The funniest moments during stand-up are almost always improvised. Expect Caroline Rhea to provide plenty of spontaneous comedy when she performs Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Comedy Club.
“I could never be one of those comedians who just deliver a set by heart,” Rhea said. “I watch a show at a comedy club like dinner. It’s live entertainment, so I live for that moment.
Rhea, 58, will deliver prepared material, but the charismatic actress, who was once described by one reviewer as the Meryl Streep of Disney TV shows, is at her best when engaging audiences.
“It’s so much fun,” Rhea said. “That’s what I missed the whole time I wasn’t doing stand-up.”
The Quebec native, who played a supporting role in the hit series ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch,’ went on hiatus while pregnant with her daughter, Ava, who was born in 2008.
“There’s no comedy club as interesting as my daughter,” Rhea said. “I didn’t want to miss his early years.”
When Ava was a tyke, Rhea did voiceover work for Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb.”
“I was lucky,” Rhea said. “Everything worked for me. ”
Rhea, who is gearing up for a stand-up on “The Tonight Show,” would like to use this material, but she was forced to create new material. “I have four hours of material in my head, but some go way back,” Rhea said. “I had to find new and relevant material and I did.”
Rhea’s teenager is often her inspiration.
“My daughter loved what I did on TV when she was younger, but for me to get her approval now, I have to be in a remake of ‘Fight Club’ with Brad Pitt,” Rhea said. “It’s funny how things have changed. When I was my daughter’s age, I remember saying to my best friend, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see each other on the phone?’ It would have been like ‘The Jetsons’ to me.
It’s hard for Rhea to appease her only child. “I’m crawling for his approval,” Rhea said. “It’s as if she were the queen and I the peasant. I’m watching a documentary about teenagers called “How to Raise Your Dragon”.
Rhea, who lives in Los Angeles, spends every summer in Maine with her two sisters and their children. “It’s a wonderful thing to do since we all live together every year,” Rhea said. “We’re all adults in our 50s and we’re having the best time with each other.”
It’s no surprise that Rhea’s siblings are also humorous. “My only sister said that after watching my daughter’s room, Ava lives like a rock star who isn’t afraid to lose her deposit,” Rhea said.
Rhea will also joke about life in Los Angeles. “LA is the only place where a doctor says, ‘I’m going to have to look at your chart’ and they mean your horoscope chart. ‘Oh cancer,’ the doctor will say. And it’s like, ‘Oh my God, cancer. ‘ And he talks about the rise of my cancer.
And then there is social media. “Ladies in LA are so small their Instagram photos should say ‘Life Size’.”
Rhea is still saddened by the recent death of Olivia Newton-John. Rhea appeared in the provocative television series “Sordid Lives”, which starred Newton-John as a lesbian country singer.
“It was a great experience,” Rhea said. “I remember my dad, who was dying at the time, saying, ‘Honey, you have to play this part. You’ll never get a role on a show this well written. And he was right. I remember sitting between Olivia and (actress) Rue McClanahan and I couldn’t believe I was between these two icons. My inner 14 year old was freaking out! It was such a great series and an amazing movie.
Rhea was not in the film, which was released in 2000. Delta Burke played her role but opted out of the series.
“I was lucky to get the role on the show,” Rhea said. “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of ‘Sordid Lives.’ You should see the show. It was like ‘Desperate Housewives’ in a Texas trailer park.
‘Sordid Lives’, which aired for a single season in 2008, didn’t get a lot of ratings but ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ was hugely popular and Rhea still hears from fans about her portrayal of Hilda.
“I was just in Montreal for the Just for Laughs festival and I heard the word legend describe me because of that show, but when someone calls you a legend, you feel like you’re 100 years old. Also, if you’re over 45, don’t tell me you grew up with me on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”. Hey, I’m not complaining. Being on that show was wonderful.
But now the focus is on defending Rhea. “I’m not in a ‘Moma’ anymore, a maternal coma,” Rhea said. “I’m back in the clubs and it couldn’t be better.”