Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Not too many female comedians -- in the past, comediennes -- preceded Joan Rivers. Phyllis Diller. Moms Mabley. Rusty Warren. A handful. 40 years later, at the age of 75, Joan reflects back on her career in this documentary, and wonders why she's the opposite of "hot."

In fact, her weekly calendar, something she still keeps manually, is just pitiful, with empty white space stretching week after week. Her manager is tough to find, won't answer phone calls. She'll go anywhere, and do anything. Her career is practically on hold. But she won't give up.

The documentary follows Joan for about a year, right before she's about to appear on Celebrity Apprentice, an event which was brilliantly selected to showcase the real Joan. This documentary does even better than that. We see the ups and downs, we hear what she really feels about those who have been in her life: Johnny Carson, her daughter Melissa, her husband (who killed himself at one of the worst down periods in Joan's life, perhaps the ultimate betrayal).

This show is dazzling as the star allows all her warts to be shown to us. It's a fascinating look into the career, the life, of a woman who can never stop working, competing, giving it all she's got. You either love or hate Joan, but you have to admire her tenacity, and, yes, her integrity.

Thumb's up.