Joan Rivers on Her Upsurge: ‘This Moment Will Pass’
"My career has been up and down and up and down and up and down. And I'm in an up period at the moment and, trust me, I'm enjoying it, but I also know that this moment will pass, as the others have, and you just better enjoy it while it's there," she says.
Rivers is the midst of a spate of highly visible work — from her "How'd You Get So Rich?" TV Land show to her "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Miss USA" appearances and her December-debuting "Mother Knows Best?" program. And, come June 11, the limited release of "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work."
The documentary by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg has already drawn excellent response at the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere. It has cameras following Rivers around even during unflattering moments, such as when she confronts an empty work calendar.
"I've been fired a lot. I've had full books, and I've had years where I've had empty books, and when one day your find you're slightly older and you have an empty book, that's really, really scary," she says. "You just have to keep on moving and keep on trying and keep on pushing."
The one thing that she asked to have removed from the documentary was a portion referencing her husband, Edgar Rosenberg's, suicide. "I was talking about how angry I still am at him. You know, I'll walk by his picture and still say, '—— you.' And Melissa got very upset with that," she says, referring to her daughter. "She asked if you could please ask them to take that out. Everything else stayed. The deal was that I would give them free access. My view was, 'Let's tell the truth, or why bother?'"
Rivers' work ethic is in evidence on "How'd You Get So Rich?" — which launched its second season earlier this month, featuring her chatting with billionaires from Trump to the man who grew rich from inventing The Clapper. Visiting their often-lavish digs and hearing their rags-to-riches stories, does she get inspired?
Rivers replies, "I find that when I go home, where I thought I lived well, I now spit on it. It's shabby."
FUNNY BUSINESS: Expect to see plenty of sparks fly on "The Green Room with Paul Provenza" when the Showtime program hits the tube June 10. Among the verbal dustups filmed for the series are a heated political argument between Tommy Smothers and Penn Jillette, and a no-holds-barred conversational melee involving race with Rain Pryor, Bobby Slayton (Richard Pryor's one-time writing partner), Paul Mooney and Australian comic Jim Jeffries.
"Nobody is selling a DVD. It really, truly is like comedy jazz — with these greats riffing off each other," Provenza wants us to know. The idea for the show grew out of onstage gatherings of comics held by Provenza at the Edinburgh and Montreal comedy festivals. Putting such groups together for the cameras seemed like a natural — but not easy — idea.
"I was very fortunate. I called a lot of people I knew personally, and they came in. If you try to explain a show like this, it's hard to believe it's as raw as it is," says the longtime stand-up. Knowing his peers as well as he does, he was able to orchestrate likely combinations for interesting exchanges.
"I knew Tommy Smothers and Penn Jillette would get into a political ideological back-and-forth," he says. "Some of these people know each other. Some were meeting for first time. I knew that Roseanne Barr was a big fan of Patrice O'Neal's. Roseanne and Sandra Bernhard are old friends. Their segment turned into, like, a therapy session. I knew that Bob Saget would try to do jokes as much as possible, and Patrice wouldn't let him," Provenza goes on.
There are also encounters between old school and new school improvisational wizards Jonathan Winters and Rick Overton. Plus Robert Klein, Eddie Izzard, Drew Carey and more.
"The thing is, with these people, by the nature of who they are," Provenza says, "no matter what they're talking about, it gets funny."
JUST KEEP SWIMMING: ABC may have left "Shark Tank" off its fall schedule, but executives say the reality show may have life in it yet. No matter what its future, branding expert, mogul and "Shark Tank" shark Daymond John sees the show as a win-win.
"It's been very good for my personal brand. Before the show, people didn't have an understanding of what I do. They expected the FUBU guy to come in break-dancing and wearing gold teeth," notes the man whose urban fashion line became the cornerstone of a multiple-company empire. "When they see me on TV, they see the business aspect. It's business and not about a color or particular product."
He also expects to make money from the investments he's made on "Shark Tank," although he tells us, "I'm not going to see returns on those things for another three years. Getting products placed at The Sharper Image; Bed, Bath & Beyond; and other major stores is a huge boon to these people," he says of the "Shark Tank" contestants. "They would not normally look at products without a background, but due to the show, they're ready to take them into their stores and test them."
To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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