It’s not hard to come across female comedians who have been taking the comedy world by storm. Names like Amy Schumer, Ellen DeGeneres, Tina Fey, Wanda Sykes, and Ali Wong are just a few names that come to mind. In that list, Caroline Rhea also deserves to get a mention. Born to parents who were both in the medical field, Rhea took an entirely different path when she left her homeland of Canada and moved to the US to start a career in comedy. After garnering success on that path, she got into acting where she became well known for her roles as Aunt Hilda in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and her recurring role in the American game show, Hollywood Squares.
Born in the suburb of Westmount, Quebec, Rhea is a Canadian citizen who was born Caroline Gilchrist Rhea on April 14, 1964. She was raised with her two sisters, Celia and Cynthia. Rhea studied at Westmount’s all-girls private school before she enrolled at Dalhousie University to study at its Halifax campus in Nova Scotia. While studying at Dalhousie, she worked at a family restaurant and ice cream parlor called Swensen.
New York Comedy Clubs Helped Her Launch Her Career
After Dalhousie, Rhea moved to the US, where she studied at the University of Arizona. It was after her time in Arizona that she moved to New York to begin her pursuit of a career in acting and comedy. In New York, she joined the standup program in the New School of Social Research, but her true training came from her performances at local comedy clubs.
It was in 1986 that Caroline Rhea moved to New York to begin her career as a comedian. She started performing at venues like the comedy club chain Catch a Rising Star and The Comic Strip Live. Her run at New York comedy clubs got her to perform alongside other comedians like Chris Rock, Marc Maron, Dave Attell, and Jim Gaffigan.
Her comedic skills earned her a spot on MTV’s Half-Hour Comedy Hour, which marked her first filmed stand-up appearance. Her numerous appearances on the show helped boost her comedy career. She also had filmed appearances on Comic Strip Live and Caroline’s Comedy Hour. She got a one-hour special on HBO, which was called One Night Stand. Rhea then went on to have one-hour specials on Bravo (Rhea’s Anatomy) and Showtime (Give Me My Remote).
Roles That Prove She’s a Fine Actress
With her success as a comedian in New York cemented, Caroline Rhea made her next move to Los Angeles to focus on a Hollywood acting career. Her television debut came with the main role of Carol Green on the sitcom, Pride & Joy, with Jeremy Piven as her co-star. She gained worldwide prominence after getting the main role of Aunt Hilda on the sitcom show Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
On the big screen, she has worked with Jim Carrey in a supporting role in Man on the Moon, a movie based on the life of the late entertainer Andy Kaufman. She also starred opposite David Arquette, Oliver Platt, and Scott Caan in the buddy comedy movie, Ready to Rumble.
View this post on Instagram
#HappyHalloween Our #Halloween episodes were like other shows Christmas episode. This is the one where I ruined the spell for candy corn and made #ARiverOfCandyCorn and I ate so much candy corn ( considered a vegetable by many @WeightWatchers) that I didn’t eat it for 20 years.The drummer from #The10000Maniacs asked me out to a show in Vegas after they performed on the episode. I chickened out #Regret. #AuntHildas #WordsOfWisdom Always go out with the drummer. #HappyHalloween from #AuntHilda #BestWitches
Caroline Rhea appeared in two episodes of The Drew Carey Show as Drew’s girlfriend Bonnie, before she starred in the Disney horror-comedy TV film, Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire.
The comedian has made regular appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and also showed up as a guest a few times on the Late Show with David Letterman. She has appeared on other talk shows including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Central’s Pulp Comics, HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Comic Relief 8.
Caroline Rhea Hosts Several Talk Shows
Over the course of her acting career, Rhea has been the host of several talk shows and series. She hosted her own VH1 series, Fool for Love as well as The Caroline Rhea Show, which was regarded as the successor to The Rosie O’Donnell Show. Other shows she’s hosting include The Biggest Loser, Cake Walk: Wedding Cake Edition, and Caroline & Friends.
View this post on Instagram
#HappyBirthday @therealonj I am a day late. You are a true Libra. I was 11 months pregnant in this picture. It’s taken at the premiere of #sordidlivestheseries premiere. @delshores writes the greatest characters. Can you imagine @thelesliejordan who is the funniest. #ruemaclanahan who I loved. Her character Peggy was having an affair with my husband GW. I would often sit between Olivia and Rue in makeup and try to contain my inner teenager from screaming, “ Thank you for being a friend and I’m hopelessly devoted to you.” I love you Olivia. So glad you were born. #Grease #SordidLives #GoldenGirls
Caroline Rhea isn’t just about the comedy and acting, though. The mother of one is also a philanthropist who has dedicated her time to support different causes and has donated a lot of money to charities. In 2001, she was a contestant on a special edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. She ended up winning $125k for her charity.
The actress has made appearances for Comic Relief, the British charity that raises donations through comedy. She’s also performed for Ms. Foundation’s Women of Comedy from Caroline’s Comedy Club. The Ms. Foundation for Women is an NGO for women in the US.
Costaki Economopoulos Is Her Daughter’s Biological Father
Rhea began a relationship with American stand-up comedian Costaki Economopoulos in 2007 and they were together until they split in 2010. Not much is known about the relationship as it seems they were able to keep it away from the public eye until its end. Together they have a daughter, Ava Rhea Economopoulos.
The couple first announced Caroline’s pregnancy in May 2008, letting everyone know that they were expecting their child sometime in the Fall of 2008. Rhea was to become a mother at the age of 44. On October 21, 2008, Ava was born weighing eight pounds, 15 ounces.
As to her first name, Rhea explained to People magazine that she and her ex wanted the shortest first name, “since her last name is the alphabet,” she joked. It was a choice between Ava and Emmy.
Rhea Believes Ava Is a Miracle Baby
Caroline Rhea has always considered her daughter as a miracle baby, especially owing to the heartbreaking circumstances that surrounded her pregnancy. While she was the host of The Biggest Loser, she was hit with bad news from two fronts.
Her parents were diagnosed with cancer one week apart. Her father, David, was diagnosed with lung cancer and died 10 months after the diagnosis. Her mother, Margery, was diagnosed with breast cancer but lived another six years before she passed away. As Rhea told People magazine, the month after her father died was when she got pregnant with her daughter.
Despite the bad news of her parents’ diagnoses and her father’s passing, Rhea was still able to celebrate the gift of life and motherhood when her daughter was born. As the comedian puts it, it has all been worth it for her.