View Issues Subscribe for FREE
Leading Lady

by Erica Bauwens

Rita Rudner still knows how to have plenty of fun.

Comedian Rita Rudner has been making people laugh for more than three decades, earning her place among the stars of stand-up comedy with performances across the world. Rudner, who has the longest-running solo show in Las Vegas history, has become the queen of one-liners, with a fast-paced act that revolves around relatable and clean-cut hilarity.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Rudner, who also performs regularly on television and in film. The former Broadway dancer and mother of one is also a twice-published novelist and has written plays, alongside husband of 25 years Martin Bergman, that have been shown in theaters across the country. Through it all though, stand-up remains at the top. We talked with Rudner before her Dec. 14 appearance at Caesars Palace, where she’ll be performing with comedian and actor Brad Garrett, and she filled us in on women in comedy, her act and the thrill of Atlantic City outlet shopping.

SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: You made your name in a field that is very male-dominated. Do women have a tougher path than men in comedy?
RITA RUDNER: Whenever there’s a position of power, usually you’ll find a man in charge, and being a comedian is being in a position of power. In one way, it’s easier because there aren’t as many female comedians, but in the other hand, it’s always tougher. You just have to keep working. I think tenacity is a very big part of being successful. I’m always writing new jokes and always working harder.

SJM: How has live comedy changed since you started?
RR: I think female comedians are much more accepted now. When I first started, they wouldn’t even let two women on in the same night. But now it’s normal. But also, because I’ve been on TV for so long, people know what to expect at my shows, and it’s such a relaxing experience. It’s the most relaxing experience of my life; I feel so great afterward. I’m on stage and I can tell my jokes and be in a room full of laughter.

SJM: How has your own act evolved over the years?
RR: The first time I ever performed in Atlantic City, it was my first big theater and I opened for Sergio Mendes. I went and bought a special dress and did my hair, and now I’m still doing that same thing. Everything that happens in your life happens in your act, so I’ve been married for 25 years and have an 11-year-old and a dog. Plus, like every woman, I’m always trying to improve myself. Women never stop trying; every day I think I can get smarter and thinner.

SJM: Do you have a typical audience that comes to your show?
RR: I get people of all ages because I don’t swear in my act. People can come and bring their parents or they can bring their children. Teenage girls like me because I talk about being a female and they can relate.

SJM: How have the A.C. and Vegas audiences changed since your start?
RR: Everybody has changed because people go to gambling destinations for more than just gambling now. People come for the shopping, the food, the shows, but when I started, they were just going for gambling, and at that point I almost felt like I was intruding.

SJM: What is the most challenging part of your career?
RR: I’m an older person who doesn’t have apps and doesn’t like to tweet. I know I should tweet more, but it takes a lot of time and people don’t need to know that my daughter had to go to the orthodontist yesterday. Being able to be myself and not working with all the social media that everyone does these days is my biggest challenge. But I just want to focus on my stand-up.

SJM: You’ve written quite a few books in recent years—how similar is that to writing stand-up?
RR: I love writing comedy essays; it’s like eating candy to me. I can look at an everyday activity and write something that’s really funny and have fun with it. But I’ve written two novels and they’re both excruciating. It’s something you have to devote all your time to, because you don’t want to demean the profession of writing novels. It’s the same as stand-up: you spend years and years honing your skill. But anything worth doing is worth working hard for.

SJM: So what can you tell us about your show in Atlantic City?
RR: I always bring lots and lots of jokes, usually three jokes a minute. And I’ll have a dress that’s very shiny and pretty. And I’m excited to be working with Brad [Garrett] again; I love working with Brad. He’s a very funny guy and we really understand each other.

SJM: Is there anything you have to do when you stop by A.C.?
RR: I certainly do love the outlet malls. I’m going to be there and I’m going to bring my extra suitcase and I’m going to fill it up.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 9 December, 2013).
For more info on South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To advertise in South Jersey Magazine, click here.