Sober Sue: The Woman No Comedian Could Amuse

By | September 14, 2019

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Maybe the real Sober Sue, maybe not. The stone-faced woman didn't leave much behind except for her legacy Source: (

As actress and comedian Phyllis Diller once said, "A smile is a curve that sets everything straight." What would life be like if you were unable to laugh or even smile? Well, for one mysterious woman nicknamed "Sober Sue" in the early 1900s, it meant making good money staring straight-faced into a crowd of amazed and amused people. It is believed this woman's name was Susan Kelly, although no one knows for sure.

Despite her enigmatic history, Kelly's story stood the test of time. More than 100 years later, the internet still buzzes about her stony face, even though no pictures of it have survived. In the days of Gangs of New York, "Sober Sue" entertained and astounded thousands of people with her no-nonsense facade, even in the face of the most uproarious acts you can imagine. Why couldn't Sober Sue laugh? The answer would no doubt anger a lot of the people who tried to make her.

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A Painting of The Paradise Garden. Source: (William Glackens)

The Hook

As you can only imagine, the entertainment of the early 1900s ranged from bizarre to grotesque and everything in between. In even this colorful landscape, Sober Sue attracted audiences in droves to see the woman who would never laugh or even slip a smirk. The deal was that if any member of the audience could get the impassive Sober Sue to smile, they'd receive $100. If they could somehow get her to laugh, they'd get 10 times that much. In today's money, an audience member stood to earn $3,054 for a grin and $30,542 for a giggle.