Friday, February 12, 2016

Joan Rivers on Gays, On Outsiders, On Keeping Her "Edge"

The 77-year-old comedy icon and QVC pitchwoman is the subject of a startlingly candid documentary, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work." Can she talk?

Joan Rivers on Gays, On Outsiders, On Keeping Her "Edge"


Joan Rivers began her career in the early Sixties doing standup in clubs – “mainly gay places,” she says, and gay audiences have remained a key part of her fan base for all the many decades since she yammered “Can we talk?” in those little café bars in Greenwich Village.

In a recent interview to promote the movie that bears her name -- Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, playing at the Ritz At the Bourse -- the 77-year-old comic force mused about why gay audiences have found her humor so appealing lo these many decades. (Read more about Rivers and the film here.)
“I think [it’s] the outrageousness, saying what you’re not supposed to say, the politically incorrectness of my act,” she explains. “It’s very much on the gay radar, because they feel they’re outsiders. God knows I feel I’m an outsider. There’s that common bond.”
Being a comedy icon and insisting you’re an outsider is not an easy thing to pull off, but as the film, co-directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, reveals, Rivers truly and deeply feels she’s not a member of the club. (A Piece of Work is terrific, and tricky: it affords a startlingly candid view of Rivers, while functioning as a marketing tool to keep her profile high, and keep the work coming.)
“Totally, totally, no question about it,” she says, citing her exclusion -- and her daughter’s, Melissa -- from the annual A-list Oscars party hosted by Vanity Fair as one example. “I invented the red carpet with Melissa. And I’m the only one not asked to the Vanity Fair party, you know what I mean? It’s funny now, because it’s been 15 years that we haven’t been asked. Your garbage man says ‘Are you going?’ ‘Will I see you there?’….
“I’m always an outsider. Always under the radar, over the radar, not on the radar…. And I say it in the movie, too: There’s always a negative adjective before my name. ‘Vegas comic Joan Rivers,’ ‘Loudmouth comic Joan Rivers’ — that’s just what it is. And if you do come in from the rain, and I won’t mention names, you lose your edge.”
Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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