(Cleveland Jewish News) — At age 78, comedian Joan Rivers is the master of reinvention (both physically and professionally). She appears with her daughter Melissa on the reality TV show “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” on WE and she leads a panel of star-watchers and fashionistas on “Fashion Police” on E!
Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky, Rivers has been an Emmy-winning talk show host, Tony-nominated stage actress, best-selling author, film director, screenwriter, playwright, columnist, lecturer, syndicated radio host, jewelry designer, cosmetic company entrepreneur, red-carpet fashion laureate and businesswoman. Her career has afforded her fame and a lavish lifestyle that includes a richly decorated colossal New York apartment that she describes as “where Marie Antoinette would have lived if she had money.”
During a break in her schedule, Rivers spoke honestly and with self-deprecating humor. “The only men interested in my body these days are morticians,” she deadpanned.
In “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” the recent documentary about you, you describe yourself as an actress playing the role of a comedian. Please explain.
Any good stand-up comic is a very good actor in order to be able to do the same routine over and over and make it seem as if every joke is told for the first time. Billy Crystal does the same act many nights in a row, and yet, each performance looks fresh — that is called acting. Don Rickles is an amazing actor, and Buddy Hackett was a fabulous actor.
When I come to Cleveland I’ll do an hour and 20 minutes on stage, maybe 25 minutes of the act will be new. But I have about another hour to fill with other material. I have to make my entire routine sound fresh — that is acting.
How do you like working with your daughter Melissa on your TV shows?
It is so complicated — I have two backs to watch and two sets of enemies to watch out for. But it is also a wonderful, amazing experience. Right now I am doing this interview in the guesthouse in her home. And it is wonderful to be able to see my grandson Cooper all the time. It is all good.
How difficult is it to be part of a reality show?
The truth is, reality shows like ours have taken the place of soap operas. That is the genre we are living and working in now. The appeal of a reality show is that everyone’s life is similar on a basic level.
What’s on your professional wish list?
I’d love to do a real movie, go back to Broadway, star in another late-night talk show, or have my own sitcom.
‘Comedy is universal. Everyone wants a good laugh, and they don’t care who is giving it to them’
You attended Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding in 2005. How did you get the royal treatment?
A friend of mine was one of Prince Charles’s employees and invited me on a painting trip with the Prince, who is a wonderful watercolorist. We became friends. He is a fabulous guy — funny, smart, charming, terrific, and dresses well. Camilla is lovely. They are such a good team; they should have been together from the start.
What is the secret to your success?
Work, work, work. My formula is 60% hard work, 30% luck and 10% talent. It is also important to plan your time carefully.
How does being Jewish inform your work?
A lot of my Jewish jokes have a secondary meaning. When I do a routine called the “Auschwitz Tour” – I’m reminding people about Auschwitz. They may laugh at my delivery, but will leave remembering the death camp.
Did you think the red carpet interviews you pioneered would take off like they have?
No. When we started red carpet interviews, no one else wanted to do them; they thought it was beneath them to stand outside a building and talk to celebrities. Now, it is absolute madness how this media event has taken off.
How do you continue to relate to all segments of the population?
Comedy is universal. Everyone wants a good laugh, and they don’t care who is giving it to them. I’m also glad I chose to become a comedian because there are very few roles for actresses these days.
Any men in your life?
Not at the moment — the hotel is closed. If I were to put a tattoo on my leg it would read DETOUR, unlike the artificial leg I posed with to imitate Angelina Jolie at the Oscars that read ENTER.
Open mic — what do you want to tell our readers?
Don’t let pride get in the way of making up with a friend. Also, marry rich.