Ten Minutes With Joan Rivers
comedian and television personality
photo by Wendy Carlson
Joan Rivers began filming in July for her new reality TV show, “Mother Knows Best?” In between gigs at New York’s Laurie Beechman Theatre, the 77-year-stand-up repairs to her home in New Milford. Litchfield Magazine caught up with her at the Bantam Cinema, where her documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work made its Connecticut premier to ask her about aging (Oh, please!) and her career.
Where does all that energy come from?
I love my work. I love what I do, and at this age I’m as excited about it as when I started out. Also, I take every pill known to mankind.
What’s a city girl doing in Litchfield?
It’s the anti-Hamptons. It’s the place not to put on city make up. Of course, I still have my city make up on.
For the making of this documentary, the cameras were constantly on you. How did you deal with it?
I was very conscious of it the first week. But they followed me for 14 months. After awhile, they became part of my family.
Did you have a say in the production?
No. I made a deal with director Ricki Stern that they could have free access. They edited 14 months of 24-hour days down to 82 hours—and they left out all the porn.
In the film you talk about being an actress as well as a comedienne. Was theater your first love?
I began going to the theater as a young girl with my mother. We’d come out of the subway and in front of us were all those Times Square theaters and that became my dream. Thank God we didn’t come up in front of the whorehouses!
Did you expect the film to do so well?
No, they couldn’t even find financing for it. We thought maybe it would air on television, but then we went to the Sundance Film Festival and it just exploded. It’s been amazing.
You’re hilarious in it, but why else has it been so popular?
It’s not about seeing Joan Rivers. I’ve had people who have gone to see the movie several times come to me and say that they’ve been going through a tough period in their lives, and if I can do it, they can do it. It’s about moving forward.
What do you think of Betty White making a comeback at age 88?
I think it’s wonderful. That’s the great thing about comedy. If you’re funny, you can be 200 years old. Age doesn’t matter.
But is your comedy any different at 77?
My whole perspective in comedy now is: “What are you going to do to me now?” I have been through it all so I can really speak out.
So what drives your career through tragedies, like the suicide of your husband, and your career lows?
It’s what drives everyone: survival instinct. Look, you have two choices in life when bad things happen. You either curl up and die, or you say to yourself: I’ve got to get out of this and keep moving forward.
Your comedy seems so immediate. Do you have a set show?
I have a set show, but it’s like a deck of cards, I never know what’s going to come down. If the audience is rotten, I just go to gynecologists.