Ruby Wax says she would be dead if she hadn't escaped her Jewish parents

The Jewish comedian opened up about her upbringing in the US


Ruby Wax believed she “would be dead” if she had not left her parents’ home in the US.

The comedian, writer and mental health campaigner, born to Jewish parents who fled from Vienna to America in 1938 in fear of the Nazis, grew up in Illinois feeling that her mum and dad resented her.

The comedian spoke out in an interview with Kate Garraway to be aired on Wednesday and talked about her childhood, her anarchic comedy career, and her famous interviews with the likes of Donald Trump and OJ Simpson for her 90s TV series Ruby Wax Meets. 

Wax described her childhood as a "lock-in", watching out of her window "with longing" as other children played in the park. 

The 70-year-old said she had the "drive of a Rottweiler" to leave her parents' home and start a new life in the UK. 

Speaking about her parents, Wax said: "They took the war from Europe and brought it to the kitchen.

"They slung these verbal grenades at each other and I was in the middle, especially because I was born into the land of the free and the brave and I could have a really great life and they were nipped in the bud at 22, so they wanted to make it hard (for me).

"They were pretty violent with each other (and me), you'd have the sh** knocked out of you."

She went on to describe her teenage self as "rebellious", continually attempting to escape the family home to get away.

She told the ITV show: "I had ambition and the drive of a Rottweiler to survive. I pushed them (her parents) out of the way and I was very rebellious, I'd creep out of the window when I was 18.

"I remember I hitch-hiked at a private airport to get to San Francisco and then, of course, I'd go back (home) and they'd beat me up, and I'd go out again.

"I did everything to spite them and they were getting angrier and angrier."

Wax also recalled a particularly violent episode with her father which occurred in front of her friends.

She said: "My dad once beat me up in front of all my friends, and my girlfriends all made an igloo around me and he was trying to get to me around their legs,

"I had friends who would literally protect me, that's why I like large groups of women sometimes because I feel that is my igloo of protection - a comedian was born.”

Wax said it was her sense of anger that helped her survive her traumatic childhood.

She said: "If I hadn't had a whacking great sense of anger I think I would have gone under, but I was addicted to anger for quite a long time, I had to work really hard to get it out of my system.

"For me, it was survival because it saved me, if I wouldn't of gotten out of there, I would be dead.

"I have a long line of suicide on my dad's side so yeah it would have happened. If I stayed there, I wouldn't have made it. And I got out."

After moving to the UK, Wax settled in Glasgow to study drama before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1978. There she met Glenda Jackson and Alan Rickman who encouraged her into writing.

She met her future husband, producer Ed Bye, on the set of Girls On Top with Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, and they got married in 1988. The couple have three children: Marina, Madeline and Max.

Speaking about her partner, she said: I'd never really had crushes, I'd liked boys but I was scared of men, I'd go behind pillars at school.

"My dad was a little Trumpy, he was terrifying. If you're hit by men, you're going to be scared of men, but Ed was so gentle and adorable - men in America didn't really have that female streak."

Wax, who suffered from depression all her life, went on to have a successful comedy career and huge TV success and interviewed famous icons including Madonna and late actress Carrie Fisher.

Later on in life, she went on to complete a Masters degree at the University of Oxford in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.

She opened up about mental health problems in a memoir I'm Not As Well As I Thought I Was and co-authored a number of books focussing on mindfulness. 

Speaking about her experience, she said: "To help people is the ultimate reward. People, if you're in showbusiness, come up to you and say, 'that was really funny, you made me laugh', but when somebody says, 'my brother almost committed suicide but he read your book' then you go woah, was that a life worth living."

Kate Garraway's Life Stories returns on Wednesday at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX.

- Anyone who needs support can call Samaritans free of charge on 116 123, email, or visit the Samaritans website.

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