Comedy queen Joan Rivers to perform at Turlock Community Theatre

mrowland@modbee.comMay 9, 2013 

NarrowSceneCovertemp

scene cover

If you think turning 80 in June is going to slow down Joan Rivers, then you and she need to talk.

The touring comic, TV host, reality star, fashion critic and all-around Hollywood institution is still going full speed ahead and loving every second of her non-stop life.

She'll take some time out of her hectic schedule to return to the Turlock Community Theatre on May 17. She first performed at the venue in 2011.

At 79, Rivers stars in three shows — "Fashion Police" on E!, "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" on WE TV and her Internet talk show "In Bed with Joan." She also tries to do at least one live comedy show a week, sells a line of jewelry on QVC and is in the process of writing her second book.

"My 80th birthday is coming up and it makes me laugh. Because it has nothing to do with me," she said in a phone interview. "How could I be luckier? Three shows, the QVC line, writing a second book now. I'm just very, very lucky."

Though luck has less to do with it than hard work and persistence. Rivers has been working since the 1960s when she became a staple on talk shows such as "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson and "The Ed Sullivan Show." At the time, more than 50 years ago, she was one of the few females in the business.

Through the years she hosted her own late-night and daytime talk shows, and recently has become notorious for skewering celebrity fashion sense on the red carpet.

She spoke with The Bee this week about her career and her comedy.

Q: What can people expect from your live show?

A: It's what every comedian does, you get up there and you talk and talk and talk and hope they laugh and laugh and laugh. I still try to do at least one live show a week.

Q: What is it you enjoy still about performing live?

A: There's nothing like it. That direct contact with the audience. The fun of talking about anything you want to. There's just nothing like it.

Q: How has the landscape changed for female comics over the years? Is it easier for them now or still difficult?

A: Much easier. They are not a rarity anymore, they just are. Now you go to a comedy club, whether it's a man or woman they are either funny or not funny. Really, still 15 years ago they were judged like, 'Oh, it's a woman.'

Q: You helped make yourself a household name by guesting on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jimmy Fallon's going to be taking over from Jay, if it sticks, soon. Do you think it's time a woman gets a crack at hosting one of the big-time late-night shows?

A: You know women have had their chances. They've had so many chances, but didn't make it. I'm not going to say who because that's not nice. If you're good, you're good. Look at daytime. It's Ellen and Steve Harvey, so it's all over the place. It just comes down to who is terrific. It's a very hard thing to do.

That's why Jimmy Fallon is so amazing. He is absolutely the closest thing to Johnny Carson.

Q: Next week, a few days before your show in Turlock, you'll be the keynote speaker at a Tribute to Women YMCA event. As a person who is famous for critiquing other people's, especially women's, style and looks, do you think all the emphasis on women's appearance in show business is unfair?

A: Unfortunately, yes. But can you do anything about it? No. That's just what it's all about. The red carpet turned into only what are they wearing. Women, like it or not in our society, are very conscious of looks. We're very conscious of what you wear. That's just it. I go with the flow. I don't want to hear about inner beauty. It's very nice but it ain't going to get you the cover of People.

Q: Are you a feminist?

A: Yes, even before the word was coined. That was my parents, they never said you can't because you are a women to me and my sister. We never thought about it.

Q: What advice would you give young comics trying to break into the business today?

A: They ask me all the time. I say work anywhere, anywhere, anywhere. And tape your shows and listen to what works and why it works. Be prepared to have 7 to 10 years of kicking around the clubs, because it doesn't happen overnight as a comedian.

Everyone looks at Larry David. but he was hanging around 10 years in the clubs. Louis CK was 20 years in the clubs. It's like going back to the Middle Ages and being an apprentice. You have to earn it. But if you tell that to a young comedian they stare at you and say, 'What? Ten years!?'

Q: You've really embraced the Internet and new technology, you've got an online talk show and are active on Twitter. What draws you to that?

A: I love the freedom. I love I can reach people. The immediacy of it is so great. And I love that you can say anything on it. Nobody saying you can't say that because you're on Disney. Or you can't say that because it's 9 o'clock in the morning. It gives you such freedom to say what you want and laugh at what you want.

Q: You're also known for not holding back on celebrities or sensitive topics of all sorts. And that has sometimes caused controversies. On the flip side of that, does criticism of you sting?

A: There'll be more of that May 17. Controversies are good, and when you're live you can say anything. That's why I love it. But of course, everything stings. But I just don't read it. If someone says someone said something negative, I turn the page.

Q: You just completed the third season of your reality series with your daughter, "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" Has your relationship with Melissa changed? And will there be another season?

A: Oh yeah, no question about it. There will be a season four. The relationship has changed a lot. She produces 'Fashion Police' and 'Joan & Melissa.' She is a terrific organizer and producer.

I have great confidence in her. I don't even look around anymore. In the beginning you second guess, because it's your child. Now I tell people, 'See Melissa and leave me alone.'

Q: What do you think has been the secret to your longevity and success in this business?

A: I'm shallow. I'll try anything. I don't say, 'I don't do that, I'm an actress.' Try it because how do you know otherwise. I always say when I lecture, 'Go through any window that opens for you, let's see what's on the other side.'

How do you know you can't do jewelry? How do you know you can't sky jump? Who knows?

Q: As long as we're being shallow, who do you think are consistently the best and worst dressed stars working today?

A: It changes every week. Right now, usually who I think is going to look good is Halle Berry. Gwyneth Paltrow is going to look good. Beyoncé used to look amazing when her mother dressed her, but now I say call your mother quickly. Get on that cell phone and call her.

As for worst, Maggie Gyllenhaal used to always look awful. She's doing a little better. Sarah Jessica Parker is the best or the worst. She's so much fun because you just don't know. And I'll tell you why it's wonderful — she has fun with fashion, because that's how it should be.


WHAT: Joan Rivers

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. May 17

WHERE: Turlock Community Theatre, 1574 E. Canal Drive

TICKETS: $49-$69

CALL: (209) 668-1169

ONLINE: www. turlock theatre.org

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service