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January 23, 1987 - Image 58

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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1COUPONJ

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58

Friday, January 23, 1987

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

J

Can We Talk?

Continued from preceding page

said, 'Jimmy, let's let bygones
be bygones. By the way, need a
lift?' "
The newly svelte Liz Taylor,
Rivers complained is "a b***.
One more year of (her) being
fat and I would have had a new
house."
About rock stars she shrilled
in her raspy voice, "Michael
Jackson is gay. He makes
Liberate look like a green
beret . . . Tina Turner looks
like she went to the electric
chair and lived . . . Yoko Ono is
the ugliest thing I've ever seen.
I think John Lennon commit-
ted suicide. He saw her naked
body and screamed, 'Yoko! Oh
no!"
Even when she spoke about a
subject as sensitive as her hus-
band Edgar's near-fatal
caridac arrest a couple of years
ago, Rivers shocked the audi-
ence with her characteristic
sportiveness: "I gave him the
heart attack. We were making
love and I took the paper bag
off my head."
Rivers' outrageous blend of
rapid-fire dialogue and brow-
raising banter often walks the
fine line between brilliant, on-
target humor and down-right
maliciousness. Walking that
line, and occasionally stepping
over it, is the key to her suc-
cess, Rivers says, even if it
means getting booed by fans at
UCLA for making Karen Car-
penter jokes shortly after the
singer's death.
"You always have to keep
trying to see how far you can go
with your audience, otherwise
it all gets very boring," Rivers
said in an exclusive interview.
"I try to step over the line at
least once a night. I enjoy se-
eing what we can talk about
now. However, sometimes I do
say to myself `Oops, I shouldn't
have said that.' "
Nonetheless, Rivers insists
that taking chances and
exploring untrodden ter-
ritories is the only way to es-
cape stagnation as a per-
former. She embraces the criti-
cism she receives for her rauc-
ous humor.
"The minute people stop
complaining, that's when you
know you're not growing," she
said in her unmistakable New
York accent. "There always
should be_some people gasping.
If you become adored and loved
by everybody, you're not going
to be sharp and fresh."
Comedy is also the topic of
Rivers' recently released, best
selling novel Enter Talking, an
account of her early years in
show business. But one of the
most exciting highlights to her
career to date has got to be the
Oct. 9 premier of The Late
Show Starring Joan Rivers.
The show airs on the Fox
Broadcasting Company, a
newly-created fourth network
owned by Australian media
magnate, Rupert Murdoch.
Announcement of the new
talk show gained immediate
attention because of the in-
stantaneous rift it created be-
tween Rivers and her old To-
night Show boss, Johnny Car-

son. During a recent appear-
ance, a heckler in the audience
yelled at Rivers, "How's
Johnny Carson?" Without mis-
sing a beat, an unruffled Riv-
ers replied, "Listen, I'm the
only woman who ever left
Johnny Carson and didn't ask
for money later."
After thunderous applause,
she added, "There's room
enough for all of us. I hope he
goes on forever."

Carson was reportedly in-
furiated with his former per-
manent guest host's decision
to host her own talk show on
a rival network. Rivers said
she has not spoken to Carson,
the man who "made it all
happen," — according to the
dedication of her book —
since last May. Nonetheless,
she said Carson's silence does
not put a damper on her
success.
"We never communicated
very much before anyway,"
she says of her relationship
with Carson, whose show

"I'm the only
woman who ever
left Johnny Carson
and didn't ask for
money later."

gave Rivers her big break in
1965. "We were never best
friends who would go shopp-
ing together or anything like
that. I'm not bitter. I think
the show was wonderful to
me, and I think I was wonder-
ful to it. I don't think NBC is
pleased that I went to a rival
network. They're all busi-
nessmen, they only think in
terms of dollars ."
She's quick to stress, how-
ever, "Our show is not com-
peting with Carson. Carson
has 211 stations. We have 80.
We'll never beat him. We'll
never knock him off. The
viewers are the ones who win
in this situation. We're giv-
ing them another alternative
to late night viewing."

The format of her new show
is the same as that of all con-
temporary talk shows, with an
orchestra, a studio audience, a
host's desk and seating for
guests. Mark Hudson of the
Hudson Brothers holds the
second banana position.
The show reflects much of
Rivers' own personality,
merely because of her distinc-
tive taste in guests and subject
matters to discuss.
"I'm a different kind of in-
terviewer than the others," she
said, referring to show hosts
such as Carson, David Letter-
man and Mery Griffin. "I don't
analyze it, that's just the way it
is. For one thing, I'm a woman,
which the others obviously
aren't, or at least not in public.
"It is basically the same kind
of thing that I did on the To-
night Show. God willing, I hope
to get the same high ratings
that I got on Carson. That's

what Rupert Murdoch
bought," said Rivers.

"I've already had my own
talk show in England, so it's
not a concept that is foreign
to me," Rivers continued. "It
should work, but if it doesn't,
life continues. Fox has plans
for the show to be on for a
minimum of three years and
has put a lot of money behind
it, so everything should go
well."
For the former Joan Molin-
sky, things are going very
well indeed. Born in Brooklyn
between 1933 and 1937 (re-
ports vary), Rivers' parents
were middle-class Russian
immigrants who strongly
looked down on their
daughter's decision to go in-
to show business. Rivers, a
graduate of Barnard College,
endured nearly a decade of
learning and honing her craft
around New York's club cir-
cuit before gaining national
prominence as a stand-up
comedienne. She married
Englishman Edgar Rosen-
berg in July, 1965.
Professionally, one man
stands out in Rivers' mind.
"Lenny Bruce was my big-
gest influence," she said. "He
was the most brilliant per-
former. Without him, there
wouldn't be a Woody Allen or
a Bill Cosby or a Richard
Pryor or a George Carlin.
There wouldn't be any of us
without Lenny Bruce."
Rivers recalled her days
performing in the nightclubs
in the legendary Greenwich
Village area during the late
1950s and early 1960s: "It
was a very exciting time for
all of us. None of us knew
that we were Bob Dylan or
Bill Cosby. You didn't know
you're best friend was going
to be Richard Pryor. We were
all scrounging around and
learning and having fun. It's
wonderful to get together
with some of these people
now and remember what it
was like 20 years ago."
Her act, Rivers said, is con-
stantly evolving.
"Obviously, you get more
confidence as you go along. I
go on a stage now and I don't
have to prove that I'm funny.
The audience is already ex-
pecting me to be funny.
Whether I am or not that
night is a different thing. But
it's initially easier now to get
comfortable with audiences.
They know me. They saw me
get married. They saw me
have Melissa [her daughter].
We've all grown together."
Rivers does not consider
herself a Jewish comic, al-
though her feelings about her
religion are often incor-
porated into her act.
"I'm a comedienne who is
Jewish," she clarified. "I'm
no more a Jewish comedienne
than Richard Pryor is a black
comic. He's a comic who hap-
pens to be black. I'm Jewish

Continued on Page 68

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