Joan Rivers died today at age 81, according to a statement from her daughter, Melissa. Rivers was a longtime Vegas icon, having played most recently at The Venetian, but tracing her roots back to the ’70s at The Sahara–as well as serving as a muse for longtime local entertainer Frank Marino. Through her days as a pioneer female come through her ill-fated Tonight Show stints and her own talk show and her sometimes-savage Fashion Police, to a documentary on the occasion of her 75th birthday, Rivers was a titan of comedy. In 2011, writer Kate Silver interviewed Rivers before a run at The Venetian for Vegas Seven.
Joan Rivers was fucking funny before women were fucking funny. Dressed prim and proper back in the ’60s, the blond New York fireball spouted jokes about abortion, and race, all packaged up nicely and sealed with an f-bomb. Now, Rivers is bringing Joan Rivers Live to the Venetian.
The 77-year-old is known for her fashion prowess and love of cosmetic surgery. But her CV is so much richer than that. She’s a Tony-nominated actress, best-selling author and jewelry designer, who also once played the voice of Vajoana, an over-surgeried vagina on the animated show Drawn Together. She’s the host of E! Entertainment’s Fashion Police and stars on WE TV’s Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? with her daughter, Melissa.
The comedy legend took a few minutes to answer our questions about Twitter, the Sahara and, yes, jeggings.
I am impressed that you have 470,000-plus followers on Twitter.
Isn’t that sweet? I love that.
You have some great jokes on there.
Jokes, people you meet—I’m just surprised anyone has time to read all of that. It’s just constantly, constantly, constantly. Everyone knows what everyone’s doing every second.
Has Twitter helped with your comedy?
No, of course not. No, it’s just fun to sit there and put down what you’re thinking at the moment. You think of a joke, you put it down. What happens is that the jokes aren’t as good as if you maybe thought them out. It’s the immediacy of it.
You need to edit yourself sometimes?
Right. But that’s not what Twitter’s about. Twitter’s about instant—Arnold Schwarzenegger? Get something up. What’s your first gut reaction? [On the day of the interview, news had just broke about Schwarzenegger’s love child, and Rivers Tweeted “I would like to come out with the following: Melissa is also Arnold S’s child. This finally explains why she is so athletic!”
What can we expect from your show?
Just what I do, which is my concert, which is commenting on whatever I want to talk about. Tonight I’m in Vancouver, I’ll be talking about Schwarzenegger; I’ll be talking about that moron who went after the maid in the hotel in New York. I’ll be talking about current things that really annoy me or make me laugh or I think are silly. I know I’ll be talking about children on planes, after my flight this morning. I just talk about things that happen in life. Obviously, it’s going to be about fashion and Fashion Police, and it’s going to be about working with Melissa and my grandson on [TV].
The Sahara just closed. Did you play there?
I played for a while when I first started in the early ’70s. I was everybody’s opening act. I used to call myself the Strip Slut because I would go from one hotel to open for Tony Bennett, then I’d go open for Shirley MacLaine. And I played the Sahara and I’m trying to think who—I think it was with Don Rickles. I liked the Sahara; I loved the pool area.
Who are your favorite female comedians right now?
Of course Kathy Griffin, she’s so terrific; and Sarah Silverman is so damn good. And Betty White! Betty White.
Any fashion tips you can share with Vegas or the world at large?
Keep the canvas simple. Don’t buy the print dress. Buy the plain dress and put on a print jacket because you want to wear it into the next season. It’s just basic stuff.
What about these pajama jeans that we’re seeing on QVC?
What do you mean?
Pajama jeans, they’re kind of like jeggings, jean leggings.
Cute, plain and cute, depends on what your body looks like.
So people can wear them. Hmm.