Comedian Caroline Rhea swings down to Comedy Club of Kansas City
Rhea, who has been doing stand-up since 1989, is probably best known for her seven-season stint as the oft-impulsive Aunt Hilda on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. She jokes the lines between the two occasionally blur.
“I am Caroline Rhea, the comedian, first—and then I am Aunt Hilda,” Rhea says. “Yes, I will answer to Aunt Hilda in a store—which I do every day of my life—but I’m a comic first.”
Rhea was resting and recovering from being rear-ended in her car the day before we chatted.
“I’m sore, but I’m perfectly fine, really,” she says. “It’s just—if I sound slightly insane—uh, more than usual, that’s why.”
With the trouper that she is, we dished about everything from her love of appearing on game shows and talk shows to her upcoming birthday this week.
The Pitch: You have a birthday coming up on April 13. Big plans?
I will be doing stand-up on my birthday—as I always do. That’s my jam. I don’t think I’ve ever not done stand-up on my birthday. Well, maybe. I think on my 40th, I had a big party. I’ll be at the Comedy Store in LA. That’s become my favorite club. It’s so much fun.
You know, I’ve done stand-up for so long that when I started, it was so weird—we New York comics were so intimidated by the LA comedy clubs. I think I played the Comedy Store once in the ’90s and I was just terrified. I don’t know why. The way it was described, you just thought people were gonna be having sex in the green room. It just seemed like it had this scary reputation. And then I just started working there, maybe a year ago, and I love it. It’s such a great club. It reminds me of comedy clubs when I first started—as the original room reminds me of Catch A Rising Star in the ’90s.
Your IMDB page is a mile long. Do you ever see a show and were like, I forgot I was on this damn episode?
It’s like dating. You walk by someone that broke your heart and 20 years later, you’re like, do I know them? Even the woman yesterday—after she hit me with her car—I went to make sure that she was okay. I was like, “Are you alright?” And she’s like, “I know you from TV.” And I was like, “Okay, not the time.” And then she goes, “What was the show? Or was it a movie?” And I’m like, “Again, still not the time,” right? Although, she was so sweet.
But I’m sort of predominantly known for [Sabrina] even more than being a comedian. Like, I have so many people who come to see me do stand up and they’re like, “I had no idea.” And I’m like, “Has my career been in the witness relocation program?”
It must be weird if you grew up watching me on Sabrina and then realize this is what I really do. It must be like finding out your kindergarten teacher is actually a stripper—like this is my side hustle. Mrs. Johnson’s a pole dancer?!
You’re in town during the weekend of the big NFL draft here in KC. That’s a big deal around here. Does that get you even remotely excited?
Do you think that there’s any Venn diagram crossover between me and anyone that would like that? Well, except for my daughter’s father who will probably be there because he’s obsessed with football and has a podcast and does radio about football.
Do you know the famous story of football in my life? My daughter was conceived the night the New York Giants won the Super Bowl. And, in the last minute, Eli Manning threw a pass to the guy who caught it with his helmet. And they won. They won in the last 60 seconds, and that’s when she was conceived. So, I’ve always loved Eli Manning—because I also know what it feels like to score with only seconds left on the clock. I’ve told Eli Manning that story. It’s like looking up at a very handsome Herman Munster.
Fun fact: I interviewed Chris Botti not too long ago. He was your bandleader on your talk show back in the day. I feel like he never stops touring.
He literally never stops touring. But you know what? He’s the most talented, disciplined person I know. Also, it looks like he has herpes because he blows on that trumpet so much. It looks like a sore. It’s not. But he’s so talented. And I always say to him, “I hate jazz, but I love your music.”
Have you ever seen him in concert? He’s morphing into Florence Henderson from 1972.
Speaking of talk shows, do you enjoy being a guest on them?
Yes. I love being a guest on talk shows. I love all the things everyone told me never to do. My absolute favorite? Game shows! I could be on them every day. Happily.
I’ve been on The View, where Barbara Walters kicked me under the table once because I didn’t want to interrupt Anderson Cooper. And she said to me, “Ask. Him. A. Question.” And I whispered, “But he’s talking!” So, that was fun.
I was the last guest on The Magic Johnson Show. I don’t take that personally. Oh, I was on Howie Mandel’s talk show with Garth Brooks, which made me become friends with Garth Brooks. And then, when I was being vetted to take over for Rosie, they gave me this week of shows to do, and Garth flew up and brought his guitar and played requests from the audience. And that helped me get the show.
I have to admit, I’ve watched your portion of Alec Baldwin’s roast about a hundred times. Was it as much fun doing it as the viewers saw?
The most fun in the world! He’s like a brother to me. I love him so much. I’ve known him for 25 years. When Alec asked me, he goes, “Do you want to do this roast?” And it was funny; everyone was so nervous that I was going to bomb. Like, I had just been asked as a friend. I’m like, “I’m a comedian.” And then I literally started writing jokes that second. Everyone was so funny. Alec was the funniest of all.
Is there a show where you’re dying to make an appearance?
Okay, I’m the only person in the universe who has not been on Law & Order. I have been offered a couple of parts, but they weren’t ones I was gonna take. My life changed so much when I became a mother. What they don’t tell you is that your ambition is in your placenta, and that’s removed at birth.
Honestly, I’m making a new comedy special in May and I’m doing a pilot for a show that I wrote. So, I think I want to do that. Can they bring back The Vampire Diaries so that I could make out with Damon (Ian Somerhalder)?
Have you been to Kansas City before? Thoughts?
I have—many, many years ago. I can’t wait. Just wait ‘til you see my new act.
Finally, who do you still want to meet? Or needs to meet you?
I had wanted to meet Austin Butler. I was with my friend, and we were at the Golden Globes party. We were actually sitting next to Lisa Marie, which—that’s very sad. They had this party for Elvis. And I told my friend, “I just want you to know my inner teenager is really at this party, and all I want to do is meet Austin Butler.”
So, he literally walked up to Austin and said, “Caroline really wants a picture with you!” Okay, I could have done that—but it worked. He was divine. And then I said to him, “I hope you win!” And then he won the Golden Globe the next day. I feel all-powerful.
Interview slightly edited for length and clarity.
Caroline Rhea will perform Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29, at The Comedy Club Of Kansas City at 1130 W 103rd St., Kansas City, MO 64114. Shows start at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. both nights.