As the daughter of a White House social secretary, Ali Wentworth grew up in propriety and privilege. It doesn’t seem a natural jumping-off point for portraying Cher on “In Living Color.” But as a comic, she’s made a name for herself with appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s and Jay Leno’s shows, and her role as a shrink on Starz’s “Head Case.” Wentworth offers a glimpse into her life (including scoop on hubby George Stephanopoulos) in “Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales” ($26, Harper).
You grew up in D.C. immersed in the world of ’70s and ’80s politics. How did your upbringing influence your career?
I thought it was way too serious and heavy-handed. I couldn’t wait to leave and go to L.A. I was looking for humor all of the time.
It seems like your mother [Mabel Cabot, Nancy Reagan’s social secretary] was a big influence.
Yes, very. She’s always been very concerned with the state of the world. When I talk with her today, she’ll say, “What are we going to do with the economy?” or “Did you see what China is doing?” She’s passionate about people, and she’s always great to her friends.
Did she give you social graces — thank-you notes, nice gifts?
Definitely, and I try to teach it to my own kids. That kind of thing is really a lost art; nobody writes handwritten thank-you notes anymore. And my mother has always been very good at getting the right gift that makes people feel special and acknowledged, and that’s just instilled in me.
Your stepfather was a political journalist, and you’re married to one now. How do you feel about presidential election years?
I’m used to elections taking away my husband. It’s like awards season in Hollywood. It’s what makes George happy, and he’s passionate about it. I love to see him in his wheelhouse, so to speak.
In the book, you say that you’re “always a before, rarely an after” when talking about your look.
I just don’t care enough. I have friends who care about wearing the boots that are in that season or who get monthly facials. I wish I cared more. But I feel like my time is best served in a different way. Like manicures — who can sit there for an hour? I’d go crazy.
The book makes references to lots of can’t-believe-we-wore-that 1970s and ’80s attire. Were you into fashion back then?
No, it didn’t matter to me back then either. It was not a big thing in my family. My feeling was that you wore a polyester Danskin shirt and whatever pants you had.
After growing up in D.C. and then spending time there as an adult, do you have any favorite spots?
I love the National Gallery of Art. I love 2Amys pizza and Georgetown Cupcake. And the parks. I miss them for my kids; there are great ones in every neighborhood. And I loved Georgetown and being able to walk everywhere. It felt like a village.