by MK Scott
A house-filling favorite in Las Vegas since she opened as one of the hottest tickets in town in June 2000, Rita Rudner is known for her epigrammatic one-liners. Over the course of a fourteen-year run and 2,000 plus shows, she has sold one and a half million tickets and become the longest-running solo comedy show in the history of Las Vegas. She has been named Las Vegas’s ‘Comedian of the Year’ nine years in a row and in 2006, received The Nevada Ballet’s ‘Woman of the Year’ Award.
Rudner’s first solo HBO special, ‘Rita Rudner’s One Night Stand,’ was nominated for several awards, as was her eponymous English BBC television show that later appeared in the USA on A&E. Rudner’s two one-hour specials for HBO, ‘Born To Be Mild’ and ‘Married Without Children,’ were ratings standouts and she performed all over the country, filling Carnegie Hall in New York three times and the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles twice.
It was watching one of those HBO specials that I became a fan of Rudner and who could forget her in the 1992 film, Peter’s Friends? This past week, I had a chance to send questions to Rudner via email.
MK Scott: Now you are coming and playing at the Federal Way Performing Arts Center, which is an incredible venue by the way. What can we expect from the show?
Rita Rudner: Lots of jokes you haven’t heard before and maybe some you’ve heard, but you won’t remember that you’ve heard them and you’ll think they’re new.
MK: You have had a career that has spanned five decades. I remember seeing one of your HBO specials. What has been the highlight of your career? (Broadway, film, stand-up, author?)
Rudner: Winning the Oscar and getting to work with Robert de Niro. Oh no, that’s Meryl Streep. I get us mixed up. I’m not one to look backwards. It hurts my neck. I prefer forwards. Today my interview with Marc Maron ran on his WTF podcast and next summer I’m performing in a musical in New York.
MK: You are one of the legendary funny ladies that include Bette Midler, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller. What did you learn from them over the years?
Rudner: Friends with them all. I met Bette when we were both in Las Vegas. Joan and I shared a theatre at The Venetian in Las Vegas. And Phyllis and I did a film together, plus I have one of Phyllis’s paintings hanging in my house. The quality we all have in common is tenacity, which all women in show business need. Except for Meryl Streep.
MK: I read that you enjoy Jewish humor and really admired the comedy of Woody Allen and Jack Benny. Can you elaborate?
Rudner: Woody Allen and Jack Benny are Jewish? I had no idea. I don’t like differentiating humor. It’s either funny or not funny.
MK: Who in comedy today do you admire the most from Joy Behar to Kathy Griffin to Amy Schumer?
Rudner: I love everybody equally.
MK: In 1992, you and your husband wrote and produced Peter’s Friends that was a critically acclaimed hit. Is film something that you want to go back into at some point?
Rudner: No. I like to watch films. Especially now that I get a senior discount. I like working live. That’s my metier. With film, there’s too much time spent waiting in trailers, and you have to get up too early.
MK: How many more years are you expected to perform in Vegas?
Rudner: I’ve reduced my schedule recently and now that my daughter is a teenager, she likes it when I travel! Hence, my visit to your city. While I’m telling jokes, she’ll probably be having a party.
MK: What is your feeling about the current political climate under the administration of Trump?
Rudner: I find I’m taking a lot more antacids. I think everyone is overloaded on politics currently. So I don’t talk politics at all in my act because I think everyone, including me, needs a break.
MK: My burning question is: As I mentioned at the beginning, you have done film, theater, books, stand-up, etc. Is there anything more that you want to do in your career that you haven’t had a chance to do yet?
‘An Evening with Rita Rudner’ comes to the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center on Friday, November 16 at 8pm. Go to https://fwpaec.org/rita-rudner for tickets and information.