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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Joan Rivers and "what the fuck are we doing Monday?"

They should take Joan Rivers - A Piece Of Work and show it to anyone who's starting a show business career of any kind. Rivers is still frantically working at the age of 75, to finance a very lavish lifestyle, to pay for a large staff (and in some cases the private education of their children), to prove to everyone that she's as good as any male comedian and finally because she's got a drive to perform that almost qualifies as an illness. Her daughter points out that ever since she can remember everybody in the family has been working on "the career" and there was never any doubt whose career that was. "As soon as you make it," she says, talking about her days on the Johnny Carson Show, "you're an industry."

It's this clear understanding that she is a product as well as a person that makes the film so watchable. You get the feeling it would be impossible to bullshit Joan Rivers. Even when the one-woman show appears to be going very well she makes her assistant read out the reviews to her and zeroes in on the negatives. She knows how this works. There are also a couple of very engaging manager/agent figures who flit in and out, talking about her desperate need to keep her date book completely packed. She has to know that she's doing something different every couple of hours. The agent, when talking about how her appearance on The Celebrity Apprentice re-ignited her career, points out that lightning can strike twice in show business "but you've got to be prepared to stand out in the rain. Joan is." He also identifies the question that performers of all kinds ask themselves all the time. "Never mind the long range. What the fuck are we doing Monday?"