Ruth Buzzi: Rhode Island’s First Lady of Comedy

Inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame February 28, 2022

 

Ruth Buzzi, (RI’s First Lady of Comedy,) was born in Westerly, RI on July 24, 1936. She was raised just over the state line in Stonington, CT, where her dad ran a monument business.

Nothing against Connecticut, but fortunately, Ruth’s parents made it across the line in time so the Ocean State could claim her as its own. Locally, the town of Westerly has honored her with a park bench, she holds a spot in the RI Heritage Hall of Fame and now holds the highest of honors in the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame.¬†

Personally? I think it’s not enough.

How about a Ruth Buzzi Day, Rhode Island? What do you say, Governor McKee? How about you, Rep. Cicilline? Senator Reed? Sen. Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin? I’m more than willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. I think it’s time to give this living legend a much deserved day of honor.

Laugh-In and Gladys Ormphby

My earliest memory of Ruth Buzzi was as her character Gladys Ormphby on Laugh-In. ( I called her the Bench Lady) at the time. My parents were big fans of Buzzi and Laugh-In, though they thought I was way too young to watch the show, considering the adult jokes, a bikini clad Goldie Hawn and the fact that no one knew what Dick Martin or Dan Rowan were about to say next. I was under 10 years old. My parents made the right decision. However, even they couldn’t stop me from sneaking downstairs on Laugh-In night, where I’d hide out under the dining room table, with a direct view of our RCA color set (complete with rotating antenna,) where Gladys would sit on a bench, minding her own business, while a lust-filled Arte Johnson attempted to hit on her in a public park.

The Handbag


Gladys however, was always on the ready to prevent Tyrone’s advances. Her weapon of choice? Her purse. She would use it to defend herself, not only when she felt threatened, but whenever someone insulted her. This is where Buzzi went in for the big laugh-and never failed to get it. Her audience knew what was coming in advance, but they cracked up anyway. Why? Buzzi knew what her fans expected and delivered it flawlessly every single time. Every major celebrity took Gladys’ bag in the head at some point during their careers. Even Dean Martin.

Speaking of which….

 

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts

Gladys Ormphby Goes on a Rant with Dean Martin and Don Rickles

I’m going to go out on a limb, and if you disagree with me, that’s ok. But, of all the stars who have shared the stage with Ruth Buzzi, I believe she had the best comedy chemistry with Dean Martin. Whether she was appearing on a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, or one of his Comedy Specials, Ruth Buzzi and Dean Martin shared a comedy presence unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Sure, their lines were written in advance, but back then, (and especially on the Dean Martin Roasts,) going off-script was always part of the fun. Buzzi is a master of comic timing, and Dean Martin? Well, he was Dean Martin.

 

Gladys Assaults Dan Haggerty

According to Lee Hale, the Associate Producer of the Dean Martin Roasts, Gladys’s appearance on the Roast of Dan Haggerty was her biggest roast appearance laugh. During the video, you’ll get to see for yourself what a quick witted Buzzi does when she is presented with the opportunity to go for the much larger (and completely unscripted and unrehearsed) laugh.

Welcome to the RI Comedy Hall of Fame, Ruth Buzzi

About 5 or 6 years ago, I read on Twitter that Ruth had retired to Texas. I gave up all hope of having her accept an invitation to the RI Comedy Hall of Fame. In November of 2021, John Perrotta sent a Facebook message to Ruth via her Facebook Page asking her to become a member. He received a reply from Ruth’s husband and manager, Kent Perkins. Kent and Ruth talked it over and Ruth was more than happy to take part. Due to the virus, we knew it would be impossible to get Ruth to come home, so we had a plaque made and put together a few videos from some Hall of Fame members.

John Perrotta: Owner of John Perrotta’s Comedy Factory since 1991. John was inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame in October 2012.

Doreen Collins: Star of Rhode Bytes, The Ocean State Follies, The Ladies Room, and Co-Star of Aging Disgracefully. Doreen was the first female to be inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame in 2015

Tom Cotter: America’s Got Talent Runner Up, The Tonight Show, Conan, Last Comic Standing. Inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame in 2014.

Bobby Braciola: Sony Recording Artist: Chooch to Gooch, Everyone’s Italian on Christmas Eve. Inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame in 2021.

Bill Simas: Co-Founder of Funny 4 Funds, Owner, and owner of the Comedy Park, Cranston, RI. F4F was inducted into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame in 2017.

Dana Nathanson: Senior Director of the RI Comedy Hall of Fame, welcomes Ruth Buzzi into the group.

Ruth Buzzi 2022

Ruth Buzzi:  February 2022, proudly displaying her RI Comedy Hall of Fame plaque.

Thank you, Ruth!