As I said on 4.8, I came away from Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (IFC, 6.11) feeling a good amount of admiration for her. This 43 year-old clip from the Ed Sullivan Show isn’t included in Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg‘s doc, but you can feel the same pizazz in the 33 year-old Rivers as you can in today’s version, in spades.
“I’m a late convert to Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, having only just seen it,” I wrote a couple of months ago. “I had relegated Rivers in recent years to an ‘uh-huh, whatever’ status, partly because of her irksome red-carpet chatter and partly because of her 21st Century facial work, which suggests she may have been hurt in a terrible car crash (worse than Montgomery Clift) but was lucky enough to find a gifted plastic surgeon who was able to make her look as normal as possible.
“Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s documentary has wiped that image away. It shows us what a never-say-die trooper Rivers is — 76 and combat-ready and slowing down for nothing. I now think of her as a highly admirable paragon of toughness and tenacity. Plus the doc deepens and saddens our understanding of who Rivers is, was and continues to be. Plus it has some excellent jokes (including one about anal sex that I laughed out loud at, and I’m basically a heh-heh type).
“What a fighter she is…God! Frank and blunt, nothing off the table, takes no guff, lets hecklers have it in the neck, never stops performing, tough as nails.”