Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Oh, you need timin’ A tick a tick a tick a Good timin’ A tock a tock a tock a tock a Timin’ is the thing it’s true
Jimmy Jones, 1960
Back in the ‘70s, I read a script for a pilot for a new TV show. I didn’t think much of it. But when I saw the show, I rolled in the aisles laughing. It was The Bob Newhart Show and it was a big hit for seven years. The difference between reading the cold script and viewing the lines spoken was the timing of the actors. Timing is what makes a comic funny, and it’s something that’s inborn, like being able to just sit down and play the piano. I could recite the lines and people would yawn. But when they are spoken by someone with good timing like Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette, they are hilarious.
Joan Rivers is one hell of a woman. She’s funny. She writes all her own jokes, but it’s not so much what she says that is funny, it’s her timing. It’s hard for me to listen to Joan Rivers without smiling and laughing, even when what she’s saying isn’t that funny in and of itself.
This is the story of Joan Rivers today. It was filmed over a 14 month period, beginning on her 75th birthday and finishing in the summer of 2009. It is frank. She tells it like it is and nakedly reveals her inner feelings about her life. It contains archival clips of her appearances as a young woman with people like Johnny Carson and Jack Paar. But it also contains clips of her contemporary appearances on the road, some of which had me laughing uncontrollably.
There is one terrific scene in which she confronts a heckler onstage during her show. Without a break in her monologue she takes him on and demolishes him. The quickness of her mind is astonishing.
What really came through for me is her indefatigable energy. This woman of 75 never stops. This probably won’t get a wide release, but if you don’t get to see it, you will be poorer for it.