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 Rivers, who 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 her, Rivers, at age 79, will not be apologizing for anything she will say at Saturday’s show at Kingsbury Hall. The only questions she asks herself, she said in a phone interview with The Tribune, are, “Are they having a good time? Are they laughing?.” She continued: “My job is to entertain people.”
The outspoken, no holds-barred Rivers has been entertaining people since he was telling jokes as Joan Alexandra Molinsky at Connecticut College and then Barnard College. At the former, she regaled cadets of the once all-male United States Coast Guard Academy when they came to the at-the-time all-girls school across the street when they had afternoon teas together.
Since then, the Brooklyn-born comedienne has changed her name, guest-hosted “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” become a best-selling comedy album performer, author, has hosted her own talk show, designed her own jewelry line, and arguably reached her greatest fame as the sharp-tongued fashion critic with her daughter Melissa Rivers during numerous red carpet events in the late 1990s, continuing into the new millennium.
Rivers is still riding a wave of success as host of “Fashion Police” (with Giuliana Rancic and Kelly Osbourne) on E! as well as the star of the WE tv reality show “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” The reality show began its third season in late February, with the episode’s most memorable moment coming when Rivers kissed a lesbian friend of hers.
Keith Stubbs, local morning-show host, owner of the Wiseguys comedy clubs and working comic, said that Rivers’ still-kicking career has been inspiring for many comics. “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, who will be performing stand-up at Wiseguys West Valley City the night before Rivers’ show, said that he was impressed with her longevity at the top. “What a dynamo she is,” he said. “I’m happy to see it.”
Rivers admitted that the 2010 Sundance Film Festival premiere of the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” extended her love affair with Utah, which once was a regular vacation spot for her when she still was skiing. (She now prefers snowmobiling.) “I loved that so much,” Rivers said of the praise that accompanied the film. “Utah has a special place in my heart.”
Another special place in her heart is not reserved for the pooh-poohing celebs at the recent Academy Awards who groaned and booed when Seth MacFarlane — whom she thought was “terrific” — joked about Abraham LIncoln’s assassination and Adele’s weight. Her message to them? “Oh, lighten up.”
When • Saturday, March 9, at 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