and there's nothing you can do about it.


Your hormones change and you can't control those. But I'm not saying I'm on the other side of this. I'm just saying we better get used to it because that's all that we know. People die, we die. That would be the ultimate is to kind of embrace it. That's it. Just enjoy it. But I'm not there. That's just what I've read.


You said in an interview that I read about when you were deciding to go to Oxford to study mindfulness and you made a crack about, well, you know, they're not offering courses in witchcraft. So there must be something in this mindfulness thing. I find that very relatable because I do think that many people have a misconception about what mindfulness is and what it entails.


So could you just give us a handy, pricey repeat your entire life's work? What is mindfulness? OK, what is calculous? What is tennis? Telling me that and I'll come back at it.


But is there a practical thing that you do every day that you can? Yeah, I mean, I do it every day, but it's like saying I go to the gym and I do this thing where my legs are down and I come up off the ground and I sort of sit up and then I lie back down again and people would say, and the point is, so mindfulness is a brain exercise. It's been scrutinised in scanners and there is a part of the brain that you are exercising.


There's other ways mindfulness isn't the only way, and it ends the duco. You know, by the time the public find out about stuff, they're doing crap. Oxford wasn't teaching it, but a mindfulness exercise, not for everybody, does exercise a part of your brain and you have a brain. I mean, a lot of people don't believe that that gives you the ability to focus attention on what you want to focus on and not get dragged away to distraction so much and to lower the cortisol so you're not frazzled.


You know, they'll always be stress and anxiety, but maybe you won't go into that thought stream of, oh, my God, I shouldn't be nobody else's. So it's dealing with that. When you do it, you have the ability to visit the prison once in a while. You won't stay there. But if you're on holiday, it's sort of a waste of money. If you are thinking about the work you have to do. Believe me, I've lost a lot of holidays thinking about what I was supposed to do.


And so it has these benefits. Also, health wise, if you lower the cortisol, your immune system is pretty resilient. And when you break down your immune system, you're open to almost every disease. So if you don't care mentally, your brain is your physical. So less heart attacks, less diabetes, less cancers, certain cancers. If you work on brain health, you're working on physical health more than you are when you do a sit up.


That doesn't necessarily guarantee low blood pressure, but it has other benefits. I mean, I'm not talking about aerobics. That's really good for you, but it does do a brain exercise. And if I didn't feel the results, I wouldn't do it. I kind of depend on it. If you go to Frazzle Cafe Dog, I'm starting Mindful Mondays because people on line have asked me, so I'll be teaching it on Mondays. It's not this amazing.


Yeah. Every other week to do it as well. Yeah, yeah, yes.


I've written that, we've spoken a lot on this podcast about failure obviously because that's the branding.


I haven't got any, it's my middle name.


But I wonder if I could ask you, Ruby Fadia Wax, how do you define success?


Personally speaking, I would have said when I was young money, fame, families, people who love you. And now I know that if you have those things, that's not necessarily the route to happiness. They don't hurt, but they're not the key. So what successes, I guess, is people who can do what mindfulness trains you to do and they do it naturally. They're born with those genes or you practice something like Tai Chi or mindfulness or some exercise because you've got to exercise it if you weren't born with it, to be able to not have your heart beating all the time in fear because a lot of people are in the climate of fear.


So if you can pull that down, then that's a success.


Ruby Wax, I'm so glad you didn't get on Saturday Night Live because we might never have had this extraordinary fount of wisdom. I can't thank you enough for everything that you do.


Oh, I love being with you. I did. I don't always love it, but I agree with you.


That means a lot to me. I thank you so much for coming on. How to Fail. Thank you. Thanks for asking.


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