Like any great comedienne, Rita Rudner loves to crack a good joke, even if she doesn't mean to.
Rudner, who divides her time between homes in Dana Point and Las Vegas, recently talked to Laguna Niguel Patch about everything from shopping at the local to starring in the world premiere of her play Tickled Pink at the Laguna Playhouse through May 20. The play opened April 24 and is an adaptation of her 2002 bestselling novel by the same name.
“I love Trader Joe’s. What better place is there where you can get such wacky things?” Rudner said as she was getting ready for rehearsal. “Last week, I found frozen mango bars. They were so good, but not what I thought they would be when I opened them up. They didn’t have any sticks so I wasn’t sure how to eat them. But they were delicious, and I always try something new when I am there.”
Rudner said she and her husband, Martin Bergman, have been visiting the area for more than two decades.
“We had our honeymoon 23 years ago here at the and we’ve always loved coming here,” she said. “We wanted to buy a house for 18 years, and when we could finally afford one, we bought it. Now it is worth half of what we paid for it.”
While she jets between Sin City, where she performs at the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, and Dana Point, Bergman stays here, as does her daughter, Mollie, almost 10 years old, who attends one of the local schools.
But back to cooking and Trader Joe’s, she piped in.
“I like to cook and, last night, I made something partially successfully that I saw Giada De Laurentiis making on The Today Show,” she said. “She made it, and then I tried it, and never mind … it needed a little refining. I think I may have left the spaghetti in too long, you couldn’t tell it was spaghetti. It was paella, but spaghetti paella, and it had too many flavors for my daughter. She told me the truth. My husband ate it, though.”
Speaking of her husband, Bergman is well known in his own right. He’s written movies, directed, produced TV specials and more, Rudner boasted. The movie Peter’s Friends was the couple’s first produced film script. Starring Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton and Kenneth Branagh, the film won the Peter Sellers award for best comedy film of the year. Additional projects include TV movies A Weekend In The Country starring Jack Lemmon and Unfunny Girl for E!. The couple’s latest film, Thanks, can currently be seen on Showtime.
“He adapted the play for me from my book Tinkled Pink and he is directing it, too,” she said of her husband of 26 years. “This summer, we’ll be going to London to do a very interesting project: four episodes of a sitcom on BBC radio. We’re very excited. We have a written script, cast, and booked the recording studios. It will be fun.”
A Full Life
From dancing to comedy to stage, Rudner’s life has been a mixed bag.
Until she was 25, she preferred to talk with her feet, and danced in six Broadway shows that she no longer likes to name because readers will be compelled to go back and try to figure out how old she is.
She said she decided to become a comic by standing in front of inebriated strangers late at night, talking into a microphone and leaving in the bits where people laughed. She has no idea why she leaped from chorus lines to punch lines ... when she was in therapy she forgot to ask.
Her first solo HBO special, Rita Rudner’s One Night Stand, was nominated for several awards, as was her English BBC television show that later appeared on A&E. Her 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. She also performed sell-out tours of Australia and England and many viewers liked her dresses, she joked.
Her cable special Rita Rudner and 3 potential Ex-Husbands premiered in March on Showtime.
She has written four books, including two novels, Tickled Pink and Turning the Tables. Her non-fiction books are the best-selling Naked Beneath My Clothes and Rita Rudner’s Guide to Men. Her latest book of essays -- I Still Have It…I Just Can’t Remember Where I Put It –- was published by Harmony Books in the summer of 2008.
But ask her to choose which genre she prefers and she can’t answer fast enough.
“Stand-up comedy, hands down,” she gushed. “I love it; it’s only me and my little notebook, and my dress in a bag that doesn’t wrinkle. I get on a plane, total freedom, I do what I want. But don’t get me wrong, I do love this play since I am doing three outrageous characters: an over-the-hill neurotic dancer, a stupid waitress and a German overbearing mom ...”
Rudner says her inspiration comes from everyday life -- the good and bad.
“Nothing comes easy,” she said. “I have to sit down and think, look at things, look at my notebook. It’s a process. I sit and figure it out.”
As for spare time, she likes to spend it with family including the “lovely, beautiful, hairy dog called Twinkles.”
“I love being able to walk my dog, capture the ocean breezes, look at the flowers and listen to the sound of the waves when I’m in Dana Point,” she said. “It’s a different world from Las Vegas. One place is natural and one is man-made, a very artificial place. Vegas is fun, there are all kinds of things going on but with lights, great restaurants and shops. When I come back here, it feels rural and I love it. ... It’s like being in the country.”