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The Funny Business of Rita Rudner

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Rita Rudner has the longest running solo comedy act in the history of Las Vegas, but still calls Laguna Beach home.

You’d think Rita Rudner, who prides herself on being the longest-running comedy act on the Las Vegas Strip, would actually live in the place where’s she’s been performing since 2000. But noooo. Rudner – along with producer-writer husband Martin Bergman and their daughter Molly – makes her home in Laguna’s Monarch Beach. “It is unexpected,” Rudner admits. “That’s what’s good about it.”

Truth is, Rudner has made a career out of zigging when a zag would be the obvious move. Who would have expected a girl to leave home at 15 to become a professional Broadway dancer, then chuck it all for the rough-and-tumble, male-dominated world of stand-up? “I know. It’s not like you become a dancer because you are verbal. Or become a comedian because you’re light on your feet,” says Rudner, who is also the author of five books, a screenwriter and the sometime TV host of “Ask Rita.” And let’s not forget she’s taken a turn writing the Oscar telecast, where her writing partner was Steve Martin.

But it’s her collaboration with her husband that brings us back to the town this Florida-born star now calls home: From January 6 to 31 she returns to the Laguna Playhouse to star in the U.S. premiere of “Act 3...,” written by David Ambrose and Claudia Nellens and directed by Bergman. We caught up with her between rehearsals.

Where I live: Laguna Beach.

Why I live there: My husband and I got married in the old courthouse in Orange County 27 years ago. He was producing something in LA, and I had a TV show I had to go do – I mean we had to be in LA the next week – so we were looking for a quick honeymoon. So, we went to the Ritz-Carlton but we only had enough money for a night in a single room that overlooked the pool. The people at the hotel heard it was our honeymoon and upgraded us to a suite overlooking the ocean. It was fabulous. We said someday we are going to earn enough money to buy a house in Laguna Beach. It took 20 years, but we finally did it. Now I go for walks at the Ritz-Carlton and go right by our first room off the pool.

Only restaurant I can’t live without: Peking Dragon, on PCH. We have to go there at least twice a month. Mu shu pork, come on! You can’t do better than that. I love most everything. With gluten. And lactose. I don’t care. Pile it on. Really, I don’t think people in the Third World are saying, “I need Activia.”

My perfect day: Right now, this is not my perfect day. I had to take my daughter to the dentist, and the library has sent me a $13 bill on a book that I haven’t taken out. Not that I don’t want to give the library $13, but who is taking books out under my name? Instead of taking out huge loans and going on world cruises under my name somebody is checking out books from the Laguna Beach library and not returning them. Really?
I like to walk my dog, write jokes … I like to cook something new for dinner. I like watching mysteries on television, playing tennis with my daughter and watching tennis on TV. I like going to Trader Joe’s and Ralphs, just normal things. I’ll tell you what I don’t like – I don’t like cleaning up the house, but I do it because if you don’t people will talk.

Favorite getaway: Getting on a plane and reading a book, and having people ask me if I want any more wine, and going to a place where people laugh at my jokes, then getting back on a plane, reading The New York Times, enjoying the air conditioning. I really like getting away and working.  Chicago, Phoenix – it doesn’t really matter where, just any hotel room where I can be in control of the TV remote and spread out on the bed. And then, at the end of it, I get paid! My favorite gig was somewhere in St. Louis. I had this view from my hotel room – Designer Shoe Warehouse and Marshalls and Ross Dress for Less, right across the street. Heaven! Why pay full price for fabulous?

My sanctuary: The bathtub is a woman’s only sanctuary. You light a candle, put your feet up, I have one of these little caddies where I can put my wine glass.  It’s like being on vacation. No one is saying “Mom! Can Lisa come over? Mom! Mom!”

Favorite activity: Watching tennis! I play tennis with my husband, and walk on the beach with my husband, and then go shopping without my husband.
Favorite place to shop that is not a chain: I don’t know the name of it, but whenever somebody comes to visit I always take them to this dress store, in the Peppertree [Lane] mall in Laguna. You know, across from the sorbet store and the chocolate shop? [Editor’s note: it’s Sutton Place.] It has the greatest swishy dresses, great shawls. I just took my friend there, and I’m going to go back. They have these great dresses on the $20 rack. If I go back later today, maybe the $20 dresses will be on sale.

Favorite guilty pleasure: If I could sleep in a vat of ice cream, I would. Give me ice cream any time of the day. I have little teeny bowls; it is the only way I can control myself. Favorite flavor? That’s like choosing your favorite child … maybe Breyers chocolate fudge. Very fancy.

Angels or Dodgers: Um, is that a cake?

Red or white: Pink, a combination. Anything pink.

Pet peeve: People saying “like” all the time when they don’t like something. They are just saying “like.” I just don’t understand saying “like” when you don’t like something. I don’t get it. But I still like them – don’t think I don’t like the “like” people.

Personal motto: A serious one? “If you do it, it will be done.” When I want to procrastinate about something, which is all the time, I say that to myself.

“Act 3...” starring Rita Rudner and Charles Shaughnessy, The Laguna Playhouse,
January 6-31 :: lagunaplayhouse.com.


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