If you didn’t watch veteran comedian Joan Rivers on last Friday’s The Graham Norton Show you missed out on a masterclass. One we all could probably learn from.
She was on to promote a documentary being aired on TV tonight, which follows a year in her surreal and rather relentless life.
In fact, the highlight for me was Knoxville and Tate’s reactions – largely shock and hysterical laughter – to the smut emanating from the septuagenarian’s mouth.
Pensioners in showbusiness
At 77, Rivers has maintained her media profile and sharp wit. But what about all her contemporaries?
In the UK, aside from Bruce Forsyth, our older entertainers are either surviving as exhibits of nostalgic whimsicality in end-of-the-pier shows, or reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ at events organised by the freemason-esque Grand Order of Water Rats.
Rivers’s longevity is astounding and admirable. Comedian Shazia Mirza explained it well when we met earlier this year. I asked Mirza who she admired in the entertainment industry:
What we can learn
The lessons we can learn from Rivers and her experiences are pretty obvious:
- Grasp every opportunity even if it’s out of your comfort zone.
- Never turn down a job, no matter how unglamorous.
- Work relentlessly hard.
- Confound others’ expectations of what they think you should be doing.
- Say to people’s faces what you’d say behind their backs.
I had a mini discussion about Rivers’s career on Twitter over the weekend with the Sunday Mirror’s Kevin O’Sullivan. I was arguing that she had remained successful by reinventing herself. O’Sullivan believes that while clearly some of her material is updated, her delivery is the same and she’s never needed to change.
He’s probably right. But it is also her canny business sense and willingness to add more to her repertoire of skills – selling jewellery and writing books – that has secured her survival.