“It’s great to put a face to a voice,” Joan Rivers told me when I met her after her show last night at the Winspear (I’m pictured, from left, with her her and Voice contributor Howard Lewis Russell). “Phone interviews are hard, but you were a good one.”
Even if she hadn’t paid me a compliment, it would have been easy to say nice things about Joan’s 65-minute act, where she stays in constant motion and talks even faster. (After the set was over, Howard and I were exhausted from laughing; only then did we realize Joan never so much as took a sip of water the entire time.) At 79, she’s an unstoppable force, going to far as to do a sight gag involving climbing on top of a piano — what septuagenarians do you know that still do physical comedy?!?!
But that’s Rivers, who famously never slows down — not in her career, and not onstage. The jokes were more rapid-fire than a sub-machine gun: Some induced groans from audience members uncomfortable with jokes about pedophilia (read: Michael Jackson) and how Chaz Bono needed liposuction more than a new penis. But, as Joan says, if you don’t get some walkouts, you’re not doing your job right.
Of course, she embraced “my gays” — her shout-out to them (“Where are you?”) resulted in a roar and nearly the entire front two rows standing up and hollering. “I love my gays — my one great disappointment is my grandson is not gay,” she joked. “Who else is going to say to me, ‘Really, you knew Judy Garland?!’” Still, she said, gays don’t like two kinds of jokes: Those that poke fun at Princess Di and at Barbra Streisand. She did jokes about both.
And she was right: The gays were out in force. The line at the men’s room before the show looped around the lobby. “Why is the line here longer than at the ladies’ room?” wondered one man aloud. “Because,” I said, “Joan Rivers has turned the Winspear into Dallas’ largest floating gay bar.” “Oh, right,” he agreed.