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Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch: From Childhood to Night Court


When Melissa Rauch first showed up in “The Bang Bang Theory” as Howard’s blind date, Bernadette, in 2009, nobody was sure she would have a recurring role. The two didn’t have much chemistry with each other, and Howard wasn’t exactly charming. But as soon as viewers saw the two characters bond over their meddling mothers, the spark was obvious, and Rauch was ensured a permanent role on “The Big Bang Theory.”

Despite Howard’s socially awkward habits, he was clearly made for Bernadette, whom he would ultimately marry in Season 5. Rauch told Backstage that she was ever-grateful for the direction that “Big Bang” went in, as she was originally intended to be a one-time guest star. 

From a young age, Rauch had a deep love for comedy. This passion led her to develop characters like Bernadette, who would take her on a journey she could never have imagined. 

She’s from New Jersey

A New Jersey native, Melissa Rauch wasn’t always surrounded by Hollywood glamour. Raised in the ‘burbs of Jersey,’ her New Yorker parents migrated to the nearby state to raise their children. They moved to Marlboro Township, which is where Melissa Rauch’s upbringing occurred and where she discovered her passion for making people laugh.

She was a class clown in school

As a child, Rauch always imitated what she saw on-screen, mimicking celebs like Whoopi Goldberg and Don Knotts. The actress used this tactic to get over her natural shyness, but it sometimes got her in trouble. At the age of 7, Rauch would often memorize stand-up sets that were inappropriate and far beyond her years. One day in class, she memorized a Whoopi Goldberg HBO special filled with the F word, and her teacher called her mother, shocked that the child wouldn’t talk but performed this bizarre standup performance filled with swearing. 

Her bat mitzvah was comedy club-themed

As Melissa Rauch started growing up, so did her passion for comedy. In her free time, she participated in community theater, went to theater camp, and did shows in her basement with her brother. As a teen, her bat mitzvah even had a comedy club theme! It’s obvious that Rauch always wanted to be an actress, and she eventually started going to acting auditions in New York, finally losing her Jersey accent while studying acting at Marymount Manhattan.

She met her future husband in college

While attending Marymount Manhattan College, Rauch met Winston Beigel, who was once her writing partner at school. He helped her write a one-woman show called “The Miseducation of Jenna Bush,” and after they performed it at the New York Fringe Festival, the two moved west to California. They married in 2007 and have been in Los Angeles ever since. 

It all started with stand-up comedy

Rauch began performing her written material at stand-up shows in New York City clubs. She did so for around a decade and hustled by handing out fliers on the street to get people to attend. Despite an emerging stand-up career, she felt that her professional career wasn’t moving forward as she hoped it would, and she still waited for a big break.

A TV role that didn’t last

Before “Big Bang,” the NBC sitcom “Kath and Kim,” starring Selma Blair and Molly Shannon, was where Rauch got her first role as a series regular. She played the role of Kim’s BFF, who was always down for wild shenanigans. Although it was her first regular role, terrible ratings and reviews led the series to be canceled after just 17 episodes.

A breakout role on “Big Bang”

Only months after “Kim and Kath” was canned, Rauch debuted in Season 3 of “The Big Bang Theory” as Bernadette, a friend of Penny, who was played by Kaley Cuoco. The impact it made on Rauch’s career was immediate, and she might not have had the part at all if it weren’t for a wardrobe change at the last minute. To set herself apart from the other women auditioning, she wore glasses as her own twist on Bernadette, and producers ended up keeping them a permanent part of her look.

She became a staunch advocate for equal pay

Although Rauch started on Season 3 of “The Big Bang Theory,” she stayed with them through all nine seasons. Over time, Bernadette became even more integral to the series, and she eventually married Howard and became a mom. During this time, Rauch fought for the rest of the cast to receive equal pay in 2017, when talks of contract renewals were in the air. Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik wanted raises as they only earned $175,000 per episode compared to their male co-stars’ $1 million. Eventually, they convinced their bosses to triple the per-episode pay, and their co-stars took a voluntary pay cut to help out.

She became a sex symbol

Besides giving her lots of other film and TV opportunities, like appearing in “The Office” and “True Blood,” it also had a surprising side effect: making her a TV sex symbol. In 2013, she did a sensual photoshoot for Maxim Magazine. While fans were used to seeing her in modest sweaters, dresses, and blouses on “TBBT,” they were shocked to see her decked out in a barely-there look in a Bondage-inspired shoot. She posted about a similar boundary-breaking shoot in FHM magazine.

She became a mother and author

In 2017, Rauch welcomed her first child, which inspired her to become a children’s book author. In 2019, she released “The Tales of Tofu,” a story about a cube of tofu hiding in the background who gains confidence and makes friends by becoming the main character of a school play while sharing tofu recipes for families to cook together. 

She competed in “Celebrity Jeopardy” 

When her colleague Mayim Bialik got a gig as the full-time host on “Celebrity Jeopardy,” Rauch competed as a contestant and appeared with Ray Romano, the star of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and actor and writer-producer Joel Kim Booster. She raised $30,000 for her charity, Oscar’s Kids, and had a great time in the process!

Finally having her moment in “Night Court”

After “The Big Bang Theory” ended in 2019, Rauch took time to figure out what she wanted and landed on her project “Night Court” in 2023, which she stars front and center in. A remake of the 1980s “Night Court,” Rauch finally had her chance to shine as the lead character of a show, playing Judge Abby Stone. The show, which currently has two seasons, received strong positive reviews, as did Rauch’s charming appearance. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this leading lady!