“The only thing that’s saving me is my age. Because I don’t care. I’ve been up, I’ve been down. I’ve been fired, I’ve been hired. I’ve been broke. What are you gonna to do to me? Not like me? I don’t give a damn.“
Over the years, I’ve heard Joan Rivers called a lot of things, and not all of them have been flattering. Her fearlessness, no-nonsense manner and raspy voice are distinctive, but can rub people with all the velvety touch of steel wool. In many ways, she’s a comedic splinter, capable of getting under your skin, but never cutting deep or inflicting irreparable harm. Regardless of your feelings about her, one thing is certain. After being one of the first successful American comediennes (not to mention staying relevant for nearly 50 years), Joan’s a certifiable legend. She’s been a comedian, an actress, a talk show host, an author, a TV personality, a reality TV star, a red carpet commentator… and, through it all, an unflappable performer.
She emerged on the comedic scene from Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, and broke into show business writing for Candid Camera. Her big splash, however, came when she made her first appearance on The Tonight Show back in 1965 as a guest for host Johnny Carson. She appeared on the show numerous times over the years, and Rivers cites Carson as the person who provided her with “her big break.”
In the 70s, Rivers was omnipresent. She would appear on TV on The Carol Burnett Show
, Hollywood Squares
, and other programs. Joan began to enter the big time, and soon everyone knew her trademark self-depreciating humor, delivered with that particular voice you would know anywhere.
The 1980s arrived, and the hits just kept on coming for Joan Rivers. Johnny Carson anointed her as the permanent guest host of The Tonight Show in 1983, and she became a full-fledged pop culture icon at that point. Always a comedian’s comedienne, now everyone got to know her brand of humor. Although she remained inimitable, Joe Piscopo sure gave it a noble effort when she hosted Saturday Night Live.
Alas, things took a turn in the middle of the decade, Rivers and Carson had a falling out, and her own attempt at a late night talk show proved disastrous. She lost her husband to suicide shortly thereafter, and times were hard indeed.
Joan’s comeback began with a daytime talk show, which won her an Emmy and ran for five years. Then, she and daughter Melissa Rivers in 1994 began their stint as red carpet interviewers for the E! channel. She introduced her snark to a whole new genreration as a red carpet commentator / reporter for the network, with an emphasis on the slash, I may add. Her wickedly funny criticism and dissection of celebrities were sharp as razors, and occasionally shaved soem personalities a little too close for comfort.
In the years since, Joan has kept her hands full. Despite entering her seventh decade, she hasn’t slowed for one moment. Rivers has appeared on: Nip/Tuck, Drawn Together, QVC, Celebrity Apprentice, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, and The TV Guide channel. All the while still touring and performing with the vigor (and venom) of a young and hungry comedian.
In 2010, Rivers was the subject of a film documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
, which was lauded by critics on the film festival circuit. It provided a rare glimpse behind the curtain, and is a candid portrayal of Joan as a real person in an unreal profession. Her looks may be timeless due to her freely admitted frequent trips to a plastic surgeon, but her longevity through her sheer will. One doesn’t last as long in the business as she has through luck. In this clip, she’s discussing her treasure trove of jokes over the years. No, really. It’s an archive. Take a look:
Amazing to think she can still do these shows without showing down. After decades in an unforgiving profession, Joan has een highs, lows, and everything in between. Her life has had has had ups and downs, but she’s still the same uncensored, uninhibited queen of comedy that you’ve either come to love or hate.
Joan’s definitely lived her life on her own terms, and will continue serving her unique brand of acerbic humor on her own terms. Soon, this devilish whirlwind will come to Austin for one night only. It’s a can’t miss event, because when someone as fearless as Joan takes the stage, there’s no 10-second delay, and no one knows what’s gonna come out of that mouth next.
Joan Rivers will be appearing live at The Paramount Theatre on Thursday, November 3 at 8:00 p.m.