At 71, comedienne Rita Rudner could easily settle into retirement, especially because she has been headlining over 2,000 shows in Las Vegas at The Venetian for a record twelve plus years to over one million fans. However, Rudner decided that, despite all the fame and wealth she has accumulated by performing in Vegas, there was a need to come to Boca Raton and try her hand on new jokes and stories at the Boca Black Box Center for the Arts, where she performs in one shows on Friday, February 9 and two more on Saturday, February 10.
“Boca Raton is where I want to be because I love to create new anecdotes and not rest on my laurels,” said Rudner in a telephone interview from her California home. “I’m performing in a relatively small venue (Boca Black Box seats a maximum of 320) and the informality allows me to see everyone. I can easily size up whether the audience will like my new jokes or not in a few minutes or less and the challenge of entertaining the audience excites me.”
Rudner is no stranger to South Florida, not only because she has performed in South Florida at many venues over the years, including an appearance at Century Village in Boca Raton last month. She was born and raised in the Coconut Grove section of Miami.
“South Florida is home to me in so many ways. Not only was I raised here and my father was an attorney practicing in Miami, but my daughter Mollie now is a music student at the University of Miami, where my father went to school to study law.”
“You may say that my father would be very proud, as am I, to know that Mollie went to study at the same university that he went to.”
Rudner never went to university and it’s not because she didn’t have the intelligence to master courses. She graduated from high school as a 15-year-old teen with ambitions to go to New York to become a dancer. Beginning with a small role dancing in the Broadway musical “Promises, Promises”, young Rita made her path as a dancer, performing in “Follies” and “Mack & Mabel” and in “Annie’ to close out her career in dance by 1981.
“I knew that I could not dance into my forties and fifties, so to stay in show business I decided to turn my attention to comedy. With the exception of Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, there really were few or no women that did stand- up comedy and I felt the desire to excel.”
Starting working at small clubs in the New York City region in the 1970s, Rudner drew praise and applause from audiences who loved her anecdotes about being single and her inability to find suitable mates.
“I was always looking for Mister Right. When I found him, I learned that his first name is Always,” joked Rudner on stage
Her jokes and anecdotes led to bigger things. Rudner made her network television debut in 1982 on “Late Night With David Letterman” and found success on late night show appearances with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno as well as numerous television specials on HBO and public television.
Rudner also was a hit on British television with a number of talk show appearances in England. She also met her husband, the British producer Martin Bergman. “His first name is Martin, not Always. Martin and I married in 1988 and our marriage works because we are a team in every way possible. He helps me organize,, he helps me with preparation and is my best friend in every way possible.”
Rita and Martin have been married for 35 years plus and adopted their daughter Mollie, who is now 22. Rudner’s success in comedy stems to a degree from her glamorous looks and elegance when she delivers punch lines and shares anecdotes about herself, her husband and daughter on stage. Her act contrasts well with some of the younger comedians who rely on using four letter words and talking about their body parts in creating comedy.
“There is nothing wrong with younger comedians or anyone else in this business. What is important is to be who you are, be truthful and the audience will see you and embrace you.”
Along with new jokes and stories, the Boca Black Box audiences should also expect to hear some of Rudner’s famous jokes in the show, such as: “In Hollywood, a marriage is a success if it outlasts milk.” “I don’t plan to grow old gracefully. I plan to have facelifts until my ears meet.” “I was going to have cosmetic surgery until I noticed that the doctor’s office was full of portraits by Picasso.”
Comedienne Rita Rudner performs in three one woman shows from Friday, Feb. 9 to Sat. Feb. 10 at Boca Black Box Center for the Arts, 8221 Glades Road in Boca Raton. Show times are 8 p.m. on Friday and at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets range from $63-78 and can be purchased at bocablackbox.com or by calling 561-483-9036.