Ken Tucker
November 30, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

Rita Rudner: Born to be Mild

type
TV Show
Current Status
In Season
performer
Rita Rudner
genre
Comedy

We gave it an B-

With her wide eyes, simpering smile, and little-girl voice, Rita Rudner might seem like just another female comedian who plays up to sexist clichés about how women should act. But over the course of Born to be Mild, this HBO Comedy Hour special, it becomes clear that there’s something about Rudner’s shrewd self-awareness that makes her stronger and smarter than her jokes at first suggest. The show is well-titled; ”mild” is certainly the word for her (”In L.A., a marriage is a success if it outlasts milk”). A lot of her winsome-neurotic persona suggests Woody Allen in his early stand-up days; you can almost hear Allen delivering this joke: ”Growing up, I had only two friends, and they were imaginary” — long pause — ”they would only play with each other.” Rudner’s best, most original material concerns her marriage, which she portrays with a tart matter-of-factness (”My mother told me the secret of sex in a marriage: You have to let your husband be himself, and you have to pretend he’s someone else”). Hey: Born to be Tart; that wouldn’t have been a bad title either. B-

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