Age 54, world renown comic and author
Husband: Martin Bergman
Daughter: 5 year old Molly
Author of “I Still Have It…I Just Can’t Remember Where I Put It” published by Harmony Books
Q: As you note, the fiftysomething years are fraught with speed bumps—annoying multi-function electronics, suffocating Lycra undergarments, the extensive time it now takes to prepare to leave one’s home… What was the biggest challenge you faced turning fifty?
Rita: The biggest challenge I faced turning fifty was saying it out loud. In fact, I couldn’t actually say it out loud until I was fifty-two. Being in your fifties increases your challenge of staying relevant in today’s society. I decided I could make my book relevant by pointing out my irrelevance.
Q: In your mind, what’s one great “advantage of vintage”?
Rita: I don’t get upset about things that are unimportant to the degree I did when I was younger. I think priorities become much more apparent in your fifties. I used to get bothered about a scratch on a new pair of shoes. My point of view has shifted. The last time I became really troubled was when I lost my daughter for two minutes in a water park at Legoland.
Q: You write about the importance of having the courage to change. What change in your life took the most personal courage?
Rita: When I look back, I think the decision to leave New York City for Los Angeles was the change that took the most courage and made the biggest difference to the rest of my life. I was so comfortable in New York. I had a great apartment, great friends, and a great Chinese restaurant right around the corner that delivered. I had moved to the city when I was fifteen, so I had never learned how to drive and the prospect of navigating the freeways in Los Angeles terrified me. I took driving lessons, got on a plane, rented a car at the airport, and got right on the 405. Because of that move, I feel I was able to open up my life to change.
Q: In your book, you tell us about your wonderful Vegas dog, Bonkers, your friend and co-star, who looked like a cross between a bath mat and Kenny Rogers. What was the most surprising thing Bonkers inserted into your act?
Rita: Having Bonkers in my act made me respect the old adage, “Never follow a dog or a child in show business.” It didn’t matter how funny my jokes were, I had to put Bonkers in my act at the very end. Nothing could compete with a sixty-pound hairy hound on stage doing absolutely nothing.
Q: You and your daughter, Molly, 5, have conquered baby walkers, potty training, birthday party etiquette, and bullies in Gymboree. What’s next for your mother-daughter duo?
Rita: My daughter is currently taking tennis lessons and piano lessons, but she is desperate to begin karate. The self-defense part of it is appealing to me but the fact that she could kick me in the head when I tell her to brush her teeth is less so.
Q: You brought your dad to live in Las Vegas in his later years. What did you learn from him that you plan to pass on to Molly?
Rita: My father led by bad example. By being one of the laziest people I’d ever known, he taught me not to be lazy. He taught me to get up every day and accomplish something. I hope to pass that on to my daughter.
Q: Did having a child change your perspective on your career?
Rita: The reason I waited so long to become a mother was because of the traveling my career demanded. Being older and having had a respectable career enables me to focus on another part of life. I still feel my career is important but not important enough for me to be away longer than two days.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received about being a mother?
Rita: The best advice I think I’ve received about being a mother is that there is no one way to do anything. Children are like snowflakes. Each one is different.
Q: You are a frequent collaborator with your writer/producer husband of 20 years, Martin Bergman. In fact, your first produced film script with Martin, “Peter’s Friends,” starring Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Kenneth Branagh, Imelda Staunton, Stephen Fry, and yourself, was just released in the U.S. on DVD. Are you and Martin working on anything now?
Rita: Martin and I have just finished our first play, “Room 776,” which is being performed here in Las Vegas in June. It’s a comedy that centers around two strangers who get booked in the same hotel room over a sold-out weekend in Las Vegas. I also have a new comedy special coming out on PBS in June that he executive produced, “Rita Rudner: Live From Las Vegas.” And we have a new puppy that Molly has named ”Twinkle,” that we are trying to housebreak.