Here's how you know you've made it: You're on a long-distance call to Vegas, talking with a gorgeous blonde that you've seen on late-night cable TV, and it's not costing you $2.99 a minute. In fact, she called you.
Of course, on this occasion, the blonde in question isn't talking dirty. Chatting genially by cell phone as she strolls the Strip, Rhonda Shear sounds more like a diner waitress or a coin laundry clerk than a TV sex goddess. Plugging the "Up All Night Pajama Party," the touring comedy show/leer-fest over which she presides, she might as easily be plugging a church bake sale.
Besides, she's as likely to bend your ear about her beloved doll collection as about anything remotely risque. Her current pet project is her own line of dolls--baby dolls designed by her, not dolls in her likeness--to be produced by a California company called Paradise Galleries and sold by Shear through home-shopping television.
Such quaint pursuits fit pretty closely with Shear's own view of her comic persona. She's fond of saying that "I'm a good girl in a bad girl's body." In spite of the bod, which has been featured in Playboy pictorials and rendered by celebrity artist Olivia, Shear insists that "my act is personality driven. It's not like anybody else's style I can think of. I love Joan Rivers, I love Rita Rudner, but I'm not like either of them. A little like Joan, maybe 'cause it's fast-paced, but that's it."
Shear actually claims that her well-tapered figure worked against her initially when she tried to enter standup. The former Miss Louisiana USA and Loyola University grad came to Hollywood to act, appearing on episodes of Three's Company and Cheers, and on the Bob Hope specials. She attempted to enter standup comedy "as therapy after the death of my father," but found, at first, that "people couldn't relate my look to standup, like, you couldn't look the way I do and do standup."
Well-known to us late-night channel-surfers as the hostess, from the early '90s through this past spring, of the USA Network's late-night schlock movie show USA Up All Night--coy emphasis always on the word "Up"--Shear has taken her act on the road. The Pajama Party, which plays this weekend at the Tempe Improv, is a loose troupe of distaff comics who tell jokes and perform skits in slumber-party dress--sort of a Rat Pack in nighties. Says Shear, "Each of the girls represents a different persona. The new girl is Suzanne Hughes; her persona is that she's a trophy wife, which she legitimately was. Her ex-husband is the Herbalife King, Mark Hughes."
Shear claims that the show has something to offer everyone, regardless of gender: "It's very voyeuristic for guys, and women love it 'cause it's very girly. Even though you're not naked--the clothes don't reveal anything more than they would in real life--it's almost like you're naked when you're in your jammies." The audience is encouraged to share in that feeling; those who come to the Friday or Sunday show in pajamas will be admitted free. Teddy bears are optional.
--M. V. Moorhead
"Rhonda Shear's Up All Night Pajama Party" plays at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, August 28; 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday, August 29; and 8 p.m. Sunday, August 30, at the Tempe Improv Comedy Theater, 930 East University (at Cornerstone mall). Tickets are $10 and $12. 921-9877.