Like most girls her age, 14-year-old Molly Bergman has a strong opinion on the trajectory of Taylor Swift’s career. “I liked the old Taylor Swift. Her first album is more singer-songwriterly,” she declares. But Bergman, unlike most other 14-year-old girls, knows of what she speaks. An aspiring singer-songwriter herself, she’s been performing since she was 11, appearing in charity events and opening for her mother, comedian Rita Rudner. Her first EP, California Girl, was recently released—and she does song covers and posts them on her website (mollybergmanmusic.com).
If you’ve ever seen a performance by Rudner, whose comedy career has spanned more than three decades, you’ll know that her source material draws on the foibles of marriage and the seemingly unbreachable planetary distance between the genders. But sitting with her at a Starbucks in Chinatown one afternoon with her talented progeny, it is clear that Rudner, for all her enjoyment of being a funnywoman, relishes the role of mom even more. She and Bergman have a playful rapport, with Mom’s sense of humor a wellspring of teasing and affection.
For example, when asked what her songwriting process is like, Bergman replies, all businesslike, “Well, I do lyrics first. It’s mainly based on what it’s like being [a] 14-year-old. It’s about what’s going on in my life. Or, if I see my friends having a problem, I write about anything that’s happening, and then I work on the tunes.”
“But mostly, she says ‘I want,’” Rudner interjects. “A lot of sentences begin with ‘I want.’ So when she says, ‘I want to have a sleepover this weekend,’ I say, ‘If you want to have a sleepover this weekend, finish the song you’re working on, and you can have a sleepover.’ And she does that and she finishes the song. She’s never written a bad tune.”
“There’s always [room for] improvement,” Bergman says modestly.
“You say, ‘This is a little too repetitious,’ or ‘This could be in a higher key.’ You never stop working through something. But I write jokes through desperation and [the] fear that I’m never going to do it again, and she writes because of threats,” Rudner says, laughing. “But nothing comes if you’re happy and you’re doing well, so I try to make her as unhappy as possible. Because creativity comes through pain.”
“Mommmm!” Bergman says, in the voice of mortified teenagers since the beginning of time.
But in all seriousness, Bergman’s preternatural poise is most likely a result of being in the entertainment world all her life. She is also a gifted tennis player, beginning lessons at age 3—“She had a lot of energy and I had to get her out of the house,” Rudner deadpans.
Bergman readily admits that she still gets nervous before she performs, but once onstage, she loves it. She sees herself having a solo career, though she doesn’t necessarily rule out being in a band. “I sing with my friend now, and it’s really fun singing with someone else,” she says.
“As long as she enjoys it, I want her to keep doing it,” Rudner says. “[If] you find a passion and something you love to do, you’re set.”
Mom would know. And with this kind of guidance, Bergman’s future is as bright as that California sun.
Proceeds from Bergman’s California Girl EP ($7 on iTunes and Spotify) benefit the Marty Hennessy Inspiring Children Foundation, a local mentoring, education and tennis organization.