Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Also see Eddie's reviews of Top Girls, Hay Fever and Like Is a Dream, Patrick's review of Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The California Chapter, and Richard's reviews of Matilda and As Long As I'm Singin'
Some eons ago, local comedian Rick Reynolds staged a one-man show called Only the Truth is Funny. Rita Rudner could take a cue from Mr. Reynolds. While her 75-minute set at Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko generated quite a few laughs from an appreciative audience, too much of her material either isn't based on the real challenges of life (is low lighting in expensive restaurants really a problem?), or is aimed at easy and overused targets: old magazines in doctor's waiting rooms, men not liking to shop, golf on TV.
Though she mines some laughs from these hackneyed subjects (memorably about men loving when there is a chair in women's clothing stores, but "when I go to Home Depot I have to sit in a sink"), you feel you are laughing in spite of your better judgment. Rudner claims she has a pair of jeans where "the Israelis and Palestinians have a better chance of getting together than this zipper"but she's not fat, and that truth undercuts the humor. And have you been to an outlet mall recently, Rita? They don't sell "irregulars" anymore.
What Rudner does have, after nearly 40 years of stand-up comedy, is a wonderful sense of timing and pace. Even some of her lamest jokes ("My friend can't afford therapy, so she's doing aromatherapy. She tells her problems to a scented candle.") elicit laughs because she knows precisely how to land them. Her stage presence is undeniably charming.
Despite her charm, it would be nice if Rudner made a greater attempt to connect with her audience. In the intimate confines of Feinstein's, her act came across as slightly chilly and remote. I left feeling it could have been performed identically at every date, in any venue. At one point she said "The holidays are coming up..." Really, Rita? It's July. Should we be out looking for Labor Day gifts? It only served to reinforce the feeling that we could easily have been watching a DVD of a Comedy Central special and not a live performance.
Rudner is clearly an expert performer, but I'd like to see her bring her material into the 21st century. Yes, the jokes about the boredom of long-term relationships ("My dad needs a hearing aid. But he's waitinguntil my mother dies.") will get you an easy chuckle, but wouldn't it be more satisfying to take us someplace newand still make us laugh? Let's have more of "Am I the only one here who's starting to feel a little sorry for gluten?" and less about how you're not reporting a stolen credit card because the thief is spending less on it than you were.
Rita Rudner performed at Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko July 17-19, 2015. Information about Rudner's current tour and her Las Vegas shows can be found at her website, and Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko has a full calendar of singers and performers scheduled for the coming months.