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Joan Rivers Is the Best

The popular star discusses her latest stand-up gigs, her reality show Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best, and covering the Oscars and Grammys for E's Fashion Police.

By New York City
Joan Rivers
(© Tristan Fuge)
Joan Rivers
(© Tristan Fuge)
Joan Rivers may truly be the hardest working person in show business. This month alone, she'll be doing her comedy act all around the country -- including a special Valentine's Day appearance at New York's Laurie Beechman Theatre -- and she'll be on hand to cover the Grammy Awards on February 12 and the Academy Awards on February 27 for her hilarious weekly E! show Fashion Police.

She's also promoting the second season of her WETV reality series Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best, which has its third episode on February 7, in which she co-stars with her daughter Melissa. TheaterMania got Rivers to take a little time out of her crazy schedule to chat about these projects and other subjects.

THEATERMANIA: Congratulations on the second season of Joan Knows Best. Are you happy with how it came out?
JOAN RIVERS: Last season was great, but this year we're really hitting our stride. Melissa has became more open. The first time, I pushed her into it, but I told her we really have to show the reality and we are. And I love some of the upcoming episodes. There's this one where Melissa's uberwasp friend Conrad found out he was Jewish, and so we gave him a bar mitzvah, and one where my friend Peter and I team up to pitch this ridiculous TV show called My Fat Pet to all these fat network executives. It's really a very funny show.

TM: Do you watch the show?
JR: I watch the rough cuts and make tremendous notes, all of which they ignore. It's usually things like can we have more of me and can we please slim me down. But I don't like to watch it once it's on, because our reality show is so real that it's often more painful to watch than live through.

TM: We'll be seeing a lot more of your grandson Cooper this season. Does he enjoy doing this?
JR: Cooper likes the camera, but he's not a screen brat. He's happy to be on and he's happy to not be on. I would love him to go into showbiz when he grows up if he wants -- but as a writer/performer. I would love him to be the next Larry David.

TM: So you're touring the country again. Why are all these club dates so important to you?
JR: I am an old Second City girl, and the things that happen on those stages are as surprising to me as they are to the audience, and what happens up there ends up in my bigger acts. It all starts on those stages.

TM: You're playing the Laurie Beechman on February 14. Other than the New York City audience, who would you ideally want to spend Valentine 's Day with?
JR: This will sound corny, but my family and maybe some dead friends. Or I'd love to be with Dustin Hoffman, and just listen to him to tell stories about his career. I love people who really tell the truth.

TM: The Grammys and the Oscars are both coming up soon. Which one is more fun to cover?
JR: Definitely the Grammys. They're all just going to have fun and get high. At the Oscars, they all look like they are going to their grandparents' house.

TM: Do you have someone you're most rooting for on Oscar night? And someone whose dress you're most dreading?
JR: It's the same: Meryl Streep. She has to win for The Iron Lady; she's just amazing. But once again, I hope she doesn't call Temple Grandin for fashion advice. I mean look how great Judi Dench or Helen Mirren always look. You can be an older woman and be chic!

The cast of Fashion Police
(© E!)
The cast of Fashion Police
(© E!)
TM: I can't wait until you dish all these people on Fashion Police. How much of the show is scripted and how much is ad-libbed?
JR: It's about 50 percent written in advance. I am a great preparer and they show me the pictures we're going to talk about beforehand. But the really good stuff is always ad-libbed, so the reactions of my co-hosts are 100 percent real. Doing that show is a highlight of my week, even though we start taping around 5:30 in the morning. It's such a smart group of people, and we truly love each other and all work so well together.

TM: So you're starting to write about theater for The Beverly Hills Courier. How are you going to be different than other critics?
JR: I'm going to be a kind critic. The idea is to tell people from out of town about what I think is great. Last month, I went to see Porgy & Bess and I adored it. It's the first true American opera, it's got that great Gershwin music, and Audra McDonald is just amazing. I gave it a standing ovation -- unlike some other critics who told me you should never do that.

TM: What are you looking forward to this season?
JR: Evita with Ricky Martin. I love it when people from other worlds want to be on Broadway. Most of them are too lazy or stupid to realize how exciting it is to be up there eight shows a week. Of course, it's not that much a stretch for him to do Che. He'd be brilliant as Evita.

TM: Would you ever do a Broadway musical?
JR: If I could sing, it would have been a different world. Bernadette Peters would be selling gloves in Saks and Patti LuPone would be selling shoes at Macy's.


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