Laughing matter
Joan Rivers visits San Diego for a ‘No on 8’ fund-raiser
Published Thursday, 11-Sep-2008 in issue 1081
Comedic legend Joan Rivers is bringing her act to San Diego to benefit the “No on 8” campaign to defeat Proposition 8, the November ballot measure which, if passed, will ban same-sex marriage in California.
The 75-year-old queen of comedy is thrilled to perform at the Birch North Park Theatre; particularly for a cause and a community dear to her heart.
Rivers took time after performing her self-penned autobiographical show, A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, in London to chat with the Gay & Lesbian Times about her upcoming act in San Diego, same-sex marriage, Republican candidate for Vice President, Sarah Palin, and why the Democrats have been a “bunch of fucking morons.”
Gay & Lesbian Times: Let’s chat about your show, A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, which you’re performing now in London. In it, you’re frank about your career and your personal life – is it difficult to be that transparent in front of audiences?
Joan Rivers: No, I think it’s very easy, because I approach it as an actress, and if you approach it as an actress then you’re fine; then it’s like the greatest part ever written for someone. If you approach it as if it’s your life, then you’re in trouble.
GLT: How have the audiences responded?
JR: They’ve been just wonderful. We started in San Francisco and Los Angeles and then came to Edinburgh and now we’re in London, and the audiences have been the same everywhere; they’ve been so amazing. I started working England 25 years ago, and there was a different language, different customs, and now we’re truly one world. I’m almost as much at home here as I am in the United States and that’s wonderful.
GLT: You’ve mentioned you’re making changes to the show before it hits New York. Tell us a bit more.
JR: It’s called a work in progress because it is a work in progress. There are more things we, the director and I, find we like doing every week. He and I just sat down and said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if …” and we talked about things we’d like to put in next Wednesday’s show. I’m very excited. By the time it hits New York, it’s going to be different from what we’ve done in Edinburgh, London and San Francisco; it’ll be different, just like my act I’m doing in San Diego is constantly changing. It’s very fluid. What I did last week almost bores me now. I want new stuff; like, I can’t wait to talk about [Republican candidate for Vice President Sarah] Palin. You have to keep it fresh.
When you’ve done it over and over, the audience knows when you’re bored. Audiences are not stupid and any performer who underestimates their audience is a fool.
GLT: Let’s switch topics for a bit. A friend of yours, comedienne Kathy Griffin, has joked she doesn’t support gay or straight marriage. What are your thoughts on marriage?
JR: It’s wonderful. It really gives you someone who’s got your back. It really gives you something you don’t have when you just live with someone. It’s that great, final commitment, and it’s amazing – when it’s a good marriage. And when it’s a bad marriage, as I’ve always joked, I say, “Why shouldn’t the gays be allowed to suffer the same as the straights?” There is nothing like saying, “I commit to you.” Two of my friends were the first gay couple to be married here in Devon [England], and they did it very quietly on the first day marriage was allowed. They were number one in line at the registry; and in this day and age, how nice it is to have a partner. I love my gay friends who have been together 20, 30 years. My decorator and his partner have been together 51 years. That’s just great. That’s a commitment.
GLT: So, you’re an advocate for same-sex marriage? Is that why part of the proceeds from your San Diego show are going to benefit the “No on 8” campaign?
JR: Absolutely. Everyone should have the right to do with their lives what they want. If you’re over 21, it’s none of our business what you’re doing – I’m totally in favor of it [marriage]; if it’s what you want, do it, great.
GLT: What advice or warning would you give same-sex couples who are considering marriage?
JR: Be careful and make sure. It’s a commitment. You can’t walk away from it. We live in such a disposable world; you drink the water and you throw the bottle away. Marriage is not disposable; gay or straight, it has nothing to do with gay or straight, it’s a commitment – and if it’s the right marriage, it should be for life.
GLT: Let’s talk a bit more about the act you have planned for San Diego. You mentioned you’re excited to talk about Sarah Palin. Why?
JR: My god, this is a woman who believes in creationism, this is a woman who’s homophobic, who doesn’t believe in abortion or women’s rights or anything any of us have worked for since 1927. Nevermind marriage. Postpone it for three weeks, you’d better get out and get the vote. These people [Palin and John McCain] cannot win.
GLT: What was your reaction when John McCain picked Palin as his running mate?
JR: Shock. And then I hoped the Democrats would attempt to understand who she is; and they haven’t, and that’s just insane. She comes across as a feisty gal, but they’ve only got – what? – a month, a month and a half. God forbid if [McCain and Palin] are elected. I feel sorry for gay rights if they do. So get married Nov. 1, and say in your toast: “Lovers, go out and vote.”
GLT: Why do you think Democrats have stayed away from criticizing Palin?
JR: They’re scared. Anytime they touch her, it’s going to be “Oh, she’s a woman, be careful.” The Democrats have been so stupid through this whole thing. I can’t even discuss it; bunch of fucking morons.
GLT: And you’re excited to talk about all this during your act?
JR: Comedy reflects the times, and the time are very rough right now. When people say, “Oh boy, you talk about everything” ; well, you should – these are very, very rough times right now.
GLT: We’ve read you’ll also be appearing at the gala prior to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. Have you been to the event before?
JR: It’s my first time. I’ve bought a pair of cuffs for it.
GLT: A columnist of ours says Folsom Street Fair isn’t for the faint of heart. Are you going to stay to see the sights?
JR: I plan to do my act and hope everyone shows up and takes off their masks long enough to enjoy it.
GLT: The gala benefits some incredible causes, including HIV/AIDS agencies; and your appearance in San Diego will benefit the “No on 8” campaign. Is it important to you to give back to the GLBT community?
JR: Of course. I lost 14 or 15 friends to AIDS in the ’80s and I was the first to do an AIDS benefit in Los Angeles. I used my role to make as many people aware of it I could. It was interesting. When it first started in the ’80s, I talked with a doctor who said it would be 10 years before they made any advances, and he hit it right smack on the button. Now, thank god, AIDS, to some extent, is a chronic disease and we’ve made advances, but the younger generation doesn’t understand how serious it can be – and it should, because it is very, very serious.
You know, the gays were the first ones who thought I was funny; they were the first to say, “Yes.” And they stay with you always. It’s an amazing community, collectively. If I look out from stage and I see a table of gays in the front, I know I’m going to have fun that night, and I know it’ll be a better show. They’ll go with me into areas others may not go. Their loyalty is fabulous. It’s just wonderful. Once they decide they like you, they stay with you. And vice versa.
Rivers will perform her act “A Brief Intercourse” at 7 p.m., Oct. 12, at the Birch North Park Theatre (2895 University Ave.) and a portion of the evening’s proceeds will help defeat Proposition 8, the November ballot measure which, if passed, will ban same-sex marriage in California. For ticket information, call 619-239-8836 or visit VIP dinner and theater packages are also available at Hawthorn’s Restaurant, located in the theater’s lobby. For more information, visit or call Michael Mack at 619-602-9453.

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