Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Joan Rivers takes us on a ride, in this documentary directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.  Here, Rivers attempts to frame her life in show-business, or perhaps, more so, as show-business herself.

Rivers understands show-business, particularly because of brutalities the ambitious must swallow and endure. And she endured, because she's driven. Workaholism has been her vehicle to success, fame, respect, wealth, and, yes, disrespect as well. For her, work is air, perhaps the only way the lungs of her ambitions can inhale.

I assume she has an over-active imagination, full of ideas, brilliant, bizarre, stupid, or otherwise. And like many successful comedians, who have been through numerous hurdles in show-business, she is smart and calculating. At seventy-five*, it's amazing how energetic this woman is, performing to this and that city, traveling, hungry for something that's not merely money or fame, or even a sense of power, but some sort of fundamental continuity and rhythm in her life, to not fade out of entertaining people.

I'm tempted to say her workaholism is an expression of madness, of trying to control some beast inside her, one that cannot be domesticated, or must be liberated out of its cage through stage performance. And perhaps this is what glamour in show-business is, the liberation of what refuses to be domesticated, into a savage space, the space of spectacle, which, in unequal parts, is: Entertainment, Enlightenment, Farce, and, even Pollution, or simply Air.
[ * Her age when the film was made. ]