Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Easily one of the most recognizable female standup comedians of all time, Rita Rudner is still playing Las Vegas after all these years. The award-winning performer and best-selling writer spent years at MGM Grand, New York-New York, Harrah’s and Venetian, making her the longest-running solo comedy act in the history of Las Vegas. She’s making a return to the stage at the Rocks Lounge this weekend, so I caught up with her to talk about off-Strip fun, family business and keeping it real.
You’ve played the Strip longer than most. What’s it like to come back to Vegas now and play off-Strip at Red Rock? I’ve performed at Red Rock three or four times already, and I’m still there [in Vegas] a lot. I have an apartment there, and I still have my in-laws there, too. There’s a lot less traffic out there, which is really good. I still love performing on the Strip and it’s still very exciting, but Red Rock is such a beautiful casino. I really appreciate the restaurants there and I love the fact that they built a mall for me right across the street. It’s very considerate, really.
They’re building a ballpark there, too. Yeah, I won’t be there.
Vegas has changed a lot over the course of your career here. Has your experience performing here changed as well? No, performing is always the same no matter where I do it. I just find audiences wherever I go are friendly and ready to laugh. I think getting away from what’s going on in the world for an hour and a half is becoming increasingly necessary.
Your daughter Molly, who is a singer and songwriter, is performing with you at these shows, right? Yes. She’s missing a little school, so don’t tell anybody. But she’s opening for me and she’s really good and I don’t pay her so that’s a double plus. She also traveled with me all summer and we worked on cruise lines in Alaska and Hawaii. It’s a really good thing because I get to keep her with me and have my eyes on her.
What’s it like to watch her start to build her own career in entertainment? It’s very relaxing. I don’t have to do anything. When I watch her play tennis, it’s gutwrenching. I don’t like to watch my child be beaten, but she wins a lot. It’s always very tense in tennis, but when she’s singing, I love to sit back and relax and just watch, and she’s such a good musician and songwriter. She plays piano and guitar.
Earlier this year you won the Excellence in Comedy Award at the Women in Comedy Festival, and more recently you won the Casino Entertainment Legend Award here in Las Vegas. How meaningful are these kinds of accolades at this stage in your career? It’s always nice when someone compliments you because it can be a very harsh world out there. Somebody telling you you’re doing a good job is always welcome. The Casino Legend Award was a bit of a mixed bag because it was right after the shooting. It’s going to be a long, long time before people can process what went on, and why and how. But there’s a lot of people in the community coming together, too.
Did you follow the bit of comedy controversy earlier this year when a few female standups got into an internet feud discussing what female comics should and shouldn’t use for material? As someone who broke through when there were far fewer female comedians out there, do you have an opinion about that stuff? I think you have to be true to yourself and talk about what you want to. One thing any audience can detect is if you’re not coming from a place of honesty and who you really are. But you should talk about what you want to, and not just say things because you think people might like it better. My comedy has other restrictions—I’m also a mother and there are a few [female comedians] out there who are mothers but not a lot. I’m very aware of that, trying to be as positive a role model as I can be for my daughter. She listens to my act and I want her to be proud of her mother.
You’re about to tour with Brad Garrett. What’s coming up next for you? I’m writing my autobiography, which is very interesting. I’m filming another comedy special in November in Los Angeles. And [husband] Martin [Bergman] and I just wrote a play we’re workshopping and reading and writing and rewriting. In the meantime, I’m telling my daughter to practice. I keep telling her to write a song like the beginning of “Hawaii Five-0,” because the guy who wrote that has probably been dead for 50 years and he’s still making a living.
Rita Rudner performs at the Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort at 8 p.m. November 3 and 4. For more information, visit stationcasinoslive.com.