Joan Rivers' career in show business has yielded numerous books, TV shows and films, including the acclaimed 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. On Wednesday, she brings her new show "An Evening with Joan Rivers" to Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. In an interview with TheaterJones, she talks about that, her acerbic comedy and her relationships with Barbra Streisand and late Dallas art collector Raymond Nasher.
Tell me about this show "An Evening with Joan Rivers?"
It's just my concert, no singing and dancing girls, no acrobats, no sketches.
No videos about your life or an onstage Q&A?
Oh god no. I find that to be such filler. If they want to know about that, go rent my documentary.
How much input did you have in what we finally saw in Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work?
None. It was a friend of mine's daughter, and she said I want to follow you around for a year, and she did. The [film crew was] amazing and adorable. And that was it.
You were pleased with it?
I was pleased with it after everybody else was pleased with it.
Did it bring out a new generation of Joan fans?
I think the new generation has come out with Fashion Police, and Joan and Melissa, which is coming back on the air in January on We for a second season. The documentary, I don't know what it did. I think it gave me a little more of a "status"—and that's in quotes—in the business, rather than just being a Vegas comic.
One of my favorite moments in the film is when you admit that when people talk about you, it can hurt. That's vulnerability we never see from you.
And you shouldn't. I'm sure Simon Cowell is a very nice man, and Don Rickles is a lovely man. People mix up your stage persona with your real persona, and they shouldn't have to worry about that.
Is there anyone pushing the edge of comedy like you did when you first started in the coffee house scene, or like Lenny Bruce right before you?
I think there are wonderful people on the scene, but no one doing what he did. He wrote the rules.
Is Twitter killing standup comedy? Seems like the jokes are out there before the comedy writers can get to them.
For me, they're silly jokes and they're not major jokes. Twitter is like a friend who says something funny. It's so different from what you see in a concert, where I love going full-throttle.
I love to follow Twitter during the political debates.
I'm very apolitical. I think everybody is a fool. I think this country is in great trouble. There was a recent story in the New York Times, and something like 72 percent of Americans have no faith in the government, Democratic or Republican. I can't look at the Republican race and say they're stupid because the Democrat[s are] just as stupid.
I'm a local critic and I see people who I've criticized around town, and it's a little awkward. It has to be a lot more awkward for you when you see very famous people that you've criticized.
It's awkward but you don't meet them that much. My job is to be a critic, and that's what Fashion Police really is. The minute you become a critic, your allegiance is to your audience, not to anything else. I have to tell myself that over and over and over again.
What about the celebrities you make fun of onstage?
I don't hang out with that crowd. I'm not at Jennifer Anniston's every third day. I'm not hanging out with the Kardashians. It's not my group. A comedian has to be an outsider. Has to be. The minute you become an insider you're dead.
Do you ever second guess yourself?
All the time. We're in the second season of Joan and Melissa, the reality show, and we keep taping and taping. You're always second guessing. I second guess everything I do in an act, in concert. But I love to take [the audience] to places they haven't gone, and I love pushing the envelope as faaarrrr as I can push it.
Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman are two of your most obvious disciples. Are there other current comics who tell you they were influenced by you?
I'm sure everyone's influenced by me because I'm influenced by everybody, you know what I'm saying? I don't put myself in any categories. We're all being influenced by what you're allowed to say onstage, which is wonderful. Comedians are the only ones who are telling the truth in this country.
You had a relationship with late Dallas philanthropist and art collector Raymond Nasher?
Yes. Smart as a whip. [I] loved his daughters. And I thought the collection was extraordinary. A little too modern for my taste. He had a room full of Giacomettis. A room! He very was smart and a very good family man, which was so important to me.
Early in your career you were in a play, and your character was a lesbian with a thing for…
Barbra Streisand. Lesbian lovers.
Do you two still talk about that?
Yes we do. Last Christmas we ran into each other at a Christmas party and it's like running into your past. The two of us sat on a sofa and talked through the whole cocktail party. It was her first show, it was my first show, neither one of us was famous. To run into each other at this party and have that connection…we both know where we came from.
And you've remained friends all this time?
Not friends. Babs doesn't call. But we're "happy to see you" acquaintances.
You're very open about your cosmetic surgery. How do you respond when people make fun of that?
They're making less and less fun of it because more people are doing it. I started talking about it when no one was talking about it, because I thought it was so stupid that everyone was saying these lies. "I'm naturally beautifully and you're not." And you want to say "you're naturally beautiful because you just went to Dr. Schwartz." Now people talk about it openly in California. I picked up a magazine yesterday and it said you have two choices for the fall: bangs or Botox.
What topics will you be talking about in the show?
Hating children, obviously. The Michael Jackson trial, obviously. Lindsay Lohan, obviously. Glee, the stupidity of that show. Whatever's in the news.