Stage & Dance

For comedian Caroline Rhea, being an older mom provides more fodder

Caroline Rhea, shown in 2010, plays Comedy Off Broadway this weekend.
Caroline Rhea, shown in 2010, plays Comedy Off Broadway this weekend. Associated Press

At age 48, Caroline Rhea admits she is having a mid-life crisis. But instead of indulging in hot yoga and hotter younger men, as some women her age might do, Rhea has turned to coloring and cartoons.

"I think it's way more interesting to have this kind of a mid-life crisis," said Rhea, whose first child, Ava, with longtime boyfriend and fellow comedian Costaki Economopoulos, was born in 2008.

Now, Rhea said, she has a polite excuse to put off unwanted phone intrusions. "I'm coloring," she'll say. "Is there any way that I can call you back?"

Rhea — perhaps best known for her roles as Aunt Hilda on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which ran on ABC and then The WB from 1996 to 2003, and as the original host of NBC's weight-loss competition The Biggest Loser — has done stand-up for 17 years. She is bringing her act to Lexington's Comedy Off Broadway this weekend.

She has seen a lot in her career.

"I always say I was on a show with three witches and a talking cat, and it was much more reality-based than the reality show I was on," she said.

But, she said, there is nothing like traversing the perils of motherhood to keep you grounded, especially when plenty of the other moms from Ava's preschool class remember Rhea fondly for being a TV witch.

"The mom-play-date-ask-out completely humiliates me," she said. "You know, the moment when you have to say something like, 'Your kid likes mine, should we get together?' A no feels like an offense to you and your child.

Still, she said, the benefits of being a mom far outweigh the challenges, even as an older parent.

The Montreal native is lucky, she said, to live in New York. Sure, the Big Apple has hipster parents, taking on adult responsibilities while sticking with skinny jeans and sock-monkey stocking caps. But they are balanced out with replacement parents: "parents who need to have their hip replaced."

Rhea admitted that, for a while after her daughter was born, "if Dora wasn't the reporter," Rhea wasn't paying attention to the news.

Now, she finds it amusing to cast an eye at the news of the world and weigh in. For example, she said, no one should be surprised by the news of Gen. David Petraeus' extramarital activity.

"The guy was in charge of military affairs," said Rhea, who has a habit at laughing to mark the end of her own jokes. Plus, she said, "his name actually rhymes with 'betray us.'"

But there is no subject she would rather observe than her darling daughter, now 4.

"The other day she put on goggles and she was dancing around. I wasn't paying 1 million percent attention," which is out of the ordinary, she said. Ava issued a demand at the perceived insult: "Giggle at my clown show!"

"That," Rhea said, "is going to be title of my next CD."