I was fortunate enough to open for Joan Rivers at Roy Thomson Hall this week. Before the show, I met her backstage.
She was actually pretty quiet, nervous probably. It’s amazing to see that even after doing comedy for 40+ years, those pre-show nerves never quite leave you. I was a bit nervous too and I was only doing a fraction of the time she was doing off the top of the show. I would interview her on stage after her act for half an hour in front of more than 2000 people and that’s what I was more pre-occupied with.
Everybody asks me what Joan Rivers looks like close up. Well yes, she looks like she’s had work. A lot of work but she would be the first person to tell you that. She’s also seventy-eight years old!
So I went on first. The audience was great. They were in a fabulous mood.
Whereas most comics want you to introduce them with 80 credits, Joan Rivers who has 8000 credits basically says, ‘ Aw heck, just bring me up.’
Joan Rivers took the stage and the audience loved her. She was up there for fifty minutes. It was an assortment of signature machine- gun- one -liners combined with some very funny and very sad stories about her life (most of which are covered in her edgy documentary A Piece of Work. I highly recommend that you see it. Just check out the trailer.)
If you think for one second that Joan Rivers wants you to feel sorry for her, think again. No way. She reminds me of one of those army commanders leaning over a soldier who is crumpled on the ground with dirt caked on his face. ‘Get up! Get up! What are you?’
After Joan finished her set, I joined her on stage and we talked for thirty minutes. I had nothing to worry about. She was warm, humble, engaging and hilarious.
So here are 7 things that I learned about Joan Rivers:
1) Joan Rivers is a friend of Camilla and Charles- she has a crush on Charles. She says he’s funny, charming and still holds a door open for a lady. Joan says if she could have actively pursued Charles back in the day, Camilla wouldn’t have stood a chance!
2) Joan sleeps about 5 to 6 hours a night. She doesn’t really have any hobbies. Her work is her hobby and she loves it.
3) I asked Joan what’s the first thing that she bought when she knew she ‘made it.’ That was after her debut on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson looked over at her and said, ‘ You’re going to be a big star.’
She said she bought herself a mink.
4) I asked Joan why did she thought Johnny Carson was so mad at her for not taking The Tonight Show gig after he retired? ( Carson had selected Joan Rivers but she turned it down because Fox offered her her own Late Night Show for FIFTEEN times the amount that NBC was going to pay her. NBC figured that you would just be GRATEFUL to work at their network!)
Joan said when she called Johnny and told him that she was taking the Fox gig, he slammed the phone down on her. She called him again and he slammed the down the phone again. In fact, Carson never spoke to her after that. When Joan’s husband, Edgar committed suicide, Johnny didn’t contact her. When Johnny’s own son died in a car accident, Joan sent Johnny flowers. Carson didn’t respond. Joan said Carson probably wouldn’t have treated her that way if she were a man. She said she thought Carson was mad because she represented yet another woman leaving him.
5) Aside from now being blackballed from NBC, Joan’s show on Fox continued to have major problems. Joan’s husband Edgar did not see eye to eye with network mogul Rupert Murdoch. They continued to fight and Fox eventually told Joan that she would have to fire her husband. When Joan refused, Fox fired them both.As she reveals in the documentary and on stage, the failure was too big for Edgar. He committed suicide. Joan said she wasn’t home, when someone called the house with the news about Edgar. They told Melissa, her daughter and asked her to pass the news onto Joan.
6) I asked her who was the craziest celebrity she ever interviewed on the red carpet? She said he wasn’t crazy but he was probably one of the nastiest- Russell Crowe.
7) I asked her what Donald Trump was really like. She says he’s very professional and turned up on the set many times of Celebrity Apprentice at 7 am. She also thinks he would make a great president…eeek. And we’re done.
Seriously, it was a terrific evening and I hope that we can do it again. She hates to hear this but Joan Rivers is a pioneer and a trailblazer for female comics. As stated in ‘ A Piece of Work’, Rivers says that Phyllis Diller was doing comedy until she was 92. Joan Rivers hopes to beat that record.
You just never know. While most of us were still waking up and getting out of bed,Joan Rivers was already heading to the airport to catch a flight to Vancouver for her next show.