CRYSTAL LAKE – At age 15, Rita Rudner made her way to New York to dance. Fast forward about eight years and she found her true passion. Not under the bright lights of Broadway, but rather in the dimmer setting of Manhattan’s comedy clubs.
It was the early ’80s and Rudner made an observation.
“I noticed that there weren’t many stand-up comedians that were women and I thought I would try it,” Rudner said. “I thought it was a very crowded field and I had an affinity for it, so I immersed myself in it. I love finding out what will make people laugh. It’s cathartic for me and the audience.”
Rudner was dancing on Broadway in “Annie” at the start of her comedic exploration. After performances, Rudner would go to The Improv on 8th. Rudner said she auditioned to get on stage several times and, when she got on initially, she wasn’t funny. But she worked to get better.
“My first joke that worked was ‘I broke up with my boyfriend. He wanted to get married and I didn’t want him to,’ ” Rudner said.
By 1988, Rudner had appeared on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” the ultimate springboard for comedians of the time. A year later, “Rita Rudner’s One Night Stand” aired on HBO. She had arrived.
Rudner also has been an author, screenwriter and actress, but it’s being a comedian she identifies with.
“I am a stand-up comedian,” Rudner said. “That’s what I love to do. That’s my chosen profession and that’s No. 1.”
Rudner also is very proud of her role as wife to her husband, British writer, producer and director Martin Bergman, as well as the role of being a mother to her daughter, Molly.
Rudner is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. May 12 at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.
“Years ago, we started our Lucy’s Comedy Club at the Raue and since then, we’ve grown a reputation with comics,” said Richard Kuranda, CEO and executive artistic director of the Raue Center for the Arts. “Over the last two years, we’ve had Louie Anderson perform and he had done some performance dates with Rita and he recommended her to us. She’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.”
Kuranda said it’s not uncommon to have three or four generations sitting in the theater and the Raue looks for performers to satisfy that gamut and Rudner fits the bill.
“People come out for a night of entertainment and they want quality,” Kuranda said. “We really look for comics that have a great body of work, that are incredible writers in their own fashion and that are consistent with their delivery.”
Equipped with a sweet, yet captivating voice and show-stopping gowns, Rudner looks, acts and talks like Rita. That’s who she is.
“Be true to your own voice and never be satisfied,” Rudner said. “I always try to do things a little better. Being true to who you are is the secret to any career. People know when you’re not being yourself.”
Marriage, love and life all are subjects that Rudner uses in her set. No politics. Also, no stool and no water.
“I just need a dress that doesn’t wrinkle and a microphone,” Rudner said. “I don’t want people to watch me sit or drink water. That’s not why we’re here.”
Tickets for Rudner’s performance can be bought through the Raue Center box office at 815-356-9212 or online at rauecenter.ticketforce.com. Tickets start at $35.