By Ken Williams
San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

“Can we talk?”

Joan Rivers is never at a loss for words.


Joan – I’m dispensing with formality here since I’ve interviewed her a number of times over the long course of my journalism career and she never forgets a familiar face -- is expecting a full house on Saturday, Jan. 15, when she performs in San Diego (at the Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave. downtown).

She promises to talk about a few of her favorite subjects, specifically naming Sarah Palin, President Barack Obama, Oprah and Snooki.

Joan is one of a handful of entertainers who can say anything about anybody and get away with it. She pulls punches when others dare not.

“I say what you say to your good friends in the car, not what you say in polite society,” Joan says. “I could care less what people think of what I say.”

That ability to speak her mind – and make people laugh -- has made Joan a famous and wealthy woman who is in great demand as a comedienne, TV host, author, lecturer, jewelry designer and cosmetic company entrepreneur.

Joan can be seen everywhere these days, which is why she is considered one of the hardest-working celebrities in the world.

Besides touring the country with her comedy act, she is seen in the documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” which is currently airing on the Showtime network. The DVD is also available for purchase.

Joan also hosts the deliciously dishy “Fashion Police,” which airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. EST/7:30 p.m. PST on E!

It's Joan vs. Melissa in new reality-TV show

What has Joan all pumped up these days is her new reality-TV show Read the full story “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” The eight-episode season, which has already been taped, will debut on Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST on the WE TV.

Joan is a native New Yorker and loves living in the Big Apple, but Melissa, who grew up in Southern California, lives in Malibu. So the premise of the reality series is that Joan moves across country to come live with Melissa and her 6-year-old grandson, Cooper.

Talk about culture shock! Talk about competing strong personalities. Observers of Joan and Melissa know how much love they have for each other … and how often they clash. It is the classic Electra vs. Oedipus complex.

“I am a very strong woman,” Joan says, laughing. “And so is Melissa. So naturally there is going to be a whole lot of drama. Of course there is conflict!”

Because of the harsh economic conditions in the U.S. and the rampant joblessness, many children are moving back home to live with their parents. In this case, it is a reversal: Joan is moving in with her daughter.

“That is a really good question,” Joan says. “It is her domain, not yours. It is her roost. Once you move in with your child, you are suddenly the guest.”

Joan thinks audiences will be able to relate to the situation.

She also promises that viewers will find the show very funny.

The premise of the show is that Joan wants to “keep a watchful eye” on Cooper, her grandson, and Melissa. What Joan doesn’t know is that Melissa runs an unconventional household.

Much to Joan’s surprise, Melissa shares her home with a cast of colorful characters who include a younger, former tennis pro boyfriend; a free-spirited surfer friend who lives under the stairs; and a hot Swedish nanny. Enter Joan, the world’s most opinionated mother and grandmother!

Joan says she and Melissa disagree on many things, and at one point she moves out of the house in anger. They also fight over Joan's desire for more plastic surgery.

She also continues to spoil Cooper, which makes Melissa upset.

Joan takes only two vacations per year. “I make sure I take two ‘grandma weeks’ with Cooper,” she says. “I’ve done that ever since he was born.”

She is convinced that Melissa thinks “I’m a terrible grandmother” and “a bad influence” on Cooper for spoiling him and making sure he has a good time. She laughs, knowing that payback is a bitch.

The taping of the first season of “Joan Knows Best?” has cemented Joan’s opinion of family relationships.

“It made me realize how smart I am,” she says, laughing, then cites all the things that she can do better than Melissa. “They are wrong; I am right!”

Joan humorously tells Melissa that “she is not the gay son I longed for” – because they cannot shop together for clothing and furniture and everything else Joan loves to do and Melissa loathes.

Joan cackles as she dismisses the concept of running a household by democracy. “I believe in a benevolent dictatorship,” she says, as her laughter increases in intensity. “As long as I’m in charge! I don’t believe in democracy; I believe in doing it my way.”

And that attitude very much defines Joan throughout her 40 years in show biz. You get what you see. She doesn’t varnish anything.

Do you see the "real" Joan on TV?

Some wonder how “real” these reality shows really are, whether the cast is playing characters rather than themselves.

“You will see a lot more of me than you usually see,” Joan says, noting that audiences saw a lot of the “real Joan” when she competed along with Melissa and others on “The Celebrity Apprentice” with Donald Trump – and Joan won.

Joan says “The Celebrity Apprentice” was grueling work, often taping from 7 in the morning to 11 at night.

“A lot of fences go down” under those tiring circumstances, Joan says, noting that most people let down their guard during taping.

“Joan Knows Best?” promises more insight into the big personalities of Joan and Melissa.

“I am who I am,” Joan says.

She proclaims that she is very happy with her glamorous life.

“I’m having a good time,” Joan says. “I’m not complaining.”

Joan Rivers discusses her new reality-TV show


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