Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
I’m not a huge fan of the Oscars, but I happened to be watching it last night rather passively. I was hanging out with Liz and her parents in Frankfort, and the TV was on in the background while I was on the computer.
The “In Memoriam” segment came on – a portion of the awards where they remember those who worked in the movie industry who passed away, the year prior. I happened to have Twitter open during this time, and several people posted their surprise when the segment ended and there was no mention of Joan Rivers.
I don’t follow the world of comedy closely, but I’ve always been fascinated with the mechanics of comedy. What makes something funny? Is it timing? Subject matter? Delivery?
A lot of this curiosity about comedy draws me to documentaries about comedians themselves. I grew up watching a lot of Carol Burnett, and I like to think that a lot of the comedy that influenced my own sense of humor comes from a time before Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams entered the scene.
When Rivers passed away, I realized I didn’t know much about her or her life. And I happened across the documentary A Piece of Work via Netflix streaming.
I found it a really fascinating look into Rivers early days, but also an equally fascinating look into what she was doing prior to her death. That is: working. Still working. She never stopped.
From her massive card catalog of jokes on index cards, to her lifestyle, to the dogged way in which she would pursue a gig (any gig) was really something to behold.
For those too young to remember her early (and groundbreaking) stage work, most think of Rivers as a punchline for plastic surgery. But there was so much more to her comedy, so much more to her life.
It’s a shame she didn’t get a mention at the Oscars, during the “In Memoriam” segment. But a part of me also thinks that she wouldn’t care about not having a 3 second portrait appear and then fade away.
Only 3 seconds? That’s not enough time at all.
If you have a moment, check out the trailer. And if you like it, check out the full doc on Netflix. It’s both funny and heartbreaking at the same time.
Jim Lehrer on Comedy