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Joan Rivers on longevity, Brooke Shields, and not caring about Johnny Carson

by Joel Keller, posted Sep 10th 2009 3:02PM
Joan RiversJoan Rivers was in Pasadena in July to promote her show on TV Land, How'd You Get So Rich?, but when I spoke to her after her presentation, I was more interested in a couple of issues. First, her longevity in a business that takes even older comedians and tosses them to the side (Cosby, for instance, is more community activist than comedian these days). Second, I wanted to ask her about her experience on The Apprentice, which included her feuds with wedding planners, Clint Black, and Annie Duke.

But, Joan being Joan, she also randomly let loose on Brooke Shields, Sarah Palin, and whoever else was in her mind during the ten minutes we spoke.

We start off by talking about longevity. She feels one of the reasons she stays relevant is that she doesn't live in the past. "I don't give a shit about Johnny Carson," she said.

Here's audio of the interview:

I was watching the PBS special Make 'Em Laugh, where they did that whole comprehensive documentary about the history of comedy and entertainment. And they had one episode where they talked about Wise Guys.

I was in that.

And one of the things that struck me was, now that Carlin's gone, you're one of the only comedians from that era ('60s and '70s) who's still relevant at this point. What do you credit that to? What do you credit that longevity to?
That's a wonderful question. I'll tell you what, it's never thinking you're any good, never sitting on a laurel. There's no laurel to sit on. And being current... I don't want to go down memory lane.

And that's why the young people... I look... I work every Wednesday night in NYC. Every Wednesday night. I'm at a place now called The West Bank. And it's all young people. And you talk about what's happening now, what happened in the paper today. I don't give a shit about Johnny Carson. And when people ask me, well what about you and Johnny? I always go, Who cares?

Because that was 25 years ago.
I went on Larry King because Ed McMahon died and I loved him. And I said to the girl at Larry King backstage, So who else is on? "Oh, this one and that one, and Ed McMahon's physician Dr. Severinson." And I thought, That's it? Dr. Severinson. And I said, no, no, no, he was the band leader. She was 24 years old. Nobody cares. I don't care. So that's what's kept me going. Totally about what's happening today.

Well, why do some other comedians, then, end up being like the Friar's Club, or playing like retirement centers. Whereas you're still on TV and playing clubs. What's the difference?
I don't know the difference. And I don't mean this in a... I still am so angry about so many things. And maybe that's it. You know? Still furious. I get up in the morning and I'm pissed.

About everything.
About everything! Sarah Palin, I can't wait to go back and talk about her. Next Wednesday, I'm back in West Bank... can't wait to do it! The Obama nonsense that's going on now... Oh, the beer asshole stuff. What are we doing here? You know. And the girl that got fired because she said Obama was wrong. That was in today's Post. And Michael Jackson... I can't wait to get on stage and discuss Brooke Shields.

What was with Brooke Shields?
What was with Brooke Shields? (whiny awful noise) "Bwahnuhnuh... my best friend..." She hasn't seen him since 1993. She hasn't seen him. He was black last time she saw him. She's crying? 1993? He had a nose! And she was right there. So that's why I think I'm still going. Did that make any sense?

Yes, it does. I mean, like what about Sarah Palin would you talk about?
Oh well just, I don't know yet what's going to come out with Sarah, but just again, that I'm a good person. There'll be so much of that. "I can stand, you know, on my dead moose and see Russia." I just can't...ugh.

Let me ask you a quick question about The Apprentice. David Tutera's going to have a session later today or tomorrow, something like that. He's the planner that you worked with on the last episode that bailed on you.
Oh, don't go there with me. He's here now? Again, getting famous on my back. Yes, how dare a woman say, that's paying $7,000, maybe we shouldn't do this in white. I looked at the tape. I was not rude to him. I merely said... Let me tell you something. I come out, I worked my way through college doing windows at Lord & Taylor. I designed jewelry. I think I have a right, if we're doing a party...and I give great parties...I had a right to say to him, I don't think that's good enough. Let's bring some of my other friends in. We're here to win. It's not ego. And I don't understand your little sissy fit. If you're so angry at me, why did you let the other team down?

Right, he pulled out from both teams.
I find that outrageous. Outrageous!

When you looked at the aired version of the finale, was there any detail in there that was missing, that you were like, this is what would explain why he pulled out?
No. Except we couldn't reach you on the phone. He was very grand. You know why I'm still around? I'm not grand. Meaning, as I said, I worry about, (if) I'm going to talk for 10 minutes, I sit for 3 hours each day to make sure I have something to say.

This man was so fucking piss elegant. I am queen of the gays. This was a mean little snotty fairy. And I can say that. And if he comes to my charity, God's Love We Deliver, he's going to be the first person not to get a meal.

Tell me why...what did I do that was so terrible? I said, can't we think of something else? Can't we do it? He wanted to drape the room all in white. Oh, well that would've... We had an amazing room...we won!

Have you ever watched his show? He does everything in white.
Well, you know something? We did it in the Kodak colors and we won. So maybe it shouldn't be white.

Was there any reservation at all going into the show, knowing that you were probably older than everybody else that was going to be on there?
That's my new mountain. First, it was I was a woman. I was the last one in my group to break through. It was Carlin, it was Pryor, it was Cosby, it was Woody. I was the last one to break through. First barrier was being a woman. The reason I did not get the Carson show was because I was a woman. We had the letter where they talk about it. So I've had the woman barrier.

And now, the big barrier is age. And I love going up and saying, I'm at the top of my game now. And I know it. And it's because of age. I have no fear. I can walk out and say to a room, oh the excitement here is overwhelming. What are they gonna do to me?

Did it help that Melissa was there?
Oh, tremendously. Tremendously. Because she knows...we talk shorthand to each other. We're on the same team.

The whole thing with Annie and her going against each other.... did that give you extra fuel to push? Or did you think you were going to do it without hating Annie?
I never thought about it. I swear. And that all was totally real. I don't like...tell me no and it's OK. Tell me the truth, and let's deal from that. And she's a poker player. You don't tell the truth, and you do back lie. That's how you play poker. But you know, at one point, you gotta get up from the table. And don't treat relationships like that.

Will we see you on next year's Apprentice like Piers was on this year's?
Oh absolutely. ...That guy (Tutera) is going to be here talking?

Yeah. I don't know if it's today or tomorrow. His second season of his new show. It's on the WE network or something like that.
Why do you, if you're so angry, why do you...that's just mean. Why did you penalize the... You know what I would've done? I would've stayed and made the other team's so great to show that old bitch. That's what he shoulda done.

Alright Joan, I appreciate it.
A pleasure. Thank you.

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I don't give a shit about Joan Rivers.

September 17 2009 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why is Michael Jackson dead and idiots like her are still alive? Life is truly not fair.

September 16 2009 at 1:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Is she the honorary member of the gay club and thinks she can make homophobic statements like that and think she hasn't done anything wrong?

September 15 2009 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

joan needs to take some more pain meds for that botched face surgery she had...she is a sad little old woman who seems bitter. I feel sorry for her.

September 15 2009 at 2:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Dr. Severinsen? That's hysterical.

Reminds me of the time I went to a record store and I overheard a customer asking for acoustic music. The clerk called her manager and asked her if they had any "cue stick music." heh

September 11 2009 at 8:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I met Joan back in 1991. We were at a CBS affiliate luncheon, and I sat next to her. She is such a lovely person, really. Don't be fooled by her stage persona.

September 11 2009 at 8:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.

Johnny Carson washed his hands of this old hag long, long ago and so did I. Wish she'd take her plastic face and just go away.

September 10 2009 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All these comments about Carson seem to fit in with what Joan was saying. How many people under 30 even know who he was vs. how many under 30 know who she is. If her goal is to continue to relevant in her old age, she has met that challenge.

September 10 2009 at 9:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Justin Helmer

The only consolation I can find in Joan Rivers' continued existence is the fact that some day she will die.

She is not fit to speak Carson's name out loud.

September 10 2009 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I saw Joan Rivers on stage in 1975 and thought she was relevent. I am 62 years old now, and I think she is still relevent, and keeps up on what's going on. (Just for the record, I do too!). Joan is outrageous and I would go see her again if she performs locally. She and her daughter, in tandem, aren't for everyone, but then again, most entertainers appeal to a core group. She is the bravest comedienne I can think of. Kathy Griffin will take her place one day.

September 10 2009 at 4:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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