Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work directed by Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg; documentary; (2010) - Official Website


I’m behind in documenting the films I’ve seen – too busy seeing films to write about films.

In July, I saw Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. The documentary closed out the 2010 San Francisco International Film Festival with Rivers in attendance. I learned from the documentary that Rivers has never turned down a paying gig or opportunity to promote herself. It’s not so much that she needs of the limelight but that she is in constant need of work. Her need is not financially motivated but psychological. She seems incomplete unless she works.

Upon closer inspection, perhaps Rivers is not that different from the stereotype of the comedian. At an age and stature where criticism should be of little concern, Rivers frets constantly about the reviews of her play or her turn on Celebrity Apprentice. I wonder how she survived the unraveling of her relationship with Johnny Carson. Rivers was the permanent guest host of The Tonight Show in the mid 1980s. This followed many years of appearances on Carson’s show and a close mentoring relationship between the two. However, when Rivers accepted a late night job at Fox Network, Carson severed the relationship and the two never spoke again.

I can’t say that I ever really gave Joan Rivers much thought. If I had, I would have subscribed to her stage persona as a crass Jewish woman. The film softened up Rivers’ image considerably which I guess is the point of the film.

Best line in the film – when Rivers’ daughter Melissa is voted off Celebrity Apprentice due to maneuvering by fellow contestant and professional poker player Annie Duke. In anger, Rivers refers to her as “Annie Douche.”

As an aside, I watched a poker tournament on television a few months ago. It was a series of heads-up matches. Duke was playing Jerry Yang. She had him on the ropes but he kept sucking out. I remember two hands where Duke had Yang all in but the hands had a lot of outs. I can’t remember if Yang was in front or behind going into the river. Yang either hit one on the river to the win the hand or Duke missed out on all of the 15 cards which would have beat Yang. Duke looked livid. I’d probably be stewing too but I’d like to think I would be more gracious but there was something particularly frightening to me about her scowl on that show.

Joan Rivers:  A Piece of Work

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