Jeff Pearlman

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Joan Rivers

A few days ago my wife dragged me to the new movie, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

To say I had no interest in going is to delve into great understatement. I had absolutely, positively zero interest. Z-e-r-o. I didn’t know much about Rivers, but what I did know annoyed the hell out of me. Plastic face. Scratchy voice. Obnoxious and loud and not all that funny.

Man, was I wrong.

First off, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is a must-see. Being serious—a truly great piece of documentary film that captured the life and times of a surprisingly complex, surprisingly insecure (well, perhaps that’s not so surprising), surprisingly hilarious 75-year-old woman who holds few punches and who, at an age when most of her peers have long since retired, finds herself desperate for attention and work. At one point, Rivers says she wants to be doing this “until I’m 120″—and by the film’s end you believe she will be. She’s a woman who’s both pathetic (the need for fame; the plastic atop plastic) and admirable (the refusal to settle down and move to Palm Beach); who I found myself agreeing with 99% of the time.

I’ve talked about this often with Jon Wertheim, my ol’ SI chum: The most admirable trait in a celebrity is self-deprecation, because it’s so incredibly rare. Most of the famous people I’ve dealt with refuse to laugh at themselves. They don’t get their humor of their own lives; the narrowness of celebrity; the dimness of it all. Rivers does—and yet she’s also addicted to it like crack. She craves it. Courts it. Needs it.

Trust me on this one—go see Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

My favorite film of the year.

  • michael

    it was pretty good.

  • Jake

    Joan Rivers is equal to 150 Jeff Pearlmans. Don’t be leeching off Joanie, Jeff! Stick to your fart & poop posts, stuff you actually know about.

  • kw

    I heard Rivers speak a few years ago as part of a series of women speakers (I was a Dad taking his daughters). The series included a woman astronaut and Gov. Richards of Texas and even Julie Andrews. It was a strong group, and they all were excellent. But Joan Rivers, who I also had little interest in, proved to be the most entertaining AND thought-provoking. As you say, she is much more complex than one might think, and her insecurities are out there for everybody to see. But she possesses a self-awareness that is different from self-absorption. A very interesting woman.

  • jmw

    I remember back in the days of Johnny Carson. She was funny then, and smart.
    She was thought to be a serious possibility as host for the Tonight Show.
    She does have talent, I have just felt she wasted it since then.
    Glad to hear her show is good.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life