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Rita Rudner: Always on Sunday

Rita Rudner
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Sunday will never be the same.

That’s because internationally recognized multi-award winning comedienne Rita Rudner will be returning to The Venetian in 2014 in a series of Sunday engagements beginning on January 12 and January 26. And one thing you can count on is that she’ll be performing one of the funniest shows you’ll ever see anywhere, any day of the week.

“I always think of my act as a constant work in progress,” Rudner admits. “It’s never finished. Every day I add something new -- I try to control my mind and think of something. What I say in my show about my husband is true – I’ll make a comment off the top of my head and he’ll look at the top of my head and say, ‘What’s it like in there?’

Well, it’s potentially pretty crowded, for one thing. It seems that everyone is always trying to get into the act – literally. That’s because the popular entertainer focuses on commonality of experience and the human everyday things we all can relate to, such as relationships, marriage, dating, parents, the economic crisis, and, of course, shopping. Terming her comedy “comfort humor,” Rudner expresses the fact that it is unifying because it depicts that we’re all in the same boat – one with a good “sale,” as the case may be.

“I think all the time on stage,” she adds. “While I’m telling one joke, I’m thinking of the next three. I have to be thinking of what’s next – I always need to know where I’m going. As I tell my daughter, Molly, focus is so important in life. If you’re not fully focused on what you’re doing, someone else will do it better. Most people think that comedians are lazy and lackadaisical but it’s a discipline. To be a good comedian, you have to put one foot in front of the other and know where you’re going.”

Quipping that her best sense of direction is in a mall – she always knows where Saks Fifth Avenue is -- Rudner states that everything is harder for a woman and comedy is no exception. She expresses that it is especially difficult for a female over 40 because we’re living in a youth-oriented society. Conversely, she maintains that, in a way, being older is good for comedy because she’s had a chance to develop herself and to see things through an eye that’s more experienced.

“Like actress Helen Mirren said, Hollywood focuses on 18 to 25-year-olds,” Rudner cites. “So I’m not fashionable. But you can’t be a different person. Luckily, Las Vegas has given me a fantastic outlet. Most women over 40 have to engineer their own vehicles, like Madonna, Cher, and Bette Midler, because they’re not on TV. Sally Field said that when you’re over 40, you’re only in show business because you want to be. I’m lucky because I get people in my audiences who bring their kids, mothers, and extended families.”

Rudner might not be fashionable but she certainly is that other f-word – funny. While she acknowledges that women in comedy now are dirtier than men and that is the trend in female comedy today -- going even one step further than Andrew Dice Clay used to go – Rudner works, and has always worked, clean. She relates that this is a harsher culture than the gentler one she came out of but that she has always stayed true to who she is. Describing her act as an integration of punch lines, absurdist humor and observational comedy, she says that she never wants to say everything one way because comedy is keeping people off balance.

The comedienne culls her show from everyday life. She lives with her husband, Martin Bergman, who is a writer, producer and director, and their 9-year-old daughter, Molly, whom the couple adopted at birth. And, oh, there is also their French poodle that, Rudner cajoles, has a very unique talent – the dog can sniff out fake Louis Vuitton purses.

“You have to focus your priorities,” Rudner expresses. “Sometimes you get caught up in show business and become too focused on things that don’t matter. My list of priorities is as follows:  Molly is number one, my marriage is number two, my dog is number three, and my career is number four. They all come before the hamsters and the frog – we had to say no to the Alpaca.  We have a menagerie but it teaches me responsibility.”

As for her longtime marriage to Bergman, Rudner reveals that it has been a happy and successful union because they both have exactly the same taste in everything, they laugh at the same things, and they have the same political views and opinions on things – except when it comes to David Bowie. Bergman loves him and Rudner doesn’t. However, she chuckles, if their only disagreement is about Bowie, it’s a good marriage.

Insofar as their careers are concerned, Rudner and Bergman have often collaborated on movie scripts and plays, including the acclaimed films Peter’s Friends and A Weekend in the Country. The couple, who is buying a home in Laguna, CA, is also turning Rudner’s book Tickled Pink into a play. In addition, Bergman produced and directed a movie called Thanks, which is currently making the film festival circuit, and Rudner has written a sitcom.

“I don’t know what will happen with it,” she admits, talking about the sitcom. “I just wanted to see if I could write one. Martin pushed me although neither one of us needs pushing – we’re both pushing people. We both have to have a lot of things going on. That’s the way our lives have always been. I want to write another play or book or movie – I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”

Still, the bottom line for Rudner is that she totally enjoys the independence of what she does.

“What I love about stand-up,” she says, “is that it’s like being the Avon lady. I don’t have to go through any corporate sensibility. It’s not like making a movie where someone is risking six million dollars. It’s just me and a dress and a microphone and a mind. It’s so wonderfully low-tech.”

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