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Off Central: 94-year-old woman performing final stand-up comedy show in Tempe


TEMPE, Ariz. — On Friday, a long stand-up comedy career will come to a close at a Phoenix-area venue.

Gert Schuster, who calls herself “The Joke Lady,” will perform her final stand-up comedy show at the Tempe Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Although, the 94-year-old woman who stands 4-foot-7 reminds everyone who comes to her shows, “I’m not a stand-up comic,” as she reaches for the microphone from her wheelchair. “I’m a sit-down comic.”

“Age is not an issue if you’re funny,” Tony Vicich, who was managing the Tempe Improv in 2011 when he took a risk booking Schuster(WARNING: LINK CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE AND TOPICS)

“Everyone is equal on that stage. From the comic on the stage, the audience, to the people that we make fun of.”

Schuster was not intimidated. She has faced far bigger fears in her 94 years.

“In 2004, I died and I was in a coma for a month on life support. They never figured out what it was, but I was dead.”

It wasn’t the first time she cheated death. Twelve years before, doctors told her she had spinal cord cancer.

“I was not supposed to walk, but I did.”

And, while living in Vienna, Austria in the 1930s, she narrowly escaped being sent to Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp where it is estimated 1.1 million people were killed.

“I was lucky, I used to take collections to the British and American embassies, so I got to know the ambassadors.”

When the Nazis gave the Jews 48 hours to get out of Vienna, Schuster wasted no time to ask a favor.

“I went to the two ambassadors and they got me a visa.”

Looking back, she could either laugh or cry. She chose to laugh and tells God daily, “I don’t want to be a living dead! I’m alive!”

You can catch the Joke Lady at her farewell comedy performance. She is headlining with Kristen Alberts in the Single Ladies Lakeside Show.

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