comscore Rita Rudner mines laughs in family, life experiences | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Rita Rudner mines laughs in family, life experiences

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now

    Comedienne Rita Rudner, a veteran of more than 35 years in comedy, star of HBO and PBS comedy specials, and a published author, has been making people laugh since she broke into comedy in the early 1980s.

Comedienne Rita Rudner, a veteran of more than 35 years in comedy, star of HBO and PBS comedy specials, and a published author, has been making people laugh since she broke into comedy in the early 1980s.

She’s starred in three HBO specials — “Rita Rudner’s One Night Stand,” Born to Be Mild” and “Married Without Children” — did “Rita Rudner: Live From Las Vegas” for PBS” in 2008, played a 14 year engagement in Las Vegas, and has written five books. Among the latter is the provocatively titled “Naked Beneath My Clothes.”

Veteran Hawaii entertainment promoter Greg Azus brings Rudner to Hawaii next week for two shows at the Blue Note. Rudner celebrates the 16th birthday of her daughter, singer/songwriter, Molly Bergman, that same day. “Hawaii Five-0” is Molly’s favorite show and Rudner said that her daughter is looking forward to taking a tour of “Five-o” sites while they’re here.

Presented by Blue Note Hawaii

>> Where: Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
>> When: 6:30 and 9 p.m. Wednesday
>> Cost: $20 to $55
>> Info: 777-4890,
>> Note: $6 validated parking (good for 4 hours) at Ohana Waikiki East, 150 Kaiulani Ave.

As for her stand-up comedy, Rudner, 64, prefers topics she describes as “up-lifting.”

“I talk about getting older, and my challenges with technology and Instagram, and trying to be as smart as my appliances. That’s kind of difficult these days,” Rudner said. “Molly has to show me how to do everything. My 16-year-old can do it all.

“I talk about being the mother of a teenager. I talk about being married for — our anniversary is a couple of weeks — we’ve been married 30 years. I talk about how much I love my dogs. Things people can relate to.”

Things people can relate to changes from one audience to another, she explained.

There are jokes she only uses for audiences in Las Vegas because “nobody’s experiencing those circumstances” anywhere else. There are jokes about Jewish life that she saves for the benefit shows she does for Jewish organizations (Rudner is Jewish).

Rudner was living in New York City and a veteran subway rider when she got into comedy; she learned quickly that New Yorkers could relate to her jokes about the subway, but when she used the same material in North Carolina, “the people just looked at me.”

“I talk about looks in my act. I make fun of women, about how vain we are. I make fun of men and how much they like sports. That’s what comedians do. There’s nothing funny about a good-looking person doing well,” she said. “How are you going to make fun of that?

“You’ve got to have a sense of humor about yourself and about the situation, and not be precious about everything that anybody says.”

In this context, “precious” describes being overly sensitive. There was a recent arts-media blow up after an older male comedian told a younger female comic that she was doing a good job; some feminists found the comment offensive.

“I’d say, ‘Thank you for complimenting me,’” Rudner replied when asked what her response would be in similar circumstances. “There are some things you should be upset about, and some things you ignore.”

RUDNER’S ROAD to stardom began when she graduated from high school and left her hometown, Miami, for a career as a Broadway dancer.

She transitioned from dance to comedy in her mid-20s. Years later, Rudner is famous for having prepared for the stage by first studying and analyzing the work of trailblazing comedians like Jack Benny and Woody Allen — how they structured their acts, their use of timing and other comic techniques.

She emphasizes that no amount of study substitutes for time spent on stage.

“I made sure that every day I did something that increased my understanding (of comedy), and I made sure that every night I would talk into a microphone — no matter what time or where it was,” she said.

“I ended up doing a lot of comedy at 1 a.m. to waitresses and waiters cleaning up tables, but anything is beneficial. My daughter sings around town in restaurants when nobody’s listening, and I say, ‘Don’t worry. It’s all good practice.’”

Family members can often become the default choice when comedians and lifestyle columnists are looking for material. Rudner says her daughter and husband, British-born writer/producer Martin Bergman, come first.

“I’m careful about what I say because I love my family very much,” she said. “There was something that my husband objected to once — I can’t even remember what it was — and I cut it out of my act. I used to leave Molly out of my act because she didn’t sign up for it.

“My husband signed up for it. He met me because he produced comedy shows and I’m a comedienne. He’s a big boy. I still wouldn’t say anything that would jeopardize our relationship or anything that he would be offended at, but he knew I was going to talk about him.”

“The first time Molly saw my act, she was about 7 years old. She said, ‘You know, Mom, you talk a lot about Dad and you don’t talk enough about me.’ She gave me permission and license to talk about her, but when she asked to me a change a joke about her, I did.”

In September, Rudner and her husband will preview a new play — “an unromantic comedy about two people who aren’t getting along,” in Laguna Beach.

In November, her next television special, “Rita Rudner: Tale of Two Dresses,” will be available on demand.

“Where am I going to demand it? I don’t know,” she said, “but I’m going to try and find it. It’ll be available ‘on all different platforms.’ Molly can find it for me.”

Comments (1)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up