Last week during a taping of her hit show “Fashion Police,” Joan Rivers assessed a dress worn by Heidi Klum, saying, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.”
Leaders of the Anti-Defamation League demanded an apology from the 79-year-old comedian. She refused to give one.
Rivers, whose parents were Jewish, told “Showbiz Tonight” that “it’s a joke. This is the way I remind people about the Holocaust, I do it through humor. My husband lost his entire family in the Holocaust, so let’s just start with that.”
Whatever you think of Rivers, she will not be apologizing for anything said during her show at Kingsbury Hall on Saturday. She’s only concerned with this: “Are they having a good time? Are they laughing?” she said during a recent telephone interview. “My job is to entertain people.”
The outspoken, no-holds-barred Rivers has been entertaining people since she was Joan Alexandra Molinsky and attended Connecticut College and later Barnard College. At the time, Barnard was an all-girls school and Rivers was known to regale cadets from the once all-male United States Coast Guard Academy across the street, when students from the two schools got together for afternoon tea.
Since then, the Brooklyn-born comedian has changed her name, guest-hosted “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson,” become a best-selling comedy album performer, written several books, hosted her own talk show and designed a jewelry line. In recent years, she has gained fame as the sharp-tongued fashion critic — along with daughter Melissa Rivers — at Hollywood red-carpet events.
Rivers is still riding a wave of success as host of “Fashion Police” with Giuliana Rancic and Kelly Osbourne on E! She also is the star of the WE TV reality show “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” The third season began in late February and includes an episode in which Rivers kissed a lesbian friend.
Despite all her success, Rivers isn’t afraid to support fellow comedians. While others groaned and booed during the Academy Awards when Seth MacFarlane joked about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and Adele’s weight, Rivers thought he was “terrific.” Her message to the pooh-poohing celebs: “Oh, lighten up.”
Rivers’ decades-long career has been inspiring for many comics, said Keith Stubbs, a local morning-show host, the owner of the Wiseguys comedy clubs and working comic.
“As a comedian, she was ahead of her time,” he said. “That she’s been able to sustain her career speaks volumes about being fearless and opinionated.”
Former “Saturday Night Live” star Kevin Nealon is impressed by Rivers’ longevity at the top. “What a dynamo she is,” said Nealon, who performs at Wiseguys in West Valley City on Friday. “I’m happy to see it.”
Rivers said the 2010 Sundance Film Festival premiere of “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” extended her love affair with Utah. The state had already been a regular vacation spot when she was still skiing — now she prefers snowmobiling.
“I loved that so much,” Rivers said of the praise that accompanied the documentary. “Utah has a special place in my heart.”
Just don’t forget to lighten up
P Joan Rivers brings her freewheeling stand-up style to Utah.
When • Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $49.50, $42.50, $32.50, $22.50; U. of U. students $5 with valid ID (at box office or Union desk); at kingsburyhall.utah.edu or by calling 801-581-7100