When it comes to finding material for her stand-up act, comedian Rita Rudner doesn’t have to go far.
“When I think about things that make me laugh — and hopefully my audience will find funny — I simply only have to talk about what’s happening in my life. So what’s happening in my life right now? I’m married to the same man for almost 27 years. To have a male partner for that period of time is really something, I think. … As for my female friends, it’s all about them getting divorced — that’s always a rich mother lode of material.
Rita Rudner; Louie Anderson When:8 p.m. April 25 Where:North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie Tickets: $38-$56 Info: (847) 673-6300; www.northshorecenter.org
“Also, I’m the mother of an almost-teenage girl [13-year-old Molly]. So all of that enters into my act too,” said Rudner, during a recent phone call. “Out here either in Vegas or L.A., when girls are 13, they’re really 22. … Then the funniest thing happens. When they turn 22, they dress and look like they’re 13. It’s the weirdest thing.”
Being a mother of an only daughter can be a challenge, Rudner admitted. (I’m sure millions of non-famous mothers would also agree.) “It basically boils down to me constantly reading books on what I’m doing wrong as a mother,” said the comedienne, who noted: one really shouldn’t get too hung up on the advice in those tomes.
“All those books contradict themselves. If one book says doing this is right, you can then go and pick up another one that will just say the opposite. So here’s my advice: Follow my motto in life: ‘I’m doing the best that I can!'”
Rudner remembers a time when she was part of a pretty lonely “sorority.” There just were not than many female comedians, and the ones doing comedy did not reflect — in her opinion — the mainstream of American women, at least when it came to looks.
“I’m very excited now, because for the longest time, when there was a funny guy, he was just a funny guy. But if there was a funny woman, she had to look like a model! I mean, I like Kim Basinger, but when she was named the funniest woman in the world in some poll, I thought, ‘She’s not! She’s a gorgeous, talented actress, but she’s not a hugely funny woman!'”
Rudner noted that she is “happy that real women, who look like real women that are not in show business, are coming into their own in the world of comedy in films and in stand-up and on TV.”
Yet along with the Melissa McCarthys or Rebel Wilsons being accepted as successful, funny women, Rudner is also pleased that “Amy Poehler and Tina Fey — who are very beautiful in my book — are so funny and appreciated as great comics, and not just the object of attention because of their looks.”
Since Rudner mostly works in Las Vegas, she said she is used to having audiences that represent a real melting pot. “We get them from all over. Everyone goes to Vegas at some point, and I see them all, with the exception of people from Asia. They are not usually in my theater, unless it’s by mistake,” said Rudner.
“Occasionally, they will wander in with their heads buried in a brochure or a guidebook. Then they look up. See me, and go, ‘What’s happening here?’ … That happened the other night. A lovely Asian woman was sitting in the front row at my show with the most confused look on her face.
“I don’t like to make fun of people, but I did point out she might be in the wrong theater. That’s all it took! She immediately got up and left!”
Since Rudner’s background includes years of training as a dancer, I asked if a future on “Dancing With the Stars” might be in the offing.
That question brought an immediate put-down. “No. First of all they haven’t asked me, and second of all I might kill myself. You put those two things together and I won’t be on it. I really like telling jokes and telling stories. It’s much easier on my body.”
As for Chicago, the mere mention of the word, brought this response from Rudner:
“When I hear the word Chicago I think, good food, good shopping and bad weather. However, there’s nothing more beautiful than walking around and looking at the lake — which is gorgeous when the weather is good. But I do remember being there once in mid-summer, and decided it was a great time to eat ice cream. Of course, it was like 120 degrees. I ended up with Haagen Dazs soup — but it was still delicious!”