Comedian Rita Rudner is the queen of one-liners. And it’s not just an act, she slings them effortlessly throughout regular conversation as well.
“Hello? Hang on let me get her, okay I’m here,” Ms. Rudner said, laughing, when she answered the phone at her summer home in Dana Point, California. “I’m acting as my own assistant in this life, I have to do it, it makes me feel better!”
Onstage and off, she is genuine and sweet in her delivery, while wittily making observations about daily life, especially marriage. On Thursday, East Enders will get a chance to see the Vegas headliner perform when she takes the stage at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.
The stand-up comedian—who has been doing her act for the last 10 years almost exclusively in Las Vegas, Nevada, specifically at The Venetian resort and casino since 2011—has sold over a million tickets in the past decade alone. But she wasn’t always a comedian; she actually started her show biz career as a dancer on Broadway. After performing in shows such the original productions of “Follies” and “Mack & Mabel,” at age 27 she decided to become a stand-up comic, she said.
She never looked back, even though stand-up had not been something she was interested in previous to taking the plunge as a comedian, she said. Her only experience doing stand-up was that she knew how to laugh.
“When I got to the clubs, all the people who were performing had been doing it for years and I was just starting,” she said. “I had some very instrumental people I learned from … If you listen, you learn.”
If there was a time to learn about telling jokes by listening, it was definitely when Ms. Rudner started. She came on the scene during the same time as the likes of Bill Maher, Roseanne Barr, Ronnie Shakes and Jerry Seinfeld, she remembered.
When she was starting out, she would get together with her friend, Marjorie Gross, (a writer on “Seinfeld”), three times a week to practice. They would write jokes and bounce ideas off each other.
Ms. Rudner has thrived by continuing to grow as a comedian, as she gains experience in life.
“Everything that happens in my life, everything I’m going through, everything that goes into your life is valid,” she said about coming up with material. “I always try to incorporate new techniques, as with anything it comes to a certain technique. It has a certain rhythm and it is about layering.”
Her career is as layered as her comedic writing. The award-winning comedian behind “Rita Rudner: Born to Be Mild” and “Rita Rudner: Married Without Children” has acted in seven films, multiple television series and made-for-TV movies. She and her husband, Martin Bergman, have written plays and screenplays together, including the film “Peter’s Friends,” and she has authored five books.
As diverse as her career is, though, stand-up will always be her love and her priority, she said.
“I always do things related to comedy, I love to make people laugh. My favorite thing is always stand-up because it is a very singular sport or profession,” Ms. Rudner said. “I say what I want to say, I wear what I want to wear and it’s just me. Anyone who is a true stand-up comedian will always say ‘it’s my favorite thing.’ Acting you have to pretend you are someone else, I don’t like to do that.”
Even though she now calls Las Vegas home for most of the year, her life is relatively untouched by the vices of “sin city,” she said, adding that she and her husband adopted a daughter, Molly, in 2002 and have a fairly regular daily routine. For example, Ms. Rudner drives Molly to school every day, and her work schedule allows her to be a very involved mother.
“I work from 7 p.m. to 10 which makes me available to annoy her all the time,” she said through laughs.
But having a set routine, and playing the same venue nightly has other benefits as well. According to Ms. Rudner, it helps her to write better material.
“You are really relaxed, it helps you do new material because you feel at home, it’s the best way to do new material … it’s very good for creativity,” she said.
Especially since she doesn’t perform away from Las Vegas often, Ms. Rudner encouraged people to come out to her show in Westhampton Beach.
“They will laugh three times a minute and they will go home happy,” she said. “Life is very difficult. You read the news, don’t you need an escape? Help! Get me out of here!” she exclaimed, before returning to her soft-spoken ways. “You had great questions. I’m going to walk the dog.”
Comedian Rita Rudner will perform at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Thursday, August 22, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets range from $80 to $100 and can be purchased at whbpac.org or by calling 288-1500.