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Joan Rivers Ė A Piece of Work (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 84 minutes.

Not for children.

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 Ď70s, I read a script for a pilot for a new TV show. I didnít 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 itís something thatís 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. Sheís funny. She writes all her own jokes, but itís not so much what she says that is funny, itís her timing. Itís hard for me to listen to Joan Rivers without smiling and laughing, even when what sheís saying isnít 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 wonít get a wide release, but if you donít get to see it, you will be poorer for it.

April 2, 2010