Susan Ilene Rule, changed careers to make people laugh

Susan Rule spent most of her adult life building an insurance business, but in the latter 1990s it started going sour.

Insurance companies began reducing her commissions for the health care policies she sold to small businesses. To compound her problems, the insurance firms also denied many claims of her policyholders, who turned angrily to her to rectify the situation.

"Susan reached the point where she was working twice as long and hard for one-third of the compensation that she used to get," said her husband, Randall Rule of Marietta. "I told her we were well off enough that she could quit the insurance game and find a neat hobby to occupy her time."

What she enjoyed more than anything was making people laugh. All her life, her husband said, she told jokes or otherwise brandished her quick wit, whether in one-on-one conversation or speaking to a crowd.

So it was that Mrs. Rule transformed herself into a stand-up comedian. It wasn't just a hobby; it was her new vocation.

Starting in 2001, she took instruction in comedy for two years at Jeff Justice's workshop in Buckhead. "I think Susan holds the record for taking courses with me," he said.

"Susan was a very funny lady," Justice said. "What she did best was develop hilarious voices and characters. Her humor sprang from her own experiences or funny things she observed."

Jamie Bendall, co-owner of the Punchline comedy club in Sandy Springs where Mrs. Rule performed numerous times, said he liked her act because it was smart. "Susan's material never descended to the lowest common denominator."

She reminded him, he said, of a little pixie, a witty Tinkerbell.

Stand-up comic Manny Oliveira, with whom Mrs. Rule later studied, called her humor offbeat, upbeat and very quirky. "Her routines appeared to be effortless, but she worked very hard as a comedy writer to make them perfect. As for content, she wasn't afraid to talk about herself in front of an audience in a very personal way."

He said he liked her routines so much he had her appear as his opening act at the Jokers Wild club in the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, the Twin Rivers casino in Lincoln, R.I., and comedy clubs in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Florida.

"Susan could have had a long career in comedy if she had wanted," Mr. Oliveira said.

Susan Ilene Rule, 53, of Marietta died Tuesday at Altus House, Atlanta, of ovarian cancer. A memorial service will be at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4680 Hadaway Road N.W., Kennesaw. SouthCare Cremation Society and Memorial Centers, Marietta, is in charge of arrangements.

Born in Oregon, Mrs. Rule moved around often as a child since her father was first a Peace Corps dentist, then later a U.S. Foreign Service officer with postings in Latin America and Europe. In the process, she became proficient at an early age in Spanish, Portuguese, German and French.

She retained her facility for languages in adulthood. Making friends with a couple from Iran in her east Cobb neighborhood, she frequently communicated with them in Farsi. "She must have learned 250 to 300 words in that language," her husband said.

Survivors also include a daughter, Ashley Rule of Marietta; her father, Stephen Dachi of Arlington, Va.; her mother, Nancy Conser of Boring, Ore.; a sister, Sally Valdez of Marietta; and a brother, Chris Dachi of Arlington, Va.