Joan Rivers is a reality star now. The unscripted WEtv series featuring her and her daughter, Melissa, enters its second season this week, and Rivers has been tirelessly making the rounds to promote the show—and in classic Rivers fashion, talk about anything else that might be of interest. As she prepped backstage for a TV interview with Rachael Ray, Rivers chatted with Adweek about her show, the Oscars, comediennes and her life “in the trenches.”
Adweek: The reality show you star in with your daughter—Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?—entered its second season yesterday. How will it be different from the first season?
Rivers: This season is great because we know our medium better. A lot more happened. It flowed. We also got lucky. Melissa broke up with her boyfriend, and the cameras were there. We were on a camping trip and [Melissa's 11-year-old son] Cooper got lost, and the cameras were there. You understand? I did a face-lift, and the doctor was kind enough to let the cameras in.
What do you like about reality TV?
I think when it’s good, nothing can beat it, because nothing’s as good as real life.
It’s an interesting time for comedy on television. You made a cameo on Louis C.K.’s FX series Louie.
I had a great time doing that.
What do you think about the modern era of television comedy?
As the country gets more and more desperate, as life gets crueler and darker, you need comedy to brighten everything up.
What do you think of the pool of younger comediennes?
I try not to see them because we’re all in the trenches. I’m still in the trenches. I’m on the road all the time. We’d all be talking about the same thing. I don’t want them to think I came and took an idea from them when I did it five years ago. But I think Whitney Cummings is brilliant. Sarah Silverman is amazing. Lynne Koplitz is in our show and I think the next to break through.
David Letterman’s booker, Eddie Brill, sparked controversy last week when he remarked, in a New York Times profile, that he thinks a lot of female comics are inauthentic and that many “will act like men” to please an audience. It reportedly helped get Brill fired. What do you think about that?
It’s ridiculous. We have to be…[pulls phone away from ear] Hello, hello, hello. You look great on camera. Rachael [Ray] just walked in. You look amazing. I love you, I love you, I love you. Thank you. Hi. There’s no such thing as women in comedy or men in comedy or animals in comedy or Hitler in comedy. You’re either funny or you're not. It’s stupid thing for a booker to say. I’ve said that for years. But you can’t be a shrinking violet. It’s not that kind of profession.
Is there more opportunity to be crass on TV these days?
Of course. But times are rougher. When I was on Ed Sullivan, I couldn’t say I was pregnant. I had to say, "Soon you’ll hear the pitter-patter of little feet." I was standing there eight months pregnant!
What do you think of this year’s Oscar nominees?
I think, Tree of Life, are you out of your mind? Are you fucking out of your mind? I think most of them were very good. The Help, which got totally overlooked, was wonderful. I think Meryl Streep—everyone sit down, just let her get [the Oscar], because she was so brilliant. And I think George Clooney is overlooked as a director, and that’s not fair, because he’s a terrific director.
It’s a slightly older pool this year, isn’t it?
And it should be! Learn your craft. It’s not just about "Aren’t I cute?" But Michelle Williams is quite young. You mature and you change, and isn’t it wonderful there’s a new pool of middle-aged actors? Because there was a big void for a while. The Jimmy Stewarts and the Cary Grants and Henry Fondas all died off, and there was nobody.
What’s outrageous in the second season of your reality show?
Oh my God, where do you want to start? Mr. Wasp—Melissa’s friend—turns Jewish and has a circumcision and a bar mitzvah. Can you imagine? And now he yells at me because we don’t light the Friday night candles.