Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

On Sunday I saw the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

Love her or hate her, no one can dispute the trails Ms. Rivers blazed for female comics. This film does a dynamic job of tracing her path to success and showcasing her present fight to stay relevant.

Always self-deprecating and unafraid to push the envelope, Joan burst on to the scene with great support from legend Johnny Carson. Her frequent appearances on The Tonight Show led to her reign as Carson's permanent guest host; her decision to depart and do her own talk show on Fox ended their friendship. It also put a stop to all of her appearances on NBC until her recent stint on The Celebrity Apprentice, a reality contest, which by the way, she won.

Part of the charm of Joan Rivers is that she has no shame. At age 75, she will take any endorsement deal or commercial offered to her because she knows at the end of the day she needs a paycheck. She lives an extravagant life, but there will be no doubt in anyone's mind by the end of watching this that she hasn't earned it.

Though the overall essence of the film aims to spotlight her toughness, there are moments where you catch her sensitivity and heart: speaking of the business associate she may have to fire; delivering a meal on Thanksgiving to a sufferer of MS; commenting on a heckler after a show who was angry about a deaf joke she made. She's a thick-skinned lady, but that doesn't negate her enormous heart.

She talked openly of her husband's selfish suicide after the demise of her talk show, but it's clear she doesn't dwell on it. She picked up her life after the tragedy and kept going--both for herself and for daughter Melissa, who has become a celebrity in her own right.

Of course the film also provides us many glimpses of Rivers' hilarious stand-up routines, but to me the funniest moments were her impromptu bits of commentary behind the scenes.

This film is simply an inspiring pleasure to watch.


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