Interview: Comedian Rita Rudner Discusses Upcoming Sellersville Theater Performance, Career Highlights
Legend Rita Rudner has pretty much done it all. Not only has the versatile comedian performed all over the world, including a record 13-year residency in Las Vegas (the longest running solo comedy show in Las Vegas history), but she’s also showcased her talents at such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York City and completed sold out tours of Australia and England. Her first solo HBO special ‘One Night Stand’ was also nominated for multiple awards, as were her BBC and A&E specials.
An accomplished dancer and singer, Rudner is also the author of several fiction and non-fiction books and multiple Hollywood scripts. And along with her husband, Martin, she’s also planning to stage a new musical in New York this summer.
On Saturday, April 27, Rita Rudner will bring her unique and insatiable brand of comedy to The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA for two shows — one at 6 p.m. and the other at 9 p.m. I recently spoke with her about the upcoming performances in Sellersville, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.
What can fans expect from your upcoming shows at The Sellersville Theater?
Rita Rudner: Lots of jokes in a row and a gown that doesn’t wrinkle [laughs]. That’s what I deliver every time.
How would you describe your brand of comedy?
I like to do things that everybody can relate to. In this time when everybody’s being so torn apart I like to figure out commonalities we all share. It makes for a fun evening, and there’s no politics in my act whatsoever.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
It’s always from personal experiences but there’s no one way to be creative. Sometimes I might hear a word somebody says, or see something somebody does, or I’ll say a word accidentally out of the blue. I like to stay attentive.
Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment?
Yes, but originally only as a dancer. I was a professional dancer until I was about 30 and then switched to comedy.
What made you decide to make the change?
It was the numbers. There were too many dancers and not enough comedians. I realized there was very little chance I was going to be Gwen Verdon or Barbara Streisand — because I was a singer too — but there was a chance I could be George Burns [laughs].
Who were some of your early influences?
I always liked Woody Allen, Jack Benny and Johnny Carson when I was growing up. I’d often sneak into the den and watch Johnny’s monologue late at night when my parents were sleeping. I’ve always liked jokes and still remember seeing London Lee tell one when I was young. It was about being a rich guy and the line was, “He came from a very rich family that had a mansion with two bedrooms and fifty-seven bathrooms. They didn’t sleep but they liked to read a lot [laughs].
Did you discover that comedians like Jack Benny had a certain style and delivery that appealed to you?
My mom liked Jack Benny so I started researching him and found that he was very laid back and wasn’t very aggressive. He was a complete character and never looked like he was doing anything outside of who he was. That’s something I work on all the time.
What are some of the biggest differences between having a career in comedy now as opposed to back in the 1980s?
It’s a completely different thing going on right now with social media like YouTube and Instagram. When I was starting out it was all about cable and you had to figure out a way to get on. It was a very lucky marriage between entertainment that was inexpensive and comedians only needing to have a brick wall and a microphone. Venues started hiring lots of comedians because they didn’t have a lot of money and we started getting attention. That was the 80s.
Did you find it even more challenging coming up as a female comedian?
I never thought about it then but I think it was a double-whammy because not only was I female but I was also quiet. When you don’t have a loud voice a lot of people get heard before you do. I was lucky in that the audiences saved me because they always laughed. Then, when David Letterman and Johnny Carson liked me, people started getting used to my style. I was always myself and didn’t ever want to sound like a comedian. I only want to sound like a person talking.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
I’ve been writing my autobiography for a few years. My husband, Martin, is going through it now and correcting all the punctuation mistakes. I have an over-affinity for commas. I write the way I talk and have funny cadences, so I’m always incorrect when I write it down on paper. We’ve also written a musical we’ll be performing in New York in July and August. That’s our new challenge.
Your daughter is also involved in entertainment. What can you tell me about it?
She and her friend have a double act, Molly and Peyton (92629). They sing all over the area and have lots of stuff on YouTube.
Of all the highlights of your career is there one moment that stands out to you as most memorable?
I really liked doing Carnegie Hall for the first time. I sat down, wrote an act and played Carnegie Hall and all my friends came. My dad came from Miami; my in-laws came from England, and all my friends from when I was a dancer came and said, “Why weren’t you ever funny when we knew you?” [laughs]. I’ve played Carnegie Hall three times but that first one was something I never thought I’d do in my entire life. That’s why you should never put limits on yourself, because you never know what’s ahead of you.