Fresh off the success of a stirring and intimate documentary about her life last year, and following on the heels of that odd Super Bowl ad for GoDaddy.com, it seems like Joan Rivers is everywhere these days. And she'll be in Houston May 6 as the special guest at the Houston Area Women's Center Spring Event.
Rivers, now 77, got her comedic start in caberets and dive clubs nearly four decades ago. Her big break came on The Tonight Show in 1965. Since then, she's spent her entire career pushing boundaries, even alienating her longtime mentor Johnny Carson in pursuit of her own competing late night show. That failed project would eventually, some say, lead her husband Edgar Rosenburg to commit suicide. It's a topic she touches on in the documentary.
It also illustrates to power of subversive humor in helping us cope with life. Which is why Rivers happily accepted to invite an perform at the HAWC event.
"It's a very good charity," she said. "What an I going to say, No?"
Rivers, who once said a full appointment book meant happiness to her, just spoke at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Detroit a few days ago. But she doesn't consider herself a feminist.
"I'm higher than that. I'm an ethicalist."
And yet she doesn't want the event to be a litany of keynotes and gratitude. She'll let the charity's officials say their part, and then she plans to launch into the typical Rivers-style bashing of pop culture and current events. If her ever-evolving act -- "It's not even called an act anymore, it's called a 'concert'" she said -- is anything like our phone conversation, she plans to cover just about anything and everything.
"I'm going to talk about the royal wedding, Oprah, Jersey Shore, Donald Trump," she said. In fact, during our brief conversation, Rivers delivered so many one-liners it was hard to get a word in edgewise between my guffaws and her quickness.
On Jersey Shore: "That Snookie. We had her on Fashion Police. She's very endearing. She's just an adorable little goombah."
On Donald Trump, her good friend and boss following Celebrity Apprentice II: "He's very smart. Did you see him on Anderson Cooper? He's very intelligent, but I don't think he'll be President."
On younger female comediennes like Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey: "I don't look at the competition. You know how racehorses have blinders? I don't want them to influence my act in any way. I do love Kathy Griffin though. We're good friends, but I've only seen her maybe three times and that was when we were going out to dinner after."
On the documentary: "It was wonderful. When they stopped filming I was really upset. It was like they'd become my family. It was amazing to see how they'd taken a year of footage and turned it into something. I thought it deserved an Oscar. It deserved to win more than some of these documentaries that are all, "Oh he's so great, she's so talented."
On the GoDaddy.com ad: "I got no response from it at all. GoDaddy got some response but not me. I did have a few people ask if that was really my body."
On Charlie Sheen: "I think he's a great example for children. You can point to him and say, this drug user, this failed actor, wife beater, look at how famous he is. It's the American Dream!"
On political correctness: "We live in such a politically correct society. All I'm trying to do is speak the truth. I mean, I just had to go to an HR meeting where we were told that if one employee says something to another employee -- let's say I tell a girl she looks hot today and she says 'Thanks, I've got a date with my boyfriend tonight,' and you overhear that and are offended -- not her but you -- you have to report it. A man had a picture of his wife in a bikini on his desk, a vacation picture, and he got in trouble because it offended someone."
Does she ever feel like she's crossed the line? "Every night! I love to hear the audience gasp. I've been doing this for a long time and they think they know me, so when I can say something that surprises them, it feels great."
Rivers will be performing at the HAWC Spring Event May 6, starting at 7 p.m. at the Westin Hotel, Memorial City (945 North Gessner, Houston TX, 77024). HAWC provides free shelter, counseling and supportive services to domestic and sexual violence survivors in Houston. Tickets to the gala start at $500. VIP tickets include a meet-and-greet with Rivers backstage.
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