The Rivers (Still) Wild

By Greg Archer

Originally published on Advocate.com August 24 2008 11:00 PM ET

Getting old sucks, and same-sex marriage might suck for gays. At least that’s how comedy maven Joan Rivers sees it. Not that anybody was asking, really, but Rivers, who’s been getting rave reviews at Scotland's Edinburgh Comedy Festival for her London-bound show, Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, pulled out all the stops in between performances recently. Beyond chatting up her recurring role in the IFC channel’s savage music-industry-skewed series Z Rock (premiering August 24), Rivers was more candid than usual on a number of issues: Obama’s hard to trust, our country is in the toilet, and why aren't the gays embracing Sarah Silverman? Oy, can she still talk… 

You never stop moving. What do you love most about your life right now? Are you kidding? I am here in Edinburgh doing a play that I wrote that is sold-out.

It’s going well? The show has changed. It’s better and tighter. And these are very strange audiences over here. They are German and they are Polish and French. It’s a festival. It’s getting standing ovations here where they don't stand up in Europe. We go from here to London, and then we'll see.

You've dubbed the show "a work in progress." Can you talk about that, because it has some deep, candid moments. It started out where I had a lot to talk about -- about aging and relationships, and about betrayals and things that everybody goes through. My philosophy has always been "Push forward and don't look back." You can't change the past, so why discuss it? Now all kinds of things are coming out in the show. I'd love to take it to New York. I think it’s finally ready.

There are probably so many stellar comics over there, but is there anybody back in the States that you’re jazzed about? Lynne Koplitz, who plays Dina on Z Rock. I saw her act. Unbelievable! She is so ready to become big; to give birth! She can be as big as Kathy Griffin.

You like Kathy? Oh, yeah. Kathy and I have known each other for 15 years already. She deserves everything she has gotten. She’s worked hard for it. 

You and Kathy have a nice gay following. Yeah. And does Sarah Silverman have that?

I am not so sure. No? I don't know, and I find that interesting, because she is hilarious. 

She is. I loved Jesus Is Magic. Oh, having an affair with God -- fabulous! But gay people were the first in Greenwich Village to think I was funny, and they were there long after and in between. If I look out in the front row and see six gays, I know it’s going to be a good show -- that’s it, OK, we're home free. Gay men are willing to laugh at more risqué things. I know that sounds silly, but they are willing to go out on a line, and they are much more open to new kinds of comedy. I always say, "If I had a second child, I would have loved to have had a gay son after Melissa." I wouldn't be sitting here alone in Edinburgh not knowing what to put on.

Joan Rivers & Joann Worley (Getty) | Advocate.com    

Have to ask -- any thoughts on gay marriage? You idiots! [Laughs] Alimony! Go back! I am pleading with you! You are no longer off the hook. You can’t walk away. But if it makes you happy…I just came from friends of mine -- they were the first couple to get married in England in their community, and I endorse it. They have been together more than 20 years. If you are happy, go for it. But watch out about changing your mind, because now the house belongs to everybody.

Have you seen some of the political news in the last few weeks? Paris Hilton and all? Who would you love to have as a roommate more -- Barack Obama or Paris Hilton? The truth? Paris Hilton.

Why? Why? Because I know what I am getting. I don’t know what I am getting with Barack. 

Any thoughts on the current state of politics?I think it’s disgusting. They’re not leaders. I think this country is in real trouble. Who you are going to vote for? You’re going to vote for Obama, right? I know I should, but I don’t trust him. And McCain -- there’s nothing to discuss. He ain’t my boy.

What are you going to do? I will probably do a write-in.

For who?I don't know. I hated Hillary, and now I am so sorry she is not running. Barack is not heavy enough. And I am sitting here in Scotland, which is a very different community, and we are in trouble. Nobody likes us. You can't have a lightweight out there to say, "Oh, let’s do change." You need a big politician, and we don't have one. [Sighs] How about Bea Arthur? 

You know, she might be up for it. She may.

But you might be up for it too. What would you do if you were president? Oh, I would make everybody look better. If we had plastic surgery there would be no war. You're not going to go to war once you had a nose job. Please! It’s like, "I worked to get these pecs, and now I am being shot at? Let’s talk!" 

What’s making you laugh most these days? God knows. But comedy is in such a great place now. You can talk about things that you couldn't talk about even a year ago. Everything is making me laugh these days. Even the Chinese. The Olympics are making me laugh. The people that are running for president -- they're making me laugh.

Joan Rivers older (Getty) | Advocate.com  

Z Rocklooks fun. How did that come about? I think it’s going to be a hit. I saw the pilot and I said, "I want to be a part of this!" I think, musically, they are terrific, and comedically, they are so insane and outrageous. It’s a real inside peek at what goes on in a rock group. You see the underbelly of the business. I told them, "I won't do one episode. You have to give me a running part." And they said, "You can be Lynne’s aunt, who is in show business, who guides them along." 

So it’s been a good fit? You can ad-lib… And they actually keep some of my ad-libs. But I love that it is very improvisational. I love that you are able to talk about things you are not able to talk about. It has a good spirit to it. It’s sharp. They're adorable. I think that Lynne is going to burst out as a star. And I think that if you're looking for a young, hip, bright, funny irreverent show, here it is. 

Of course, you poke fun at plastic surgery in the show. I poke fun at everything. I hope they keep this other scene...I talk about my mother giving Johnny Carson a blow job. And I pray they kept that in. 

Love it. If you take yourself seriously, you’re a fool. Don’t you understand...that everything is just silly and outrageous and nonsense? And that is what my act is all about. That’s why I am here in Edinburgh.

So, what could the world use more of? Humor. No one ever fired a gun at somebody they were laughing and having a good time with. Humor conquers everything. 

Oprah or Dr. Phil? Oh, Oprah. 

Why? Well, he’s an ass. I’ve heard naughty things about him from people working for him. And when you're nouveau riche, that’s when your true character comes out. And you could print all of that. I could care less. 

Leno or Letterman? I don't watch either. I'm not on them. Go fuck themselves. 

Jon Stewart? I like Jon Stewart. I think he’s very bright. I like bright. I like smart. 

Jimmy Kimmel is fun. I like him. I’ve been on his show. 

Where are you now in the aftermath of the red carpet? We were supposed to do it again for AOL. I think it’s gotten to be a rat fuck. And it’s gotten so boring and everybody looks good and has a stylist and looks the same. When I started it 15 years ago, it was so much fun because people dressed themselves. 

Would you ever do your own sitcom? Oh, sure. But they would never give it to me. Because I am too old. Look at Z Rock. It’s all about 20-year-olds. 

You talk about that in your own show -- aging.Aging sucks. Getting older is horrible! We’re all deflated. Get ready for a very sloppy third act. You look in the mirror and you go, "Who is that?" You look at a picture and say, "That’s my mother!"

There has to be something good about it? Nothing. Nothing! You’re older. People ignore you. You’re invisible. You can’t get as much as work as you used to. You’re friends die…tell me -- what’s good about age? You don’t get wiser. You get senile. 

You don’t get wiser? No. You get stupider. You just don’t know. 

So, what’s the best advice you’ve been given? A friend of mine said it a long time ago: "Put on blinders, like horses wear. Run your own race." And I absolutely listened to that one. I am running my own race. That’s it. 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about yourself lately? That I really can’t stick on a diet. I am all for dieting until you give me a piece of fruitcake or cake with icing on it. 

Well, when you get something with frosting in front of you-- Please! Can you imagine if I was dieting and I was in the Twin Towers on 9/11? My last thought would have been: "I could have had that Danish!" Fuck the poached eggs. I want eggs Benedict!