Caroline Rhea tapped as Black Tie M.C.

Comedienne and actress Caroline Rhea will be master of ceremonies for the 2011 Black Tie Dinner, set for Nov. 12 at the Sheraton Dallas, BTD officials announced this week. Organizers called the addition of Rhea “the latest in a fresh approach” for the dinner.

Caroline Rhea

Although Rhea started out as a stand-up comedian working in New York, she ended up moving to Hollywood to pursue an acting gig. Her small-screen debut came in the NBC series Pride and Joy, with Jeremy Piven, but her breakout role was as “Aunt Hilda” in WB’s Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. When Rosie O’Donnell left her syndicated talk show in 2002, she chose Rhea as her replacement, and the show was renamed, obviously enough, The Caroline Rhea Show. And she was the host of The Biggest Loser in its first three seasons.

Those of us who have kids and therefore watch The Disney Channel Cartoons (along with those of us who like watching Disney Channel cartoons just because they’re fun), may recognize Rhea also as the voice of Linda Flynn, the clueless mom on Phineas and Ferb.

But Rhea’s biggest “gay cred” came from her role as Noleta Nethercott in Del Shores’ Sordid Lives: The Series. (She stepped into the role when Delta Burke, who played Noleta in the Sordid Lives movies, wasn’t able to re-create the part on the small screen.)

BTD Co-Chair Nan Arnold, in a statement released today, praised Rhea’s “fresh, smart and spontaneous approach to comedy,” adding that Rhea’s “innate curiosity and formidable talents give her the natural abilities we’re looking for in a master of ceremonies.”

In other Black Tie Dinner news this week, online table captain table sales started today. For more information, go here. And BTD officials also said this week that they expect to announce the 2011 Kuchling Humanitarian Award winner very soon. So stay tuned.

—  admin

An inconvenient woman

Rivers leaves no turn unstoned in frank, funny but standard-issue doc

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

JOAN DARK | Rivers does wrestle with demons; she just turns them into jokes in her act.

3 out of 5 Stars
JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK
Joan Rivers. Rated R. 90 mins. Opens today at the
Magnolia Theater and the
Angelika Film Center Plano.

Joan Rivers is both an enigma and exactly what she seems: A foul-mouthed comedian who has made a career pushing buttons and causing controversy without consideration for decorum. But then again, what drives her to “be that guy”? Is there something deeper, other than the quest for immortality and applause and approval?

We never quite learn the answer to that in Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, a documentary culled from following Rivers around for a year or so around the time she won Celebrity Apprentice. Sure, we learn of the pain of her rift with Johnny Carson and the suicide of her husband and her fragile ego and her feelings about never being a critics’ darling.

But how did she make the leap to her brand of truth-telling? Does she have limits? Like getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop, we may never know.

What we do know from the documentary, though, can be fabulously entertaining. Rivers is upfront about her addiction to plastic surgery (although she avoids talking about her now-catlike appearance); she walks us through her joke file (and shares crass ones about Michelle Obama and Nazis); she tells us what current comedians she considers “brilliant” (Maher, Shandling, Tomlin); explains why she loves anal; and how she gives Kathy competition as champion of the gays. (“What’s the gay community like here?” she asks a cabbie in rural Wisconsin. “I don’t know,” responds her driver suspiciously. “Ask your wife’s brother,” she snaps back.)

There’s also the curiosity of seeing classic video of Rivers doing standup 40 years ago … and realizing that what was considered racy then seems Disney Channel tame by today’s standards.

Yet Joan remains endlessly fascinating. She’s a money, fame and attention whore who shouts down hecklers and takes no prisoners. “Can we talk?” she used to ask rhetorically.

I don’t know about “we.” But can she ever.

This article appeared in the National Pride edition in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010

—  Dallasvoice