50 years. 50 queers.

Richard Ryder

Richard Ryder

Feb 5, 2013

Name: Richard Ryder
DOB: April 6, 1966
Occupation: Stand-up comic, TV/Radio Host, Glitter Pig
Favourite Book: The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown
Favourite Movie: Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell
Favourite Music: Anything sung by Alison Moyet
Favourite Person over 50: Joan Rivers
One word about 50: Inevitable

Richard Ryder is funny—very funny. And he applies his sense of humour and comic outlook on life to how he lives it and how he ages in it. At almost 47, Ryder is enjoying a successful career as a standup comic (he has been on Last Comic Standing and has starred in several comedy specials), co-host of Your Morning with Richard and Chris (Howson) on Proud FM as well as putting on the glitter and reviewing RuPaul’s Drag Race for OutTV as alter ego, Wilma Fingerdoo. To quote from one of his favourite movies, Auntie Mame, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

Until recently, Ryder didn’t give much thought to turning 50. That was until he had a visit with a psychic. “She said I was going to live well into my 90s and I freaked out because I can’t afford it,” he says with a laugh. “I think the worst thing about being a gay man with no need for having children—and just because you’re a gay man doesn’t mean you don’t want to have kids—but not having those kinds of markers on your life, like children where you realize your age,” he explains. “You can have 10 years go by as a gay man and not absolutely know that it has. Nothing’s changed. You’re still as cute as you want to be. You’re still un-tied down so you can go do whatever you want. Then all of a sudden you realize, ‘Wow, at some point I’m going to be eating cat food and hoping it’s not too slippy outside.’ It’s a lot closer than I think!”

“I realize that I’ve stopped listening to new music. I’ve found my old age jam. It involves a lot of poppin’ and lockin’.”

Another recent reminder that the clock is ticking is his relationship with his Proud FM co-host Chris Howson, who is 24-years-old. “I remember when we first started working together I used to say to him, ‘oh I keep forgetting how young you are,’ because he’s very mature, he’s very together for anybody no matter what his age,” says Ryder. “But I remember once I said something and he reacted like he didn’t know what I was talking about and I said, ‘oh I’m sorry, I keep forgetting how young you are,’ and it must have been the third time I’d said it that day, and he reacted to it. There was this flinch on his face and I realized that it was me coming off as prejudiced to him. I wasn’t trying to remind him that he was young and stupid,” Ryder laughs. “I was trying to remind myself that he just doesn’t have the scope of referencing that I do, and I just assume he does.”

While that age gap actually gives an added edge and shine to their relationship, it has also provided some marquee moments where Ryder realizes he isn’t a spring chicken anymore. “I showed him [Howson] a picture of Cher young,” he recalls. “And he’s like, ‘who’s that?’ He knows who Lady Gaga is, who Jessie J is and all these people are, and I’m like, ‘who?’ We play all these songs on the show and I just say that they all sound the same to me,” he continues with a laugh. “I realize that I’ve stopped listening to new music. I’ve found my old age jam. It involves a lot of poppin’ and lockin’”.

When he’s not teasing his younger co-host about old pop stars, Ryder is looking ahead with clear eyes about his career trajectory. He finds being in a non-traditional field not only liberating, but also rife with opportunities for longevity. “One of the people I admire is Joan Rivers because she is almost 80—she looks like a truck will take her down—she’s not going to die quietly, this woman’s still going to open mic nights in New York at her age,” he proclaims with a tone of awe. “What I do doesn’t have a sell-by date on it. Some people have to leave their work by 60 or 65. What I do isn’t about that. Certainly it’s about popularity—your popularity can wane, as you get older—but then there’s Betty White, there’s always those exceptions to the rules.”

“I started working out was that I knew I would not be in an income bracket in my later years to afford someone else to wipe my ass.”

One of his other concerns—albeit a minor one—is his nest egg, or lack thereof. “I’ve never thought that I’d better start saving my money. I haven’t. I’m 46 and I still live paycheque to paycheque,” he admits. “It’s not good but I feel like I’m hitting a stride now where stuff is starting to fall into place. I’m not just making money to live I’m making money to save, especially this year. I certainly don’t regret being bad with my money or spending it irresponsibly because I enjoyed it. Do I wish I had money in the bank right now? Yea. Do I think I’m going to win the lottery? Logically no, but that’s my retirement plan. Every time it [the jackpot] gets above 50 million, I buy a ticket.”

Ryder has also been on a new health track over the past few years, publicly going on a workout and healthier eating regime. And while he is healthier than he’s been in years, he jokes, “I’m in worse physical shape—I mean my health is better but I can’t move. I’m at that age now where scooters and walkers and security bars on the wall are all making sense to me. One of my jokes onstage was that the only reason I started working out was that I knew I would not be in an income bracket in my later years to afford someone else to wipe my ass,” he explains, laughing. “So I better keep it as narrow as possible.”

Although he likes to laugh and find the funny and the absurd in many of life’s moments, Ryder does take a serious tone when looking ahead to what may happen when he becomes a senior citizen in his 70s and 80s. There are still many issues with elder care and how society perceives and treats older folks. “With the gay news that I read and knowing that these retirement homes are coming, I think it’s important that people realize that we forget that these people were once young.” He continues, “we’re going to be these people and I think when people look at a retired person in an environment like a retirement home—regardless of how great or horrible it is—we dismiss them as people and forget that they were us and we’re going to be them. I think a lot of old people, when they are put into retirement homes, their dignity is removed, and their humanity is removed. We forget that an 80-year-old can still look at sex and go ‘heh heh heh.’”

“I totally see my self as Edina in all of her flash-forwards on AbFab. Tits akimbo. Padded bum because I’m peeing on myself. Bottle of something in one hand—pills, booze, doesn’t matter.”

In the context of queers being in retirement or nursing homes, Ryder sees several issues that need to be addressed. “This is an interesting time because a lot of people are out [of the closet] at an early age, they spend a longer time being out, there’s no sense of closet and to be put back into one in your 80s is awful. Its not just homophobia; it’s age-phobia, because then you’re dealing with 20-year-olds who are in control of you and that’s frightening. They’re afraid of you. There are so many issues,” he contends. “If incontinence is part of your aging, or if blindness is part of your aging, or lack of hearing, all of a sudden you’re not only not the person you once were, but you’re reminded you’re not all the time. Then you start to forget who you are. Then if you’re put in to an old age home—even if you’re not the only gay person there, and statistics will prove you probably aren’t—just because somebody else is gay doesn’t mean you’re going to be friends.”

Of course, it’s not all bad in Richard Ryder’s world as an old curmudgeon. As a matter of fact, he looks ahead to his dotage and sees it filled with wonderful opportunities—if you’re planning on a total physical breakdown. “I think there’s a lot more opportunity for crying,” he chuckles. “There will be a lot more opportunity to discover the softer foods. I’m looking forward to not getting up to go to the bathroom because I’m wearing diapers. That should be fun. I look at all of those as opportunities. The longer I can sit and stare, the better my day is going to be.” And of course, he is planning to pattern his life as an old crone after one of his comic characters idols. “I totally see my self as Edina in all of her flash-forwards on AbFab. Tits akimbo. Padded bum because I’m peeing on myself. Bottle of something in one hand—pills, booze, doesn’t matter as long as it keeps me moving forward.”

He also sees aging as a boon to his sex life. As Ryder explains, he came to acting upon his sexuality later in life—well past his 20s. And thanks to technology, he sees no end to the sexual possibilities in his old age. “Thank God for the Internet and porn or else nobody would touch me,” he declares. “I’m much more sexually aggressive alone in the room. I say all sorts of filthy things to myself when no one’s listening. We are in this electronic age so masturbation is much more accessible. You can literally find anything on the Internet. You don’t have to go to a store and look like that dirty old man.”

Despite the jokes and the overwhelming amount of Internet porn, Ryder looks at aging with little concern and a lot of anticipation. “I’ve never had a fear of aging, he says. “I’ve never lied about my age. I’ve never been ashamed of my age. I’ve never been afraid to tell my age. We’re all aging. I don’t smoke. I enjoy drinking water as a beverage. I’ve removed all joy from my food so I’m good,” he says with a laugh.

“I think we’re in a really interesting time now because age isn’t a dirty word and you do see older people on covers of magazines,” he continues. “This is the generation that has seen people like Mick Jagger and Tina Turner being viable performers. As I said, Joan Rivers, Cher—they’re all women I’d like to point out—Joan Collins is still out there in that wig—even her wig’s aging. I also find it’s funny, because a lot of gay people are getting married and adopting or having children in whatever way they’re having them, because they’re realizing, ‘I’m going to be old and there’s no one going to be taking care of me.’ You can avoid it as long as you want but sooner or later you’re going to have to take some ownership of the aging cycle. I don’t want to be a burden on anybody—but I’m gonna be!”

“I’m always impressed by the people who make those changes…because I’m too lazy.”

Ryder muses on people who have broken down barriers in the queer community and have changed the perceptions of aging. He lists Ellen DeGeneres, Ian McKellen and Elton John as gay people who are doing it right and showing you can have a full life as an openly gay person—at any age. He then reflects on his own contributions to that movement. “I often think that I have not done anything to make my life better or anyone else’s life better because there are people out there without really meaning to, that are changing laws and changing acceptance,” he says. “I stood on stage and made jokes about people pooping in their own pants. But laughter keeps you young.”

Ryder admires the people who have quietly and with dignity fought for equality on many levels over the years. He feels that as each of these battles is won, it improves the way we live our lives not only in the greater society but also within the LGBTQ community. “I think we’re starting to see a lot of people proving that there’s no shelf life on being viable, being contributive and being part of the community,” he asserts. “No one’s shunned anymore. I think the nice thing, as a gay man, with bears being more prevalent, they’re a social thing, people know what that is now, you don’t have to be some hairless gym bunny to be attractive or even acknowledged. I think it’s helping a lot of people age. I know that there are a lot of depressing aspects to aging when you’re gay, but I think those are being changed now. I’m always impressed by the people who make those changes,” he says with a smile, “because I’m too lazy.”

Listen to my interview with Richard and Chris on ProudFM.

4 comments

  1. look on the bright side-did you see Betty Whites 2nd annual 90th birthday bash last night-you are closer to that!!!

  2. Great article and a good site indeed

  3. Paulina /

    Richard – your going to be fabulous at 50!

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