Friday, March 4, 2011

Piece of Work

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Directors: Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg

This 2010 documentary spends one year with Joan Rivers, the 75 year old brass comedienne who can make you laugh one moment, and shake your head in disgust the next. (I think she's pretty funny as a comedian, though it is pretty shocking some of the things that come out of her mouth, but I can't stand her as a correspondent for E! on the red carpet because she really has no idea what she's doing and it doesn't help that her daughter, the much more irritating Melissa Rivers, is always commentating with her.) 

Due to the fact that she lives in a ridiculously lavish apartment suite (think Donald Trump's) and likes to maintain her high style of living, she will take any job whether it's a gig at some club off in the boondocks or a commercial (she doesn't care what product) or Celebrity Apprentice which she was on in the year the documentary followed her. Regarding the show, she even says that they won't kick her off until at least the fourth episode because she's the biggest name on it. While it may sound conceited, you have to admit she was right! (Of course we all know she ended up winning that season.)

She talks about getting her start and how she was good friends with Johnny Carson (often filling in for him on his show when he was absent) until Fox offered her her own talk show. The first person she told was Carson and he felt so betrayed that he never talked to her again. Her new show ended up tanking big time. 

While I knew her husband killed himself, what I didn't know is that Joan and Melissa played themselves in a made-for-TV movie dealing with their husband's/father's suicide. Joan admits that it was a bit hokey, but cathartic. O-kay. They showed clips from it and the acting was pretty terrible. 

Something that surprised me was that Rivers say she is first and foremost an actress. I was aware that she wrote and acted in plays, but I always think of her as a comedian first and foremost. (And a fashion correspondent for E! second.) The film documents her putting on a play in England and because it only got mixed reviews, she decides not to put it on in New York or anywhere in the U.S. because one of the first plays she wrote was shredded by the critics. (You would think someone like Joan Rivers would have a tough skin about those things.) 

At one point she's doing stand-up at some hole-in-the-wall club in some who-knows-where town and offends a man with a deaf son after she makes a joke about Helen Keller. At first I thought it was just a plant, but it became obvious he was a real audience member by how pissed Rivers became and kept berating him that it was just a joke and it didn't mean she was attacking all deaf people. If the guy is that easy to get offended, why the hell was he seeing Joan Rivers at a comedy club?! 

If you hate Joan Rivers, skip this, but if you like her or are more interested to learn more about her, I'd say give it a watch.

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