October 30, 2003
Rivers Makes Waves
To prove she could still tawk Joan Rivers created "Broke and Alone in L.A."
"I wanted to see if people who didn't know me would think I was funny," said the comedian, who premiered the monologue two years ago at Scotland's Edinburgh Festival.
At the time, Rivers was alone, but not broke, after splitting with her multimillionaire boyfriend.
"I didn't want to sit around and mope, and the show got me off my tush," she said.
In "Broke," the caustic Rivers' lambasts others who won't get off their own tushes. She skewers Princess Di and Anne Frank as examples of "The great whiners in history." She trashes Monica Lewinsky: "If I'd known that by giving oral sex to the president you could get your own handbag company, I'd have had a different life," she said. She even jokes about her extensive plastic surgery (her grandson calls her "Nana Newface").
These days, E! fashion guru Rivers isn't broke or alone, but she's been there, she said. When the former Joan Molinsky announced she wanted to be an actress, her Jewish doctor father promptly cut her off. She tried standup because it paid $8 a gig; eventually Rivers served as permanent guest host on "The Tonight Show" before bolting to her own Fox program, earning Johnny Carson's wrath.
But in 1987, the show was canceled; Rivers' estranged husband, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide; and her daughter, Melissa, refused to speak to her for two years. Meanwhile, a business setback placed Rivers in debt: "I had to sell everything to stave off becoming bankrupt," she told the Mirror.
Rivers immediately began discussing Edgar's death in her act, "so people would just relax about it," she said. In "Broke," she still jokes about scattering his ashes at Neiman-Marcus "because he said he wanted me to visit him every day."
At 70, however, Rivers' approach has changed a bit.
"I used to say, 'Can we talk?,'" she said. "Now it's 'Am I wrong?'"
The show runs Nov. 11-15 at the Canon Theatre, Beverly Hills, (310) 859-2830.