Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg spent a year following Joan Rivers around, from her ostentatious, gold-plated apartment, to little stand-up shows in the Midwest, to tiny nightclubs peopled by elderly fans, to her stage show in England—and mostly into her strange and needy soul. They portray a woman obsessed by fame and success, who feels she hasn’t gotten the recognition she deserves, and who lives in a series of resentments. Her attitude toward her husband, who committed suicide, is perhaps most telling: She says that he abandoned her and left her with debt, and that he was a bad businessman. And yet, in spite of her shallowness, and maybe because of her insecurity, she comes off as tremendously human. It’s an interesting balancing act: The directors understand that Rivers is vaguely despicable, but they explain why a woman of her generation, entering a world ruled by men, could probably only survive with the kind of inhuman drive that made Rivers famous, beloved, hated and the butt of an endless series of jokes.



  • Ricki Stern
  • Annie Sundberg

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